I don’t feel like doing a single post for each thing in yesterday’s AJ+ roundup. So I’m just going to link the headlines here with some short excerpts from each article…
The US has made a formal apology to Britain after the White House accused GCHQ of helping Barack Obama spy on Donald Trump.
Sean Spicer, Mr Trump’s press secretary, repeated a claim on Thursday evening – initially made by an analyst on Fox News – that GCHQ was used by Mr Obama to spy on Trump Tower in the lead-up to last November’s election.
The comments prompted a furious response from GCHQ, which in a break from normal practice issued a public statement: “Recent allegations made by media commentator Judge Andrew Napolitanoabout GCHQ being asked to conduct ‘wiretapping’ against the then president-elect are nonsense. They are utterly ridiculous and should be ignored.”
At a wide-ranging and occasionally tense news conference after their first in-person meeting Friday, President Trump and German Chancellor Angela Merkel discussed trade and border policy — and had one notable exchange when Trump was asked about his unproven claims that former President Obama tapped the phones at Trump Tower last year.
Trump declined the opportunity to retract the claim, telling the media that “we said nothing” when he tweeted, “How low has President Obama gone to tapp my phones during the very sacred election process,” and that he was merely quoting a “very talented legal mind” he had seen on Fox News.
White House press secretary Sean Spicer flatly denied Friday that the White House apologized to the British government after citing an uncorroborated Fox News report to allege that a UK intelligence agency spied on President Donald Trump at the behest of former President Barack Obama.
Earlier in the day, however, a senior administration official told CNN that Spicer and national security adviser H.R. McMaster offered what amounted to an apology to the British government for Spicer’s comments on Thursday, when he cited a Fox News report that said British intelligence helped wiretap Trump Tower during the 2016 campaign.
From the Washington Post: Tillerson says ‘all options are on the table’ when it comes to North Korea
The Trump administration challenged China to do more to pull its ally North Korea back from the nuclear brink as Secretary of State Rex Tillerson bluntly declared Friday that the United States will do whatever is necessary to prevent a North Korean attack.
“All options are on the table,” Tillerson said in Seoul, where he underscored U.S. commitment to Asian allies threatened by North Korea and said he would lean on China during a visit there Saturday.
In Washington, President Trump goaded China, which has extensive economic and political ties to North Korea but has resisted choking off the flow of money and military materials to its ally.
“North Korea is behaving very badly. They have been ‘playing’ the United States for years,” Trump wrote on Twitter. “China has done little to help!”
A laptop with highly sensitive information was stolen from a Secret Service agent’s car Thursday morning in Brooklyn and has not been found, according to two senior New York law enforcement officials.
The officials said the laptop, which was highly encrypted and contained floor plans and evacuation protocol for Trump Tower, cannot be traced or erased by officials remotely, leaving the information at risk of being discovered.
The agent described the incident as a compromise of national security, according to one of the officials.
The U.S. government took the legal battle over President Donald Trump’s travel ban to a higher court on Friday, saying it would appeal a federal judge’s decision that struck down parts of the ban on the day it was set to go into effect.
The Department of Justice said in a court filing it would appeal a ruling by U.S. District Judge Theodore Chuang in Maryland to the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia.
Chuang on Thursday issued an emergency halt to the portion of Trump’s March 6 executive order temporarily banning the entry of travelers from six Muslim-majority countries. He left in place the section of the order that barred the entry of refugees to the United States for four months.
Another federal judge in Hawaii struck down both sections of the ban in a broader court ruling that prevented Trump’s order from moving forward.
In Washington state, where the ban is also being challenged, U.S. District Court Judge James Robart put a stay on proceedings for as long as the Hawaii court’s nationwide temporary restraining order remains in place, to “conserve resources” and to avoid duplicative rulings.
From AP News: How the US mission in Syria has evolved and could expand
The U.S. campaign against the Islamic State in Syria has evolved in the past couple years from airstrikes and training of local forces to an increasingly complicated mission, which now includes hundreds of American troops on the ground and coordination with a hodgepodge of allies, partners and even rivals engaged in the fight.
Under President Donald Trump, the United States’ role is likely to expand further.
While Trump has announced no changes to the U.S. approach, the Pentagon in recent months has incrementally increased its footprint in the northern reaches of the war-ravaged, Middle East country, where it is backing a coalition of Syrian Arab and Kurdish fighters closing in on the Islamic States’ self-declared capital at Raqqa.
Trump is reviewing options for accelerating the recapture of Raqqa. These include proposals for more U.S. troops, greater firepower and tweaks in the existing strategy.
Here is a look at how the U.S. mission has evolved, how it stands today and challenges facing the Trump administration it contemplates speeding up the fight.
From the Washington Post: Trump administration rolls back protections for people in default on student loans
Days after a report on federal student loans revealed a double-digit rise in defaults, President Trump’s administration revoked federal guidance Thursday that barred student debt collectors from charging high fees on past-due loans.
The Education Department is ordering guarantee agencies that collect on defaulted debt to disregard a memo former President Barack Obama’s administration issued on the old bank-based federal lending program, known as the Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) Program. That memo forbid the agencies from charging fees for up to 16 percent of the principal and accrued interest owed on the loans, if the borrower entered the government’s loan rehabilitation program within 60 days of default.
Welp. I’m fucked.
The U.S. Justice Department is developing plans to temporarily reassign immigration judges from around the country to 12 cities to speed up deportations of illegal immigrants who have been charged with crimes, according to two administration officials.
How many judges will be reassigned and when they will be sent is still under review, according to the officials, but the Justice Department has begun soliciting volunteers for deployment.
The targeted cities are New York; Los Angeles; Miami; New Orleans; San Francisco; Baltimore, Bloomington, Minnesota; El Paso, Texas; Harlingen, Texas; Imperial, California; Omaha, Nebraska and Phoenix, Arizona. They were chosen because they are cities which have high populations of illegal immigrants with criminal charges, the officials said.
Looks to me like they chose sanctuary cities.