Top News Stories For Today – Jan 4, 2018
North Korea calls South Korea after 2 years
At 3.30 p.m. on Wednesday, for the first time since February 2016, North Korea did a phone call to South Korea. Little is known about the contents of the 20-minute call, which ended at 3:50 p.m. South Korean time (which is half an hour ahead of North Korean time). The South Korean Ministry of Unification simply said the two sides “checked technical issues of the communication line.”
After the call ended, officials from the Ministry of Unification — responsible for “all issues pertaining to inter-Korean relations and unification” — stayed by the phone, on the off-chance that the North would call again. And just over two hours later, after darkness had fallen in the village of Panmunjom, they did. At 6:07 p.m. local time, North Korea made contact once more, saying, “Let’s call it a day today.” On Thursday, the two sides exchanged three more calls. CNN
Trump threatens to sue Bannon
The White House issued an official statement from President Trump on Wednesday blasting former chief strategist Stephen Bannon. Excerpts from a forthcoming White House tell-all book prominently feature Bannon criticizing decisions by Trump and his team, including calling the infamous meeting between Trump’s campaign aides and a Russian lawyer “treasonous.”
“Steve Bannon has nothing to do with me or my presidency,” Trump said in the statement. “When he was fired, he not only lost his job, he lost his mind.” Late Wednesday, a Trump attorney sent Bannon a cease and desist letter, saying “legal action is imminent” as Bannon was in “breach of his written confidentiality and non-disparagement agreement” that he signed with the Trump campaign. Wall Street Journal, The Guardian, The Week
Trump dissolves voter fraud commission
President Trump on Wednesday announced that he had disbanded the controversial White House commission he created to study voter fraud. Trump, who made a baseless claim that he only lost the popular vote to Democrat Hillary Clinton because millions voted illegally for her, said that “despite substantial evidence of voter fraud” he was disbanding the commission to avoid spending taxpayer money on legal battles with states that have refused to give the panel “basic information.”
Critics celebrated the commission’s demise, saying it proved there was never any evidence of significant voter fraud. “The commission’s entire purpose was to legitimize voter suppression,” said Vanita Gupta, the president of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights and former head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. CNN, The Week
Former S. Korean President faces more bribery charges
Prosecutors in South Korea have filed new charges against ousted President Park Geun-hye, accusing her of accepting millions of dollars in bribes from the nation’s intelligence agency. An official at the Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office told reporters Thursday they learned from three former chiefs of the National Intelligence Service they paid Park over $3 million between 2013, the year she first took office, and 2016.
She allegedly used the money for a variety of purposes, such as maintenance fees on her private residence and paying incentives and bonuses for her presidential aides. Two of the former NIS directors have been indicted for the the bribery case. VOA
Manafort sues Robert Mueller
President Trump’s former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, is suing Special Counsel Robert Mueller, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, and the Department of Justice. Manafort has been indicted for financial crimes to which he has pleaded not guilty; his lawyers now claim he was improperly targeted by Mueller.
Rosenstein appointed Mueller last spring to oversee the federal investigation into Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election, and the mandate states that Mueller is allowed to investigate “any matters that … may arise directly from the investigation.” That clause, Manafort’s lawyers argue, improperly gives Mueller “carte blanche to investigate and pursue criminal charges in connection with anything he stumbles across while investigating, no matter how remote from the specific matter identified as the subject of the appointment order.” CNBC, BuzzFeed News
Yale psychiatrist warned Trump is going to unravel
In early December, Yale psychiatry professor Brandy X. Lee spent two days with more than a dozen members of Congress, briefing them on President Trump’s recent behavior, Politico reported Wednesday night. All of the lawmakers were Democrats except for one unidentified Republican senator.
Lee said she told the members of Congress that Trump is “going to unravel, and we are seeing the signs.” Trump’s taunting tweet about having a bigger nuclear button than North Korea’s Kim Jong Un revived discussion in Congress about removing Trump using the 25th Amendment, Politico reported, and the lack of a mechanism to assess Trump’s mental state. “Their level of concern about the president’s dangerousness was surprisingly high,” Lee said. Politico, The Atlantic
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