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Charlie Gard’s parents end legal fight to take him to U.S. for treatment

LONDON — A five-month legal battle to take terminally ill baby Charlie Gard to the United States for experimental treatment ended Monday after his parents told a British court they were withdrawing their legal challenge.

Charlie Gard’s parents, supported by an American neurologist and Italian medical researchers, had wanted the 11-month-old to be given the legal right to receive an untested therapy in the U.S. that they admitted was unlikely to work. The child has a rare, incurable genetic disorder.

But a lawyer representing Chris Gard, 32, and Connie Yates, 31, told Britain’s High Court that “time had run out.”

The London hospital where Gard has received all his treatment believed there was no medical evidence to support claims the therapy could work. It also feared it could prolong his suffering. Gard’s disease has left him with brain damage and unable to move. He can’t see or hear and needs a ventilator to breathe. In Britain, disputes between families and doctors over how to treat a patient are decided by courts. In the U.S., it is the family that typically makes that decision.

The judge scheduled the two-day hearing to consider fresh evidence related to the proposed treatment, after Michio Hirano, a neurology professor at Columbia University Medical Center, traveled to London to evaluate Gard and provide more detail about the therapy he wants to administer. The court previously ruled that Gard’s life-support machine should be turned off and that he should be allowed die with “dignity.”

The case has drawn massive international interest including high-profile interventions from President Trump and Pope Francis in support of the family. Congressional Republicans are seeking passage of legislation that would give the Gard family U.S. residency and a potential route to treatment there, although it’s not clear whether that would ultimately enable them to obviate a British court decision.

Over the weekend, the Great Ormond Street Hospital in London revealed its staff had received death threats over the case. “Thousands of abusive messages have been sent to doctors and nurses whose life’s work is to care for sick children. Many of these messages are menacing, including death threats,” the hospital said in a statement.

“Families have been harassed and discomforted while visiting their children, and we have received complaints of unacceptable behavior even within the hospital itself.”

Last week, Great Ormond Street Hospital in London told Gard’s parents, Chris Gard, 32, and Connie Yates, 31, that the latest scan of Charlie’s brain made for “sad reading.”

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‘We don’t need them’: Austrian FM wants to end Islamic kindergartens to boost integration

Shutting down Islamic kindergartens where children have little or no command of German would be an efficient way to ensure the integration of migrants, Austrian Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz said.
The comment was made at a public event set up by Kurier newspaper.

“Of course, we don’t need them. There should be no Islamic kindergartens,” Kurz said when asked whether he would agree to completely get rid of such facilities.

According to the foreign minister, proficiency in German must become a gateway to Austrian society.

Immigrant children and others “who have little or no command of German” would have to attend kindergarten one year longer than their Austrian peers, he said.

Consequently, many Arab or Chechen kindergartens will fail to meet the requirements for state benefits and will be left with no choice but to close, Kurz said, adding, “This is the easiest way in terms of the law.”

In the meantime, the government “does very much” to improve integration efforts, Kurz said. He added, however, that success “depends very much on the number of those [who should be] integrated.”

Opposition parties say it is the policy of the current government, which Kurz is a part of, that has led to a situation in which the state sponsors childcare facilities that contribute to the creation of parallel societies.

It was Kurz’s Austrian People’s Party (OVP) that “always voted for more subsidies for those kindergartens and it was his party and his [policy] that tried to cater all these Muslim and radical Islamist movements in Austria,” Johann Gudenus, the Vice Mayor and a City Council of Vienna, told RT.

Gudenus, who is a member of the far-right Freedom Party of Austria (FPO), went on to say that the current “sudden” change of heart of the Austrian government is just an attempt to gain more support ahead of parliamentary elections which are scheduled for October 2017.

The foreign minister’s initiative also drew criticism from the Austrian Muslim community, which called it “institutionalized discrimination.”

If one “just forbids a religious minority, the Muslims, [to establish kindergartens] but allows other [communities] to do that … than this is a very clear institutionalized discrimination of a religious community,” Tarafa Baghajati, the chairman of the Austrian Muslim Initiative group, told RT.

Baghajati further accused Kurz of using Islamophobia to advance his political interests.

Controversy regarding Muslim kindergartens was recently stirred when a study by Austrian-Turkish Professor Ednan Aslan found more than 10,000 children aged from two to six attend around 150 Muslim preschools in Vienna which teach the Koran and pave the way for “parallel societies,” according to AFP.

