President Donald Trump: ‘set for June state visit to UK’

Buckingham Palace is expected to announce on Tuesday that US President Donald Trump will make a state visit to the UK in early June.

The president was promised the visit by Prime Minister Theresa May after he was elected in 2016 – but no date was set.

Downing Street did not comment on the matter when contacted by the BBC.

President Trump and the first lady, Melania, visited the UK in July 2018 for a two-day working visit.

During the 2018 trip, the president met Mrs May at Chequers and the Queen at Windsor Castle before heading to Scotland, where he owns the Turnberry golf course.

The president’s last trip to the UK was marked by demonstrations around the UK.

In London, thousands of protestors took to the streets to voice their concerns about the visit.

And in Scotland, people showed their displeasure both in Edinburgh and at Turnberry.

The National Police Chiefs’ Council estimated that the police operation for the president’s 2018 visit cost nearly £18m.

It said 10,000 officers from across the country were needed to cover the occasion.


What is a state visit?

Queen Elizabeth II and US President Barack Obama during a State Banquet in Buckingham Palace on 24 May 2011
The Queen welcomed President Barack Obama to Buckingham Palace in 2011

A state visit is a formal visit by a head of state and is normally at the invitation of the Queen, who acts on advice from the government.

State visits are grand occasions, but they are not just ceremonial affairs. They have political purpose and are used by the government of the day to further what it sees as Britain’s national interests.

Once the location and dates are confirmed, the government, the visiting government and the royal household will agree on a detailed schedule.

So what is involved?

The Queen acts as the official host for the duration of the trip, and visitors usually stay at either Buckingham Palace or Windsor Castle.

There is usually a state banquet, and a visit to – and speeches at – the Houses of Parliament may be included. The Speaker of the House of Commons is one of three “key holders” to Westminster Hall, and as such, effectively holds a veto over who addresses Parliament.

The Queen usually receives one or two heads of state a year. She has hosted 109 state visits since becoming monarch in 1952.

The official website of the Queen and the Royal Family has a full list of all state visits since then, including details of how the ceremonies unfold.

Herman Cain withdraws bid for Federal Reserve seat

Herman Cain made a bid for the Republican presidential nomination in 2012

Former Republican presidential hopeful Herman Cain withdrew his name for a seat on the Federal Reserve Board, US President Donald Trump has tweeted.

The president said he would respect the former pizza chain executive’s wishes and not pursue Mr Cain’s nomination to join America’s central bank.

“My friend Herman Cain, a truly wonderful man, has asked me not to nominate him”, Mr Trump wrote.

Mr Trump first announced he intended to nominate Mr Cain earlier this month.

Though the president did not formally nominate Mr Cain to the seven-member board, the announcement prompted backlash among Democrats and some Republicans in Congress.

It is unclear why Mr Cain withdrew his name for consideration.

The president has been accused of putting forward political loyalists to the Fed.

Arguably the world’s most influential bank, it is traditionally an independent body.

The president is a fierce critic of the central bank, and has also often called for lower interest rates – his predecessors have largely refrained from trying to sway monetary policy.

Mr Cain would have required almost total Republican support in the Senate to be confirmed. As of last week, four of 53 Republican senators announced they plan to vote against him.

Mitt Romney of Utah, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Cory Gardner of Colorado and North Dakota’s Kevin Cramer all indicated they would vote no on the nomination.

Mr Cain, a former executive of Godfather’s Pizza, made a bid for the Republican presidential nomination in 2012, but dropped out amid allegations of sexual misconduct, which he denied.

He is often remembered for his 9-9-9 tax reform plan during his campaign, and this viral campaign video by an adviser.

He served as the chairman of the Kansas City Federal Bank from 1989 to 1991.

US to end sanctions exemptions for major Iranian oil importers

The sanctions on Iran’s oil industry have led to a sharp downturn in the country’s economy

US President Donald Trump has decided to end exemptions from sanctions for countries that buy oil from Iran.

The White House said waivers for China, India, Japan, South Korea and Turkey would expire in May, after which they could face US sanctions themselves.

This decision is intended to bring Iran’s oil exports to zero, denying the government its main source of revenue.

Iran insisted the sanctions were illegal and that it had attached “no value or credibility” to the waivers.

Mr Trump reinstated the sanctions last year after abandoning a landmark 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and six world powers.

Under the accord, Iran agreed to limit its sensitive nuclear activities and allow in international inspectors in return for sanctions relief.

The Trump administration hopes to compel Iran to negotiate a “new deal” that would cover not only its nuclear activities, but also its ballistic missile programme and what officials call its “malign behaviour” across the Middle East.

The sanctions have led to a sharp downturn in Iran’s economy, pushing the value of its currency to record lows, quadrupling its annual inflation rate, driving away foreign investors, and triggering protests.

Why aren’t the waivers being renewed?

In November, the US reimposed sanctions on Iran’s energy, ship building, shipping, and banking sectors, which officials called “the core areas” of its economy.

However, six-month waivers from economic penalties were granted to the eight main buyers of Iranian crude – China, India, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Turkey, Italy and Greece – to give them time to find alternative sources and avoid causing a shock to global oil markets.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks to reporters in Washington (22 April 2019)
Mike Pompeo said the US was “dramatically accelerating” its pressure campaign

Three of the eight buyers – Greece, Italy and Taiwan – have stopped importing Iranian oil. But the others had reportedly asked for their waivers to be extended.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Mr Trump’s decision not to renew the waivers showed his administration was “dramatically accelerating our pressure campaign in a calibrated way that meets our national security objectives while maintaining well supplied global oil markets”.

“We stand by our allies and partners as they transition away from Iranian crude to other alternatives,” he added.

We have had extensive and productive discussions with Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and other major producers to ease this transition and ensure sufficient supply. This, in addition to increasing US production, underscores our confidence that energy markets will remain well supplied.”


Oil pressure adds to US friction

In recent weeks, Japan and South Korea have either halted or sharply decreased Iranian oil imports. Both are heavily dependent on foreign oil and Mr Pompeo said the administration had been trying to find alternatives. But Monday’s move could strain relations – already tested over issues of trade and US policy towards North Korea – with these close allies.

It’s an even bigger problem for India, which is also under American pressure to cut oil purchases from Venezuela. Iran is one of Delhi’s main oil suppliers. But India also has deep cultural and political ties with Tehran, which make it difficult to join US efforts to isolate the Islamic Republic.

China is Iran’s other big customer: it has slammed the US decision, saying its trade is perfectly legal, and the US has no jurisdiction to interfere. The question is whether Beijing will try to skirt sanctions through companies not tied to the US financial system.

Turkey was most outspoken in lobbying for a waiver extension. Ankara argues that it badly needs the oil, that as a neighbour it can’t cut ties with Iran, and that the pressure campaign won’t work anyway.


Saudi Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih said his country would co-ordinate with fellow oil producers to ensure “the global oil market does not go out of balance”.

Iranian exports are currently estimated to be below 1 million barrels per day (bpd), compared to more than 2.5 million bpd before Mr Trump abandoned the nuclear deal last May.

What has been the impact on oil prices?

The price of global benchmark Brent crude rose by 3.33% to $74.37 a barrel in trading on Monday – the highest since 1 November.

US oil – known as West Texas Intermediate – was meanwhile up 2.90% at $65.93.

In recent months, the price of oil has risen due to an agreement between the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (Opec) cartel and its allies, including Russia, to cut their output by 1.2 million bpd.

How have the countries affected reacted?

A spokesman for Iran’s foreign ministry dismissed Mr Trump’s decision, saying the country “did not and does not attach any value or credibility to the waivers”.

But Abbas Mousavi added that because of the sanctions’ negative effects, Iran was in “constant contact” with its international partners and would act accordingly.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu tweeted that the US move would “not serve regional peace and stability, yet will harm Iranian people”.

“Turkey rejects unilateral sanctions and impositions on how to conduct relations with neighbours,” he added.

China said earlier that it opposed unilateral US sanctions.

“China-Iran co-operation is open, transparent and in accordance with law. It should be respected,” foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told reporters.

Japan’s chief cabinet secretary, Yoshihide Suga, was quoted by the Financial Times as saying there should be no “negative effect on the operations of Japanese companies”. Its refineries reportedly halted Iranian imports in March.