“Parents are sending their kids to establishments that ensure they are in a Muslim setting and learn a few suras (chapters from the Koran),” Aslan, who researches Islamic education at Vienna University, told AFP.
“But they are unaware that they are shutting them off from a multicultural society,” the scholar said. According to his estimates, up to a quarter of Islamic kindergartens were being sponsored or supported by ultraconservative Salafist groups or organizations.

The study, published last year, resonated widely in the community, but some rejected the findings citing the unreliability of Aslan’s methodology. Biber, a local magazine, dispatched an undercover reporter who posed as a Muslim mother looking for a place for her son at an Islamic kindergarten.

She found no evidence of Aslan’s claims that Islamic preschools were nurturing future Salafists, but acknowledged many of those kindergartens were cutting off or isolating children from mainstream society. There were also questions about the “openness” of some staff and their command of German.

Kurz, the youngest foreign minister in the EU at the time of his swearing-in back in 2013, has previously advocated putting more curbs on immigration. In March, he proposed the opening of refugee centers outside the European Union, suggesting the Republic of Georgia and countries of the Western Balkans as possible locations.

Last year, he also made some incendiary remarks on refugees being rescued on their way across the Mediterranean, saying a rescue from a boat in distress should be “no ticket to Europe.”

Refugees who are rescued from boats in the Mediterranean Sea “must be returned immediately, ideally to their country of origin,” Kurz vowed at the time.

For the First Time, Lawsuit Forces US Court to Review Fluoride Toxicity, Could END Fluoridation

http://www.renegadetribune.com/first-time-lawsuit-forces-us-court-review-fluoride-toxicity-end-fluoridation/
By Matt Agorist

Despite the overwhelming mass of scientific literature and studies showing the harmful effects of ingesting fluoride, those who question it or advocate for the cessation of fluoridated water are labeled as kooks, conspiracy theorists, and shouted down by the mainstream. Even when the mainstream admits it — as in the case of the highly publicized Harvard Study — people remain in denial about this most horrific practice of mass medication without consent using the poisonous byproduct of fertilizer production.

However, all that appears to be changing. For the first time in US history, the courts will hear the evidence on the neurotoxicity of fluoridated water which could out an end to this practice once and for all.

Thanks to the vigilant work of the folks at the Fluoride Action Network, who’ve refused for years to be silenced, we are now witnessing an unprecedented move to stop this practice. Thousands of pages of research put together by dozens of scientists and doctors has been included in a lawsuit that could end water fluoridation in the United States.

Simply put, the evidence has reached critical mass and even the government can’t deny it.

Fluoridation, Americans are told, is necessary for the prevention of tooth decay. We must drink it and we must give our children fluoridated water in order for everyone to have a healthy smile — or so we have been advised for the last 60 years.

A whopping 43 studies have linked fluoride ingestion with a reduction in IQ. A study out of the Harvard School of public Health concluded, “children in high-fluoride areas had significantly lower IQ scores than those who lived in low-fluoride areas.”

Even more independent studies have linked the associated health risks of fluoride to interfering with the endocrine system and increasing the risk of impaired brain function. Two studies in recent years, for example, have linked fluoridation to ADHD and underactive thyroid.

Dozens more studies show the ineffectiveness of fluoride ingestion in preventing dental caries; they actually show an increase in dental fluorosis instead of a reduction in decay.

Approximately 1.2 grams of sodium fluoride will kill an adult human being. That was the low estimate that Dominic Smith ingested when he died from an overdose of fluoridated water at Hooper Bay, Alaska on May 23, 1992. Approximately 200 mg will kill a small child.

In spite of this evidence showing that the mass drugging of the American population is harmful, the CDC and the EPA maintain that it is 100% safe and that drinking the extremely deadly byproducts of fertilizer production is just fine and dandy.

It is because of the government’s continued denial and dismissal of scientific evidence that the Fluoride Action Network (FAN) has filed this landmark lawsuit.

FAN is not some ragtag group of conspiracy theorists sitting around in their basements reading fake science on the internet. The group is comprised of dozens of medical doctors, dentists, PhDs, and scientists, who’ve joined forces to bring an end to this most unethical and dangerous practice.

Stuart Cooper, FAN’s Campaign Director issued an open letter this week, noting how the “Fluoride Action Network (FAN), along with a coalition of environmental and public health groups has filed a complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in response to their denial of our petition under Section 21 of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) seeking a ban on water fluoridation.”