India’s government was studying the implications of the US announcement, the PTI news agency cited sources as saying. The country had reportedly hoped to be allowed to continue to reduce its Iranian oil imports gradually.

South Korea stopped buying Iranian oil for four months in response, but resumed in January. In March, it imported 284,600 bpd.

Top climbers die in Canadian avalanche

The group had been missing since last Wednesday whilst on an expedition in Banff National Park.

Three professional mountaineers have been found dead after an avalanche at Canada’s Banff National Park.

Austrian climbers David Lama, 28, and Hansjörg Auer, 35, and US citizen Jess Roskelley, 36, had been attempting to climb the east face of Howse Peake.

The group were reported missing last Wednesday and later presumed dead, but recovery efforts were hampered by weather conditions.

The men were part of a team sponsored by outdoor clothing line North Face.

Canadian authorities said air rescuers had seen “signs of multiple avalanches” where they were found.

In a statement, Parks Canada said it “[extended its] sincere condolences to [the men’s] families, friends and loved ones”.

“We would also like to acknowledge the impact that this has had on the tight-knit, local and international climbing communities,” it added.

During their expedition, the group had been taking a route up Howse Peake, known as M16, which has only been climbed once before.

All three were renowned within the mountaineering community.

Mr Lama was part of a duo that carried out the first free ascent of Cerro Torre’s Compressor route in Southern Patagonia.

Recently, Mr Auer had also completed a solo ascent of Lupghar Sar West, a 23,559ft (7,181m) peak in Pakistan’s Karakorum range.

In 2003, Mr Roskelly became the youngest American to climb Mount Everest – the world’s highest peak – aged 20 at the time.

His father, John, was also a mountaineer and climbed Howse Peak via a different route in the 1970s.

“It’s just one of those routes where you have to have the right conditions or it turns into a nightmare,” he said in an interview last week with The Spokesman-Review newspaper.

“This is one of those trips where it turned into a nightmare.”

US arrests ‘member of border militia’ in New Mexico

Members of the United Constitutional Patriots have been seen patrolling with weapons

US authorities have arrested an alleged member of a militia that has been stopping migrants trying to cross the US-Mexico border.

Larry Mitchell Hopkins, 69, was detained in New Mexico as a felon in possession of a weapon.

It comes just days after a video emerged, of militia members detaining dozens of migrants in the desert.

The group, United Constitutional Patriots, has been condemned by civil rights groups and local officials.

“This is a dangerous felon who should not have weapons around children and families,” said New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas.

Today’s arrest by the FBI indicates clearly that the rule of law should be in the hands of trained law enforcement officials, not armed vigilantes.”

While his statement said Mr Hopkins had been arrested as a felon, it did not specify what the underlying conviction had been.

The alleged militia member is expected to appear in court on Monday.

US arrests 'member of border militia' in New Mexico
Five numbers that explain US border crisis

United Constitutional Patriots, a small volunteer group, argues it is helping US Border Patrol to deal with a surge in migrants crossing America’s southern border. It is one of several militias operating in the region.

As details of this week’s latest video emerged, New Mexico governor Michelle Lujan Grisham said on Twitter that “menacing or threatening migrant families and asylum seekers is absolutely unacceptable and must cease”.

US Customs and Border Protection have previously said they are opposed to civilians patrolling the border in search of illegal crossers.

N Korea embassy raid in Madrid: ‘US Marine arrested

North Korean embassy in Madrid
Members of the group allegedly broke into North Korea’s Spanish embassy and stole several computers and hard drives

US authorities have arrested a former US Marine who is allegedly part of a group that raided North Korea’s embassy in Madrid, reports say.

Christopher Ahn appeared in a Los Angeles federal court, sources say.

It would be the first arrest over the incident, which happened in February days before US President Donald Trump met North Korea’s Kim Jong-un in Vietnam.

Free Joseon, a self-styled human rights group, says it was involved.

US federal agents have also raided the apartment of Adrian Hong, one of the group’s leaders, says the Washington Post.

The US Justice Department did not immediately respond to requests for comment from the BBC, and no detail of charges has been revealed.

In a statement, Free Joseon said it was “dismayed” by arrest warrants being executed.

“The last US citizen who fell into the custody of the Kim regime returned home maimed from torture and did not survive,” said spokesperson Lee Wolosky.

“We have received no assurances from the US government about the safety and security of the US nationals it is now targeting.”

On 22 February, a group of at least 10 people stormed North Korea’s embassy in Spain, allegedly identifying themselves as “members of a human rights movement seeking to liberate North Korea”.

During the incident several embassy staff were held hostage, including an attaché whom they tried persuading to defect.

Members of the group allegedly made off with several computers and hard drives, data from which was allegedly passed on to American authorities.

Free Joseon – formerly known as Cheolima Civil Defense – insists that its members were invited to the consulate.

A Spanish court document released last month has named leaders of organisation, some of whom are believed to live in the US. The court is seeking their extradition.

Turpin captivity case: Children forgive parents for torture

Turpin child reads statement during sentencing

A California couple’s children have forgiven them for years of torture and starvation as the parents were sentenced to life in prison.

David and Louise Turpin’s children told a court they still loved their mother and father despite all the abuse.

The couple were arrested in January 2018 when their 17-year-old daughter escaped the filthy home in Perris.

The Turpins pleaded guilty to the abuse of all but one of their 13 children for at least nine years.

Photo of the Turpin family
The couple’s Facebook page contained numerous family photos

They are expected to serve the rest of their lives behind bars, unless granted parole in 25 years.

What did the children say?

The couple wept as they heard victim-impact statements from four of their children at Friday’s hearing.

“I love both of my parents so much,” said one child in words read by her brother.

“Although it may not have been the best way of raising us, I am glad that they did because it made me the person I am today.”

David Turpin
David Turpin broke down as he learned his fate

Another sibling recounted being haunted by their ordeal.

“I cannot describe in words what we went through growing up,” said his statement.

“Sometimes I still have nightmares of things that had happened such as my siblings being chained up or getting beaten.

“That is the past and this is now.

“I love my parents and have forgiven them for a lot of the things they did to us.”

But not all the children were so conciliatory.

One daughter, visibly shaking, said: “My parents took my whole life from me, but now I’m taking my life back.

Louise Turpin occasionally smiled during Friday's sentencing
Louise Turpin occasionally smiled during Friday’s sentencing

“I’m a fighter, I’m strong and I’m shooting through life like a rocket.”

She added: “I saw my dad change my mom. They almost changed me, but I realised what was happening.”

What did the parents say?

David and Louise Turpin also cried as they apologised for the treatment of their children.

The 57-year-old father’s lawyer read a prepared statement on his behalf, saying: “My home schooling and discipline had good intentions.

“I never intended for any harm to come to my children.

“I love my children and I believe my children love me.”

He was an engineer for major US defence contractors Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman.

David Turpin and Louise Turpin
David and Louise Turpin have agreed to lengthy prison terms after pleading guilty to torture, child abuse and false imprisonment

Speaking directly to court, housewife Louise Turpin, 50, said she was “truly sorry” for what she had done.

“I love my children so much,” she said. “I really look forward to the day I can see them, hug them and tell them I’m sorry.”

What did the judge say?

The couple sat stony-faced as the judge rebuked them for their “selfish, cruel and inhuman treatment”.

Judge Bernard Schwartz said: “You have severed the ability to interact and raise your children that you have created and brought into this world.

The Turpin family with an Elvis impersonator in Las Vegas
The Turpin family with an Elvis impersonator in Las Vegas, where the parents renewed their vows

“The only reason that your punishment is less than the maximum time in my opinion is because you accepted responsibility at an early stage in the proceeding.

“And you spared your children having to relive the humiliation and the harm they endured in that house of horrors.”

What did the children endure?

The tidy exterior of the middle-class family home 70 miles (112km) south of Los Angeles offered a veneer of respectability that masked the squalor and stench of human waste found by authorities within.

The children, between the ages of two to 29 at the time of the police raid, were severely malnourished.

A 22-year-old son was discovered chained to a bed. His two sisters had just been released from shackles.

The victims were forbidden to shower more than once a year, were unable to use the toilet and none of them had ever seen a dentist.

The Turpin family in a Facebook picture dated 2011
The Turpins on a family trip to Disneyland – it was apparently a favourite destination

Some of the adult siblings’ growth had been so severely stunted by starvation that authorities at first mistook them for children.

Newly released audio of their daughter’s call to 911, obtained by ABC, provides a hint of the conditions in which the children lived.

“Two of my sisters and one of my brothers… they’re chained up to their bed”, the 17-year-old girl, who did not know her own address, told the emergency operator.

“Sometimes I wake up and I can’t breathe because how dirty the house is.”

The girl was also unaware of the year or month, or meaning of the word “medication”.

The children – whose names all begin with the letter J – were kept indoors, but were allowed out for Halloween, or on family trips to Disneyland and Las Vegas.

About 20 people from across the country, including nurses and psychologists, have offered to care for the seven adult siblings and six children.

National Enquirer sold to US magazine distributor


Newstand with National Enquirer closest to camera
The newspaper has gained a reputation for outlandish celebrity coverage

The owner of US tabloid newspaper the National Enquirer has agreed to sell the title to magazine distributor James Cohen.

American Media Inc (AMI) said it would sell the title and two of its sister publications to Mr Cohen.

The tabloid has been embroiled in high-profile scandals involving US President Donald Trump and Amazon’s Jeff Bezos.

The sale terms were not disclosed but the Washington Post reported a sale price of $100m (£77m).

In a statement, AMI said it had reached an agreement in principle with Mr Cohen to sell the title’s US and UK editions, along with the Globe and National Examiner.

“The sale of these brands shows their vitality in today’s newsstand marketplace where they continue to generate nearly $30 million in profit annually,” AMI chief executive David Pecker said.

Mr Cohen’s family built the Hudson chain of airport newsstands. The family now owns US magazine and book distributor Hudson News Distributors.

“Year after year, the Enquirer has continued to be one of the best-selling and most profitable newsstand titles,” Mr Cohen said.

He said he plans to boost the National Enquirer’s video and documentary collaborations, as well as its theme park business.

High-profile scandals

The National Enquirer is best known for its outlandish celebrity gossip and crime coverage.

Last year the publisher admitted to helping Mr Trump’s presidential campaign bury a report about an alleged extramarital affair with a former Playboy model.

Federal prosecutors announced in December that AMI had admitted paying Karen McDougal $150,000 for a “catch and kill” on her story in the run-up to the 2016 election.

In February, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos accused its owners of trying to blackmail him over lewd photographs.

He said AMI wanted him to stop investigating how they had obtained his private messages.

Earlier this month the publisher announced it was looking for a buyer for the 93-year-old title.

The tabloid was originally founded as The New York Evening Enquirer back in 1926, when it was distributed as a broadsheet on a Sunday.

At its peak it had a weekly circulation of millions, but the internet has had a huge impact on sales.

Last year it was announced circulation had dropped to about 265,000 – 18% down in one financial year.

Mueller report: Trump ‘tried to get special counsel fired’

Trump on Mueller report: “This should never happen to another president again”

US President Donald Trump tried to get the man appointed to investigate his links to Russia fired, a long-awaited report has revealed.

Details are starting to emerge about the 448-page redacted document, collated by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, which has just been published.

Mr Trump’s legal team earlier described the report as a “total victory”.

It comes as the country’s top lawyer, William Barr, faces heavy criticism of his handling of the report’s release.

Mr Mueller’s report says he found no criminal conspiracy between Mr Trump’s campaign and Russia, but could not reach a concrete legal conclusion on obstruction allegations.

“If we had confidence after a thorough investigation of the facts that the president clearly did not commit obstruction of justice, we would so state,” the report says. “Based on the facts and the applicable legal standards, we are unable to reach that judgment.

“Accordingly, while this report does not conclude that the president committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.”

What does the report reveal?

The report says that in June 2017, Mr Trump called Don McGahn – then a White House lawyer – to try to get Mr Mueller removed over alleged “conflicts of interest”.

US Attorney General William Barr on Mueller report findings

Mr McGahn told the special counsel he resigned after feeling “trapped because he did not plan to follow the President’s directive” and would not have known what to say to Mr Trump had he called again.

The report also reveals:

  • Mr Trump reportedly used an expletive when the investigation was announced, adding: “Oh my god. This is terrible. This is the end of my presidency”
  • Mr Mueller examined 10 actions by the president in regards to obstruction of justice
  • Investigators viewed the president’s written responses to their questions as “inadequate” but chose not to pursue a potentially lengthy legal battle to interview him
  • Mr Trump dictated a misleading response as to what the June 2016 meeting between Russian intermediaries and Trump campaign officials in Trump Tower was about – this had earlier been denied by Mr Trump’s lawyer and White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders
  • The special counsel considered charging the president’s son, Donald Trump Jr, and son-in-law Jared Kushner in regards to that meeting, but did not think they could meet the Department of Justice’s burden of proof

The mammoth document is the product of a 22-month investigation by Mr Mueller – who was appointed to probe Russian interference in the 2016 election and possible collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign.

His team’s investigation has led to 35 people being charged, including several who were a part of the president’s campaign and administration.

How has Mr Trump reacted?

Speaking at an event for veterans, Mr Trump said he was having a “good day” – adding that there was “no collusion” and “no obstruction”.

Representatives for the president have also reiterated his view that the investigation was a “hoax” and called for reprisal inquiries.

“President Trump has been fully and completely exonerated yet again,” Mr Trump’s 2020 campaign manager Brad Parscale said in a statement.

“Now the tables have turned, and it’s time to investigate the liars who instigated this sham investigation into President Trump, motivated by political retribution and based on no evidence whatsoever.”

His comments followed a stream of social media posts by the president on Thursday regarding the report’s release.

Senior Democrats are calling on Mr Mueller to testify to them directly in order to “restore public trust” after what they described as Mr Barr’s “partisan behaviour” regarding the report.

How are the Democrats responding?

The attorney general, who was appointed by Mr Trump, held a news conference before the report was made public in which he backed the president.

His actions have provoked top Democrats to publicly question his impartiality and independence.

Mueller report: Trump 'tried to get special counsel fired'
Democrat Jerry Nadler accuses the attorney general of “waging a media campaign” for Trump

Representative Jerry Nadler confirmed that the House Committee on the Judiciary had already issued an invitation to the special counsel to appear “as soon as possible”.

“We cannot take Attorney General Barr’s word for it. We must read the full Mueller report, and the underlying evidence,” he said in a tweet.

“This is about transparency and ensuring accountability.”

William Barr was chosen by Donald Trump to be US attorney general

Mueller report: Barr accused of helping Donald Trump ahead of release

The US attorney general has been accused of “waging a media campaign” for President Donald Trump ahead of the Mueller report’s long-awaited release.

Democrat Jerry Nadler described William Barr’s plans to hold a news conference before the report was sent to Congress as “unnecessary and inappropriate”.

The 400-page report is the result of an investigation into alleged Russian interference during the 2016 election.

A summary, released by Mr Barr, reveals it clears Mr Trump of any collusion.

However, it does not go as far as to completely exonerate the president of obstruction of justice.

Both Mr Trump’s supporters and detractors are now eagerly awaiting the full – albeit redacted – report’s release.

It will be sent to Congress between 11:00 and midday local time (15:00 GMT and 16:00 GMT). Mr Barr is due to hold a news conference at 09:30.

What is the Mueller report?

The report contains the findings of a 22-month investigation into possible collusion between Russia and the Trump presidential campaign back in 2016.

It was led by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who was chosen to run the investigation in 2017 following concerns from US intelligence agencies that Russia had tried to tip the election in Mr Trump’s favour.

He also looked into whether Mr Trump obstructed justice when he asked for the inquiry into former national security adviser Michael Flynn to end, and later fired FBI chief James Comey.

Mr Flynn has since pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his contacts with Russia – one of six former Trump aides and 30 other people, including 12 Russians, charged in connection with the investigation.

What do we know already?

So far all the public have seen of the report is the four-page summary released by US Attorney General Barr.

It contained Mr Mueller’s main conclusions. The first, that Mr Trump did not collude with Russia during the 2016 campaign, and the second, that he did not completely exonerate him of the charge of obstructing justice.

Exactly what this means is what many hope to discover with the release of the report on Thursday.

But it may not be that easy to ascertain. The report has been redacted, with a colour-code indicating the reasons why.

As a result, according to the BBC, “it might look more like a colouring book than a report.

How has President Trump reacted?

Mr Trump and his supporters immediately jumped on the fact that no collusion was found.

“After three years of lies and smears and slander, the Russia hoax is finally dead. The collusion delusion is over,” the president told a cheering crowd in Grand Rapids, Michigan, last month.

Mueller report: One summary, two interpretations

The Republican president has repeatedly described the investigation as “a witch hunt”.

However, he has not addressed the fact that the report does not completely clear him of the allegation of obstructing justice.

What do his opponents say?

Leading Democrats have called for the Mueller report to be published in full, and pledged to make use of the party’s majority control of committees in the House of Representatives to continue investigating the president.

They have also raised concerns over Mr Barr’s handling of the report since Mr Mueller’s team handed it to the Justice Department.

“Rather than letting the facts of the report speak for themselves, the Attorney General has taken unprecedented steps to spin Mueller’s nearly two-year investigation,” Mr Nadler, who is the House Judiciary Committee chairman, told reporters on Wednesday.

Trump-Mueller report – ‘Paranoia’ among White House aides fearing backlash by president as world awaits release

Attorney general to hold press conference ahead of redacted 400-page report being sent to Congress

Donald Trump, the US political class and much of the world is waiting with baited breath ahead of the release of special counsel Robert Mueller ‘s long-awaited report on Russia’s role in the 2016 US election. 

Its disclosure will provide the first public look at the findings into the Trump campaign’s contacts with Russia, and whether the president obstructed justice. 

Jerry Nadler, the House judiciary chairman, hastily convened a press conference last night to accuse the attorney general of taking “unprecedented” steps to spin Robert Mueller’s report in favour of Donald Trump.  “The attorney general appears to be waging a media campaign on behalf of President Trump,” Mr Nadler told reporters in New York.
“Rather than letting the facts of the report speak for themselves, the attorney general has taken unprecedented steps to spin Mueller’s nearly two-year investigation.”  The New York Times, which cited people with knowledge of the discussions, said the conversations had helped the president’s legal team prepare for the release of the report and strategise for the public relations and political battles that are certain to follow. The Justice Department declined to comment on the New York Times report. Trump lawyers Jay Sekulow and Rudy Giuliani did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
When Mueller’s report is released, close attention will be given not only to potential new details on the Trump campaign’s contacts with Russia and the question of whether the Republican president acted to impede the inquiry, but also on how much Mr Barr elects to withhold.

Donald Trump was curiously quiet on Twitter on Wednesday evening. He only tweeted once, sharing an article by far right news outlet Breitbart which highlighted a poll in which 38% of respondents believed the FBI spied on the Trump campaign. 

In adjacent – but utterly astonishing – news, Ivanka Trump has revealed her father asked her to head up the World Bank. She says she turned it down because she is “happy with the work” she’s doing.

Donald Trump has suggested he may hold a press conference of his own in a bid to shape the narrative of the Mueller report’s release.  He said last night “a lot of strong things” would come out today. “Attorney general Barr is going to be doing a press conference. Maybe I’ll do one after that, we’ll see,” he told WMAL radio.  

Five senior House Democrats are calling on William Barr to cancel his press conference ahead of the release of the Mueller report.  This is what they said in a statement: “The Department of Justice announced today that the Attorney General will hold a press conference tomorrow morning before Congress has even seen Special Counsel Mueller’s report. This press conference, which apparently will not include Special Counsel Mueller, is unnecessary and inappropriate, and appears designed to shape public perceptions of the report before anyone can read it.
“In addition, we understand from press reports that the Department of Justice has had ‘numerous conversations’ with lawyers from the White House about the report, which ‘have aided the President’s legal team as it prepares a rebuttal to the report.’ There is no legitimate reason for the Department to brief the White House prior to providing Congress a copy of the report.
“These new actions by the Attorney General reinforce our concern that he is acting to protect President Trump. The Attorney General previously stated, ‘I do not believe it would be in the public’s interest for me to attempt to summarize the full report or to release it in serial or piecemeal fashion.’ We agree.
“He should let the full report speak for itself. The Attorney General should cancel the press conference and provide the full report to Congress, as we have requested. With the Special Counsel’s fact-gathering work concluded, it is now Congress’ responsibility to assess the findings and evidence and proceed accordingly.”

Jerry Nadler, chair of the House judiciary committee, has hit out at the Justice Department’s decision to brief the White House on the findings of the Mueller report ahead of its release, and the fact the report will not be released until after the attorney general has held a press conference. 

Similarly, White House officials are reportedly suffering “breakdown-level” anxiety over whether the Mueller report will expose them as a source of damaging information about Donald Trump. 
More than a dozen current and former administration personnel cooperated with special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into whether the Trump presidential campaign colluded with Russia, according to NBC News.

The New York Times reports the Justice Department has had a number of conversations with White House lawyers about the conclusions made by Robert Mueller. The discussions have reportedly helped the president’s legal team prepare a rebuttal of the report.  The newspaper says “paranoia” was taking hold among some Trump aides, with a number fearing more a backlash by the president than the findings themselves.

Donald Trump has in recent days ramped up his attacks on those involved in the probe, in a likely sign the president is concerned over what the report reveals to the public about his alleged obstruction, and his campaign’s links to Russia.
On Wednesday evening, Mr Trump said “a lot of strong things” would come out today, and suggested he may hold a press conference of his own – a sign the White House intends to go on the attack from the outset.
“You’ll see a lot of strong things come out tomorrow,” Mr Trump told Washington’s WMAL radio. “Attorney general Barr is going to be doing a press conference. Maybe I’ll do one after that, we’ll see”.

The full Mueller report is here at last – so what’s next?

Finally. At last. The day has come. The Mueller report. It is here

And for all the hype, the expectation that Washington and cable news specialises in, on the one to 10 scale where one is a barely audible whimper and 10 is the eruption of a Krakatoan volcano, this is almost certainly going to be at the lower decibel end.

Why do I say that? Because the Attorney general, Bill Barr, blew any cliff-hanger season finale moment with his four-page letter summarising the findings.

On collusion with Russia, there was none. On whether the president obstructed justice, the Mueller report was more equivocal.

And that is fascinating and why we shouldn’t just roll over and go back to sleep.

Donald Trump has made clear what he thinks it amounts to: “Total exoneration.”

But the one sentence of the report that was released in the attorney general’s summary is far more tantalising.

Mueller wrote: “While this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it does not exonerate him.” And what that amounts to is going to engulf debate once this report lands.

Barr and Mueller

Jonathan Turley is the incredibly well plugged in professor of law at George Washington University.

“Critics of Trump will come in and they will look specifically at obstruction and find a lot of material there, of conduct that may not be indictable but certainly could be contemptible, or even impeachable.

“For Trump supporters they will look at the collusion section and say ‘that’s what started all this and they found nothing, and this whole narrative proved to be false.'”

The frustrating part about when we eventually get our hands on the report will be how much of it is redacted.

Helpfully the excisions will be colour-coded. One colour if it is intel too sensitive for public consumption; another if it is material being considered by a grand jury; another still if it is criticism of a third party who hasn’t been indicted.

In other words it might look more like a colouring book than a report.

So should we expect Democrats to create a hue and cry? Back to my one is a whimper and 10 is volcanic scale, I think they will be around the seven to eight mark.

Already Democratic party-controlled committees in the House of Representatives are issuing subpoenas to get access to all sorts of information.

They will reject the ‘there’s nothing to see here, just keep moving along the sidewalk, ladies and gentlemen’ – Donald Trump’s opponents will insist there are questions to be answered.

But out on the stump across the country it feels different – remember in the US you are never far away from an election.

At the moment there is a heap of Democratic hopefuls hurtling around the country honing messages for 2020. They are debating jobs, the environment, taxes, health, immigration. But Mueller? Not so much.

Nancy Pelosi, the strategically astute Speaker of the House, said this on a trip to Europe this week:

“People are concerned about their kitchen table issues: are they going to be able to pay the bills. So I have not been one of these focusers on impeachment and reports and the rest of that, let the chips fall where they may when we have the evidence and the facts.”

Now this needs decoding a bit.

Nancy Pelosi

She’s not giving the president a clean bill of health. What she’s saying is the last thing Democrats need is a messy and almost certainly futile attempt at impeachment; much better to have a president who is wounded and weakened by Mueller.

One other thing: Timing. It’s the day before Good Friday. It is Spring Break. American schoolchildren are on holiday. Some families are at the beach. In the national parks. Enjoying Easter.

And on Capitol Hill, where lawmakers are never more than a few yards from a microphone, they’re in recess.

It’s no accident that the Justice Department is releasing the Mueller report today.

The suspect was found with a self-inflicted gunshot wound, Clear Creek County Sheriff Rick Albers said

Columbine-obsessed’ woman accused of Denver school threats found dead

An 18-year-old woman suspected of making threats to Denver-area schools has been found dead in an apparent suicide, according to police.

Sol Pais was reportedly obsessed with the 1999 Columbine high school massacre, in which two teenagers murdered 12 students and a teacher.

The alleged threat led to school closures, affecting more than 400,000 students, and a manhunt for the woman.

She flew to Denver ahead of the 20th anniversary of the Columbine shooting.

Jefferson County Sheriff Jeff Shrader told reporters on Wednesday that she died from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound.

The FBI earlier tweeted there was no longer a threat to the community and the suspect is deceased.

Sol Pais was reportedly obsessed with the Columbine massacre
Sol Pais was reportedly obsessed with the Columbine massacre

Officials said at a news conference that local schools would reopen on Thursday and events marking the anniversary of the 1999 shooting would continue on Saturday.

The Miami Beach high school student travelled to Denver from Miami on Monday night and purchased a pump-action shotgun and ammunition, the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office said.

At a second news conference later on Wednesday, FBI Denver special agent in charge Dean Phillips said that “a combination of her actions and comments” alerted authorities to Pais as a possible threat.

Mr Phillips said that Pais made comments in person and online related to her “infatuation” with Columbine. And she had purchased three one-way tickets to Denver from Miami for 15, 16 and 17 April, before taking the first flight on Monday. Mr Phillips said Pais went directly to purchase the weapon after landing.

Authorities are now conducting an investigation to ensure Pais had no accomplices and that there is no further threat.

“You should feel confident that your law enforcement community is protecting you and keeping you safe,” Mr Phillips said.

Police had considered her armed and extremely dangerous.

Nearly 30 armed officers swarm the woods near the Echo Park Campground in the Arapaho National Forest, CBS News reports.

The Echo Lake Lodge, nearby to where she was reportedly found, does not open until late May due to weather.

Witnesses told local media that she was seen running naked and armed with a gun in the area earlier on Wednesday. She had last been spotted in the Mt Evans area dropped off by a “for-rent vehicle”, Mr Phillips said.

Anniversaries can be difficult for survivors and the wider community, often triggering traumatic memories.

Littleton was already on high alert because they’ve faced threats in the past, and this was another scary reminder that the mass shooting will perhaps forever affect life in this city. One Columbine survivor told me that when she heard the news, she questioned her safety and took a different route home in a moment of panic.

Today, schools are closed, empty, and deemed unsafe. John McDonald is in charge of security for the school district that includes Columbine. He told me he was angry that as a country, Americans had done nothing but point fingers for the last 20 years, and as a result children weren’t just dead, they were unsafe to attend school.

Columbine isn’t even among the 10 deadliest mass shootings in this country any more. Yet, it is still a tragedy that cuts deep and becomes more painful with each reminder that nothing has changed.

Presentational grey line

The Mt Evans area, one hour's drive west of Denver, is covered in snow at this time of year
The Mt Evans area, one hour’s drive west of Denver, is covered in snow at this time of year

The suspect’s family had urged her to turn herself in as authorities launched a manhunt.

It’s like a bad dream. We don’t know. We don’t have any ideas,” her father told CBS News in Miami.

Mr Phillips declined to answer questions related to Pais’ mental health.

According to the news outlet, more than 130 schools in and around Denver had closed as officials searched for her.

At the news conference Tuesday afternoon, Mr Phillips said there had been information about a specifically targeted school.

Asked about a possible “overreach” in keeping so many students home from school Mr Phillips responded, “As a parent I would say thank you to the school system for protecting my child.”

Authorities were seen preparing to approach the cabin
Authorities were seen preparing to approach the remote lodge

Pig brains partially revived four hours after death

US scientists have partially revived pig brains four hours after the animals were slaughtered

The findings could fuel debate about the barrier between life and death, and provide a new way of researching diseases like Alzheimer’s.

The study showed the death of brain cells could be halted and that some connections in the brain were restored.

However, there were no signals from the brain that would indicate awareness or consciousness.

The surprise findings challenge the idea that the brain goes into irreversible decline within minutes of the blood supply being cut off.

How was it done?

Thirty-two pig brains were collected from an abattoir.

Four hours later the organs were connected to a system made by the team at Yale University.

It rhythmically pumped (to mimic the pulse) a specially designed liquid round the brain, which contained a synthetic blood to carry oxygen and drugs to slow or reverse the death of brain cells.

The pig brains were given the restorative cocktail for six hours.

What did the study show?

Synapse
The researchers found synapses – the connections between brains – were working

The study, published in the journal Nature, showed a reduction in brain cell death, the restoration of blood vessels and some brain activity.

The researchers found working synapses – the connections between brain cells that allow them to communicate.

The brains also showed a normal response to medication and used up the same amount of oxygen as a normal brain.

This was all 10 hours after the pigs were decapitated.

Crucially there was no sign of the brain-wide electrical activity in an electroencephalogram (EEG brain scan) that would signal awareness or perception.

Fundamentally they were still dead brains.

What have we learned?

The research transforms ideas about how the brain dies, which many thought happened quickly and irreversibly without a supply of oxygen.

Prof Nenad Sestan, a professor of neuroscience at Yale University, said: “Cell death in the brain occurs across a longer time window that we previously thought.

“What we are showing is the process of cell death is a gradual, stepwise process.

“And that some of those processes can be either postponed, preserved or even reversed.”

Are these experiments ethical?

The pig brains came from the pork industry; the animals were not raised in a lab for this experiment.

But the Yale scientists were so concerned the pigs might become conscious that they gave drugs to the disembodied brains to reduce any brain activity.

And the team were constantly monitoring the brains to see if there was any sign of higher brain functions.

In that case they would have used anaesthetic and ended the experiment.

Ethicists, writing in Nature, say new guidelines are needed for this field because animals used for research could end up in a “grey area – not alive, but not completely dead”.

What is the point?

A brain

The immediate benefit of this work will be for scientists studying the brain in diseases like Alzheimer’s.

The organ is the most complex structure in the known universe, but techniques such as freezing slices of the brain or growing colonies of brain cells in a dish do not let researchers explore the full 3D wiring of the brain.

In the long term, scientists hope to find better ways of protecting the brain after traumas such as a stroke or being starved of oxygen at birth.

Dr Andrea Beckel-Mitchener, from the Brain Initiative at the US National Institute of Mental Health, said: “This line of research could lead to a whole new way of studying the post-mortem brain.

“It also could stimulate research to develop interventions that promote brain recovery after loss of brain blood flow.”

However, the researchers say it is still far too early for the field to make a difference to patients after injury.

Prof Sestan said: “We don’t yet have knowledge whether we would be able to restore normal brain function.”

Does this change the meaning of death?

At the moment no, but some ethicists say we should have the debate now as people who are “brain dead” are a major source of organs for transplant.

Prof Dominic Wilkinson, a professor of medical ethics and a consultant neonatologist in Oxford, said: “Once someone has been diagnosed as ‘brain dead’ there is currently no way for that person to ever recover.

“The human person that they were has gone forever.

“If, in the future, it were possible to restore the function of the brain after death, to bring back someone’s mind and personality, that would, of course, have important implications for our definitions of death.”

But that is not currently the case.

Prof Tara Spires-Jones, deputy director of the Centre for Discovery Brain Sciences at the University of Edinburgh, said: “This study is a long way from preserving human brain function after death as portrayed in the cartoon Futurama where heads were kept alive in a jar.

“It is instead a temporary preservation of some of the more basic cell functions in the pig brain, not the preservation of thought and personality.”

Could the pigs’ brains be aware?

In this experiment the answer is a clear no. The brains were effectively silent.

But the research does ask as many questions as it answers:

  • How long can the researchers keep brains going?
  • Would the results be even better if the researchers did not wait four hours before starting?
  • Also, the team used drugs to suppress brain activity – would the decapitated brains have been aware if they hadn’t?

US President Donald Trump has issued the second veto of his presidency, overriding a congressional resolution directing him to end US support for the Saudi-led war in Yemen AFP/File

Trump vetoes bill to end US support for Saudi-led Yemen war

President Donald Trump on Tuesday vetoed a resolution from Congress directing him to end US support for the Saudi-led war in Yemen, the second such move of his presidency.

The resolution was a harsh bipartisan rebuke to Trump that took the historic step of curtailing a president’s war-making powers — a step the president condemned in a statement announcing his veto.

“This resolution is an unnecessary, dangerous attempt to weaken my constitutional authorities, endangering the lives of American citizens and brave service members, both today and in the future,” Trump said.

Vetoing the measure is an “effective green light for the war strategy that has created the world’s worst humanitarian crisis to continue,” said International Rescue Committee president and CEO David Miliband.

“This veto by President Trump is morally wrong and strategically wrongheaded. It sets back the hopes for respite for the Yemeni people, and leaves the US upholding a failed strategy.

“Yemen is at a breaking point with 10 million people on the brink of famine. There are as many as 100 civilian casualties per week, and Yemenis are more likely to be killed at home than in any other structure.”

The veto was the second of his presidency, after he overrode a congressional resolution that aimed to reverse the border emergency he declared in order to secure more funding for his wall between the United States and Mexico in March.

Trump argued that US support for the bloody war between the Saudi-backed Yemeni government and Iran-aligned Huthi rebels was necessary for a variety of reasons, “

“first and foremost” to “protect the safety of the more than 80,000 Americans who reside in certain coalition countries.”

These countries “have been subject to Huthi attacks from Yemen,” he said, referring to drone and missile strikes the Saudi-led coalition has either claimed were intercepted or denied altogether.

The president also said the resolution would “harm the foreign policy of the United States” and “harm our bilateral relationships.”

– War crimes –

And it would “negatively affect our ongoing efforts to prevent civilian casualties and prevent the spread of terrorist organizations such as Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and ISIS, and embolden Iran’s malign activities in Yemen,” Trump said, referring to two Sunni Muslim militant groups and his Shiite bete noire.

The resolution, which passed the US House of Representatives earlier this month and the Senate in March, was a historic milestone, as it was the first time in history that a measure invoking the 1973 War Powers Resolution reached the president’s desk.

It was a reminder that Congress has the legal ability to compel the removal of US military forces, absent a formal declaration of war.

Democrats argued that US involvement in the Yemen conflict — through intelligence-sharing, logistical support, the sale of military equipment and now-discontinued aerial refueling — is unconstitutional without congressional authority.

Critics of the intervention warn that Saudi forces are likely using US weapons to commit atrocities in the four-year war.

Some 10,000 people have been killed in Yemen over the past four years, according to the World Health Organization, although rights groups say the toll could be five times higher.

Both the Saudi-led alliance and Huthi rebels have been accused of acts that could amount to war crimes, while the coalition has been blacklisted by the United Nations for killing and maiming children.

Trump vetoes bill ending US support for Yemen war

The resolution was a harsh bipartisan rebuke to Trump that took the historic step of curtailing a president’s war-making powers — a step the president condemned in a statement announcing his veto.

“This resolution is an unnecessary, dangerous attempt to weaken my constitutional authorities, endangering the lives of American citizens and brave service members, both today and in the future,” Trump said.

Vetoing the measure is an “effective green light for the war strategy that has created the world’s worst humanitarian crisis to continue,” said International Rescue Committee president and CEO David Miliband.

“This veto by President Trump is morally wrong and strategically wrongheaded. It sets back the hopes for respite for the Yemeni people, and leaves the US upholding a failed strategy.

Yemen is at a breaking point with 10 million people on the brink of famine. There are as many as 100 civilian casualties per week, and Yemenis are more likely to be killed at home than in any other structure.”

The veto was the second of his presidency, after he overrode a congressional resolution that aimed to reverse the border emergency he declared in order to secure more funding for his wall between the United States and Mexico in March.

Trump argued that US support for the bloody war between the Saudi-backed Yemeni government and Iran-aligned Huthi rebels was necessary for a variety of reasons, “first and foremost” to “protect the safety of the more than 80,000 Americans who reside in certain coalition countries.”

These countries “have been subject to Huthi attacks from Yemen,” he said, referring to drone and missile strikes the Saudi-led coalition has either claimed were intercepted or denied altogether.

The president also said the resolution would “harm the foreign policy of the United States” and “harm our bilateral relationships.”

War crimes

And it would “negatively affect our ongoing efforts to prevent civilian casualties and prevent the spread of terrorist organizations such as Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and ISIS, and embolden Iran’s malign activities in Yemen,” Trump said, referring to two Sunni Muslim militant groups and his Shiite bete noire.

The resolution, which passed the US House of Representatives earlier this month and the Senate in March, was a historic milestone, as it was the first time in history that a measure invoking the 1973 War Powers Resolution reached the president’s desk.

It was a reminder that Congress has the legal ability to compel the removal of US military forces, absent a formal declaration of war.

Democrats argued that US involvement in the Yemen conflict — through intelligence-sharing, logistical support, the sale of military equipment and now-discontinued aerial refueling — is unconstitutional without congressional authority.

Critics of the intervention warn that Saudi forces are likely using US weapons to commit atrocities in the four-year war.

Some 10,000 people have been killed in Yemen over the past four years, according to the World Health Organization, although rights groups say the toll could be five times higher.

Both the Saudi-led alliance and Huthi rebels have been accused of acts that could amount to war crimes, while the coalition has been blacklisted by the United Nations for killing and maiming children.

Trump news – President ‘doesn’t regret’ tweeting about Ilhan Omar, as first 2020 Republican challenger emerges

President Donald Trump, has pledged his support to the people of France after the iconic Dame Notre, cathedral suffered a devastating fire last night. On Twitter, the president noted it was “horrible” to watch the scenes from Paris, and suggested “flying water tankers could be used to put it out.” It was confirmed this morning that the fire had been entirely extinguished.

Closer to home, Trump is also facing his first Republican challenger for the, 2020 presidential election in the form of Massachusetts governor Bill Weld, although is it deemed unlikely that anyone will seize the party’s nomination from the incumbent.

It was also announced late yesterday that the Mueller report into Russian interference in the 2020 presidential election, and any links to the Trump campaign, would be released in a redacted form to the public this Thursday.

Former first lady Michelle Obama compared living in the US under President Trump to living with a “divorced dad.” “We come from a broken family, we are a little unsettled,” Ms Obama said. “Sometimes you spend the weekend with divorced dad. That feels like fun but then you get sick. That is what America is going through. We are living with divorced dad.

Then-CIA deputy director Gina Haspel used photos of dead ducks after the Salisbury attack in March 2018 to persuade Trump to expel 60 Russian diplomats. 

First daughter Ivanka Trump made an appearance aboard an Ethiopian Airlines aircraft to honor March 2019 crash victims.

Former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld, who announced his candidacy as a Republican challenger to the president, said he could not — in good conscience — support Mr Trump. “I could not support Donald Trump for president,” Mr Weld said. “I’m not saying I would ever endorse a Democrat in this race, but I could not support the president.”

A chicken resembling Donald Trump appeared during a protest outside the Internal Revenue Service building on Monday where progressives are demanding the president release his tax returns.

Here is audio of the president condemning Ms Omar once again: 

Republicans celebrated Cher for posting a tweet that echoes similar sentiments of their own towards refugees and migrants in response to President Trump threatening to send migrants to sanctuary cities. “I Understand Helping struggling Immigrants,but MY CITY (Los Angeles) ISNT TAKING CARE OF ITS OWN,” the singer wrote on a post Sunday. “If My State Can’t Take Care of Its Own(Many Are VETS)How Can it Take Care Of More.”

The president said he will award Tiger Woods the Presidential Medal of Freedom after the professional golfer won his fifth Masters title.

Trump news - live: President 'doesn't regret' tweeting about Ilhan Omar, as first 2020 Republican challenger emerges
Donald Trump to honour Tiger Woods after ‘incredible comeback’ to win Masters

The 43-year-old broke an 11-year drought to win his 15th major championship on Sunday and is now set to be rewarded by the president

Mr Trump continues to layer on his attacks on Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar despite the death threats aimed at the congresswoman. Speaking to a local news station in Minnesota, the president said Ms Omar, a black Muslim Somali refugee, “got a way about her that’s very, very bad for our country.”

“She’s been very disrespectful to this country,” he added. She’s been very disrespectful, frankly, to Israel. She is somebody that doesn’t really understand life, real life. What it’s all about.”

The president took to Twitter today to slam the special counsel investigation that looked into the Trump campaign and possible collusion with Russia. He referred to it as the “greatest scam in political history.”

Speaking at an event in Minnesota last night, President Trump noted that the Notre Dame fire may have been caused by renovations, asking: “What’s that all about?” Describing the incident in Paris, the president said: “It’s a terrible scene. They think it was caused by – at this moment they don’t know – but they think it was caused by renovation. And I hope that’s the reason. Renovation, you know, what’s that all about? But it’s a terrible sight to behold.”

Nancy Pelosi has warned that there can be no US trade deal with the UK after Brexit, if the Good Friday Agreement is undermined.

Speaking to an audience at LSE in London, the speaker of the house said that the Northern Ireland peace treaty could not be “bargained away in another agreement.” This warning stands in contrast to the line adopted by President Trump, who has in the past expressed enthusiasm for a post-Brexit trade deal.

Bernie Sanders’ tax returns reveal that the senator is a millionaire, and part of America’s ‘1 per cent’. 

The veteran socialist politician, who is seeking the Democratic nomination for the 2020 presidential election, released 10 years of his tax returns yesterday,

They confirmed that Mr Sanders’ income crossed the $1m (£764,000) threshold in 2016 and 2017, although he reported less earnings in his most recent return.

Releasing tax returns has become an expected, but not official move for presidential candidates. Most notably, Donald Trump has never revealed his own.

President Trump is facing his first challenger from within his own Republican party, for the nomination for the 2020 presidential election. 

Bill Weld, a former governor of Massachusetts has announced he will challenge the incumbent for the party’s nomination ahead of next year’s election.

In a statement, Weld said, “Ours is a nation built on courage, resilience, and independence. In these times of great political strife, when both major parties are entrenched in their ‘win at all cost’ battles, the voices of the American people are being ignored and our nation is suffering. “It is time for patriotic men and women across our great nation to stand and plant a flag. It is time to return to the principles of Lincoln — equality, dignity, and opportunity for all. There is no greater cause on earth than to preserve what truly makes America great. I am ready to lead that fight.”

President Trump has been tweeting about the fire which devastated much of Notre Dame cathedral in Paris overnight. As the fire was raging, Trump took to Twitter to say it was “horrible” to watch what was happening, and suggested water tankers should be used to put it out.

Later in the evening, Trump simply wrote, “God bless the people of France!”

It it not yet known what caused the fire to start, but it was fully extinguished by 9am UK time on Tuesday. The iconic cathedral, which is some 800 years old, is visited by 12 million people every year. 

You can follow our live blog, on developments as France deals with the aftermath of the fire this morning.

Bill Weld: Trump to face 2020 Republican challenge

Bill Weld: Trump to face 2020 Republican challenge

US President Donald Trump is facing a longshot challenge from within his own party ahead of next year’s White House election.

Former Massachusetts Governor Bill Weld has become the first Republican to challenge Mr Trump in 2020.

Mr Weld, 73, has released a campaign video contrasting his style with the current president’s.

But he faces an uphill battle to take over a Republican party that has been refashioned in Mr Trump’s image.

Mr Weld was governor of Massachusetts from 1991-97 after serving in the justice department under President Ronald Reagan.

He was running mate on the Libertarian ticket during the 2016 presidential election.

“I really think if we have six more years of the same stuff we’ve had out of the White House the last two years that would be a political tragedy,” he said on CNN.

“So I would be ashamed of myself if I didn’t raise my hand and run.”

Mr Weld’s campaign video touts his cross-party credentials as a Republican who was elected in the Democratic stronghold of Massachusetts.

The three-minute production contrasts his record with clips of provocative statements by Mr Trump.

The video finishes with the slogan: “A Better America Starts Here.”

But underscoring the long odds for him, party leaders promptly rejected his campaign.

“Any effort to challenge the president’s nomination is bound to go absolutely nowhere,” the Republican National Committee said in statement.

According to the most recent Gallup poll, 89% of Republican voters approve of the president.

Mr Trump’s campaign said on Sunday it had raised more than $30m in the first quarter of this year, far outpacing the political war chests of individual Democratic candidates.

Ex-Florida Governor Jeb Bush, who was bested by Mr Trump during the 2016 election, has recently been calling for a Republican to oust the president next year.

Former Ohio Governor John Kasich and Maryland Governor Larry Hogan have also been mentioned in recent months as potential party challengers to Mr Trump.

Next year Republican and Democratic voters will hold elections known as primaries to pick their respective party’s standard bearer for the November 2020 presidential election.

Sitting presidents do not usually face internal challengers, and only a few have ever been denied renomination by their party.

Presentational grey line

Who will take on Trump in 2020?

Facewall promo

Pete Buttigieg has joined the race to stop Donald Trump from being re-elected. But who else has a shot at becoming the next president?

The twin-fuselage six-engine jet is designed to launch satellites into space

Stratolaunch: ‘World’s largest plane’ lifts off for the first time

The world’s largest aeroplane by wingspan has taken flight for the first time.

Built by Stratolaunch, the company set up by the late Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen in 2011, the aircraft is designed to act as a flying launch pad for satellites.

The idea is to fly the plane to 10 km (6.2 miles) before releasing satellites into orbit.

Its 385 ft (117 m) wingspan is the length of an American football field.

If successful, such a project would be a cheaper way to launch objects into space than rockets fired from the ground.

The twin-fuselage six-engine jet flew up to 15,000 ft (4,572m) and reached speeds of about 170 miles per hour (274 km/h) on its maiden flight.

Stratolaunch, the world's largest plane, takes its maiden flight over California, April 2019

Stratolaunch, the world's largest plane, takes its maiden flight over California, April 2019

Stratolaunch, the world's largest plane, takes its maiden flight over California, April 2019

The pilot Evan Thomas told reporters the experience was “fantastic” and that “for the most part, the airplane flew as predicted”.

According to their website, Stratolaunch aims to “make access to orbit as routine as catching a commercial airline flight is today”.

British billionaire Richard Branson’s company Virgin Galactic has also developed aircraft that launch rockets into orbit from great height.

Stratolaunch describes its vessel as the “world’s largest plane” but there are aircraft which are longer from nose to tail.

Bernie Sanders and his plan to overhaul US health system

Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders is unveiling his vision for a national health care plan that is expected to be adopted by several other leading White House candidates. So what is it?

It’s widely known that the US has the most expensive healthcare system in the world, and health outcomes vary according to your means.

President Barack Obama tried to overhaul it. But even after his landmark Affordable Care Act, some 27 million Americans remain uninsured.

His successor in the White House has tried to dismantle that legislation, making healthcare a central issue in next year’s presidential election.

Senator Sanders’ plan – called Medicare for All – will play a big part in the debate.

So what’s in it?

Firstly, what’s Medicare?

Medicare is a federally run programme that offers health insurance coverage for Americans aged 65 and older, as well as individuals with certain disabilities or medical conditions. It covers both hospital and medical costs.

The programme is broken up into different plans (called Medicare A, B, C and D) that individuals can select depending on their needs. There are additional private plans available to supplement the basic coverage.

Most still require patients to pay annual premiums as well as deductibles (what patients pay for treatment before insurers step in) and co-payments (fixed cost of a service or prescription) that are set based on rates negotiated by the government with providers. These rates can change year to year.

Many people find they need supplemental insurance coverage even with Medicare, as the programme will only pay for 80% of approved medical costs or for 60 days of hospital care.

As it stands, Medicare is not a single-payer system since private insurers can participate.

What is Sanders proposing?

Medicare for All is a proposal to expand Medicare into a single-payer health system.

That means the federal government would be the sole, nationwide insurance provider for all essential and preventative healthcare.

It is not a universal health care system where the government would own and operate hospitals – instead, the government would pay private providers an agreed upon rate for their services.

Under Senator Bernie Sanders’ proposal, first introduced in 2017 and re-introduced in April, Medicare for All would expand Medicare’s coverage to include vision, dental, prescription drugs, nursing home care and reproductive health services.

The 2019 update to the plan also includes a long-term care coverage for patients with disabilities – amending one of the criticisms of his earlier plan.

The change also brings Mr Sanders’ plan more in line with the version of Medicare for All proposed in the House of Representatives by congresswoman Pramila Jayapal of Washington state.

Woman receives dental care

In four years, Mr Sanders’ plan would have the country phase out of private insurance plans so everyone would receive insurance from the federal government.

The Affordable Care Act would also end, as users would be enveloped into the national plan.

Private insurance companies and employers would be banned from selling any manner of duplicate plans for services covered under the government’s programme, though plans for non-essential medical services like cosmetic surgery could remain.

Mr Sanders’ proposal would see an end to the “cost sharing” that makes up the current system: No deductibles, no premiums, no co-payments for care.

The only out-of-pocket expense under Mr Sanders’ plan would be for some non-generic prescription drugs, but any cost to the patient would be capped at $200 annually.

For comparison, US patients in 2016 paid over $535bn for prescription drugs, according to government estimates.

Mr Sanders’ Medicare for All would see a new 6.2% tax paid by employers on all wages; estate tax reforms; more taxes on the wealthy; and a 2.2% income tax on personal income with no credits allowed.

Ms Jayapal’s plan mostly tracks with Mr Sanders’, but also includes provisions to roll out the programme in two years instead of four, offer no out-of-pocket costs at all for prescriptions, and grant the government the ability to issue generic prescription licences to bring down costs if negotiating with companies fails.

Will it succeed?

In 2016, Bernie Sanders put universal healthcare on the map as a Democratic policy objective, even as Hillary Clinton scoffed that it was an unpractical and unachievable goal.

Now Mr Sanders is no longer a lone voice in the party.

Within the burgeoning field of Democratic presidential hopefuls, however, there are variations on the scope and speed of reform. Some would prefer to add a government-run option within the existing system. Others want to put private insurers out of business.

On Wednesday, Mr Sanders made clear once again he’s in the latter camp. The plan the Vermont senator proposes would be more generous than government-run systems in other countries. That may appeal to voters – at least until the price tag is discussed.

Then expect some Democrats to again say enacting such a programme is unrealistic in the extreme. When it comes to healthcare, many Americans are fearful of disruptive change. The current system may be flawed, but its flaws are known.

Mr Sanders, who preaches “political revolution”, doesn’t do small and incremental, however. He’s again cutting a path to the party’s left. Can he again convince others to follow?

Woman holds sign reading Medicare for All - Healthcare is a right

What are the arguments for Medicare for All?

Everyone is covered

With millions still uninsured – and forgoing care because they cannot afford treatments – Medicare for All would ensure healthcare is a right for all Americans.

Affordability

The government’s bargaining power would drive down healthcare costs, supporters say, pointing out that government health programmes like veterans’ health already receive 50% in discounts on prescriptions.

And unlike the current system, where deductibles can be as high as $10,000 for patients before their insurance plans even kick in, Medicare for All would guarantee everyone could afford any care visits and prescriptions.

System consolidation

Medicare for All would remove health insurance responsibilities from employers and states as private insurance and Medicaid would be rolled into the federal plan.

Providers would not need to navigate a labyrinthine system to file reimbursement claims and it would be easier for patients to understand and use the system.

Reducing healthcare spending

Bringing down rates for services and prescriptions would help lower the overall cost of the health system.

Administrative health costs could also be reduced by $400bn under Medicare for All, according to The Physicians for a National Health Program group.

Other analyses have also found that a single-payer plan would ultimately reduce total national healthcare spending. University of Amherst economist Prof Gerald Friedman estimated savings could be between $5.5tn and $12.5tn in the next decade.

One report by the Citizens for Tax Justice advocacy group found that for all but the highest-earning Americans, Mr Sanders’ plan would result in an increase in post-tax income.

A study by the conservative-leaning Mercatus Center also found that Mr Sanders’ plan would see a $482bn decrease in health spending and $1.5tn in administrative cost reductions, amounting to a $2tn decrease in health spending in a decade compared to current projections.

A patient has blood drawn at the Community Health Center of NE Wetzel County March 22, 2017 in Burton, West Virginia.

And what are the arguments against?

Taxes

A fear of higher taxes is perhaps the biggest reason for pushback against a national health programme.

Under Medicare for All, nearly all residents would see new annual taxes.

Income tax reform would make wealthier Americans pay more: An income between $250,000 to $500,000 would see a 40% tax; an income of over $10m would see a 52% tax.

But some experts worry Mr Sanders’ current tax plan would not adequately finance a Medicare for All programme, and that actual taxes could end up being even higher.

Cost

Mr Sanders in 2016 estimated his plan would cost $1.38tn per year, while opponents say costs could be double that.

Medicare for All would increase government spending in a decade by anywhere from $25tn to $35tn according to US economists and think tanks.

Both Mercatus and the Urban Institute – institutions that lean conservative and liberal respectively – put 10-year costs at around $32tn.

Pay cuts all around

Private insurance companies would essentially be eliminated. In addition, with the government setting prices, both providers and pharmaceutical companies would also face profit losses.

The Mercatus study noted that for the Medicare for All plan’s savings to work, providers must acquiesce to a 40% reduction in reimbursements compared to current private insurance payments.

Decrease in care quality

Tied to profit reductions, opponents say the quality of healthcare could be negatively affected if providers face deficits and disruptions, warning that hospitals could quickly go out of business.

The issue of wait times is also one many Americans are wary of given horror stories of year-long waits for surgeries from the NHS and Canada – opponents say the increased number of patients in the system may overwhelm providers already dealing with budget cuts.

No innovation

Some of those against federal intervention in the health system have cautioned that cutting payments to the health industry would stifle US innovation.

The abortion debate

Under Medicare for All, abortions would be covered by the federal insurance plan – an aspect that will certainly draw criticism from conservative groups who are already outspoken against any federal funding for the controversial procedure.

Protesters for and against abortion outside the supreme court

What’s the public opinion?

Support for a national healthcare system has somewhat increased overall, national polls say, but the divide along political lines has deepened.

A Harvard-Politico poll in January found 68% of Americans said working on a plan like Medicare for All should be a top priority for Congress.

The nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) similarly reported six in 10 Americans are in favour of a national health system. But support for Medicare for All fluctuates based on how it’s described, the March poll found.

Support for single-payer US health system

Source: Kaiser Family Foundation

Americans are in favour of a system that covers everyone and ends premiums and out-of-pocket payments, but the idea of higher taxes or wait times for care sees support sharply decrease.

Along party lines, 61% of Republicans polled said they strongly opposed Medicare for All, while 54% of Democrats said they strongly favoured it.

An optional Medicare for All plan that would allow people to retain their current insurance garnered more bipartisan support in the KFF poll, with 74% support overall and 47% support from Republicans.

NHS logo on hospital building

How does the US compare to other systems?

Firstly, it’s a lot more expensive in terms of cash spent.

Most government-funded health plans around the world do require individuals to pitch in, making these Medicare for All proposals more generous than anything currently in place.

Total per capita health spending by country in 2017

In USDIncludes government and individual spendingSource: OECD

An important distinction to make when comparing Medicare for All to systems like the NHS is that this is still not socialised care. In the US, the Veterans Health Administration, for example, operates on a socialised medical system like the NHS, with federally run hospitals.

Medicare for All would move the entire US system into a single-payer, social insurance model – very similar to Canada.

Canada’s government funds universal healthcare coverage by reimbursing private providers. Provinces and territories are able to operate their own programmes with varying levels of coverage, so it is not entirely controlled by the federal government.

Under the Canadian system, patients still largely need to pay for their own dental and vision care as well as some prescriptions.

In the UK, in addition to covering the costs of care, the government owns hospitals and employs physicians. Prescriptions in hospital are free and those for outpatients are subsidised, so that patients generally only pay a minimum co-payment – usually around $12 (£9). For some groups, prescriptions are completely free, like those under 16, the elderly or full-time students up to age 18.