“We believe this lawsuit is an unprecedented opportunity to end the practice once and for all in the U.S., and potentially throughout the world, based on the well-documented neurotoxicity of fluoride.” You may read the official complaint here. According to FAN’s attorney and adviser, Michael Connett:

This case will present the first time a court will consider the neurotoxicity of fluoride and the question of whether fluoridation presents an unreasonable risk under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). And, in contrast to most other legal challenges of Agency actions, TSCA gives us the right to get the federal court to consider our evidence ‘de novo’ — meaning federal courts are to conduct their own independent review of the evidence without deference to the EPA’s judgment.”

According to FAN, the reason for the lawsuit was due to the fact that the EPA dismissed their massive cache of information submitted to them, via petition, last year.

On November 22, 2016, a coalition including FAN, Food & Water Watch, Organic Consumers Association, American Academy of Environmental Medicine, International Academy of Oral Medicine and Toxicology, Moms Against Fluoridation and several individual mothers, filed a petition calling on the EPA to ban the deliberate addition of fluoridating chemicals to the drinking water under provisions in the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).

The petition includes more than 2,500 pages of scientific documentation detailing the risks of water fluoridation to human health. We presented the FDA with a large body of human and animal evidence demonstrating that fluoride is a neurotoxin at levels now ingested by many U.S. children and vulnerable populations. We also presented the agency with evidence showing that fluoride has little benefit when swallowed and, accordingly, any risks from exposing people to fluoride chemicals in water are unnecessary.

Despite this petition, the EPA, who illustrates through this move and many others that it is beholden to special interests only and not the people, denied it.

There is now a significant consensus happening in the scientific community noting that fluoride is, indeed, neurotoxic. For the EPA to dismiss scientific facts is not only irresponsible but it is now proving to be criminal.

The question now is not if fluoride damages the brain — it is at what dose does fluoride damage the brain.

According to FAN, EPA’s own Guidelines for Neurotoxicity Risk Assessment highlights the importance of having a robust margin between the doses of a chemical that cause neurotoxic effects and the doses that humans receive. FAN presented the EPA with over 180 studies showing that fluoride causes neurotoxic harm (e.g., reduced IQ), pointing out that many of these studies found harm at levels within the range, or precariously close to, the levels millions of American children now receive.

Since the petition was submitted to the EPA in November and subsequently denied, more damning evidence has surfaced in the case against fluoride — and, this time, it’s from the EPA’s own scientist.

As FAN reports, some children in the U.S. may be consuming enough fluoridated water to reach doses of fluoride that have the potential to lower their IQ, according to a research team headed by William Hirzy, Ph.D., a former senior scientist at the EPA who specialized in risk assessment and published an important risk analysis in the journal Fluoride last year.

Hirzy explains the significance of this study:

The significance of this peer reviewed risk analysis is that it indicates there may be no actual safe level of exposure to fluoride.Groups of children with lower exposures to fluoride were compared with groups having higher exposures. Those with higher exposures performed more poorly on IQ tests than those with lower exposures.

One well-conducted Chinese study indicated that children exposed to 1.4 mg/day had their IQ lowered by 5 IQ points. Current average mean daily intakes among children in the United States are estimated by EPA to range from about 0.80 mg/day to 1.65 mg/day. Fluoride may be similar to lead and mercury in having no threshold below which exposures may be considered safe.”

The fight against fluoride across the globe is winning. According to FAN, millions of citizens in hundreds of municipalities throughout the world have forced their governments to stop drugging them without consent using this toxic waste. This action is working and the lawsuit is proof of its effectiveness.

For those who’d like to support the Fluoride Action Network or would like to know how you can get involved, there are some tips below. Please share this article with your friends and family to let them know that we the people are finally making progress when it comes to our health and the health of our children.


This article originally appeared on The Free Thought Project.

US, Gulf States, sign deal to end financing for terror

US President Donald Trump signed a memorandum on Sunday with leaders of the oil-rich Gulf monarchies to cut funding for terrorism, a day after Washington told their arch rival Iran to dismantle its “network of terrorism.”

White House adviser Dina Powell told reporters that a memorandum of understanding signed by Trump and leaders of the Gulf Cooperation Council represents the “farthest reaching commitment” to not finance terrorist organizations.

She said it includes a pledge to prosecute the financing of terrorism, including individuals. The memorandum also calls to establish a center to combat the financing of terrorism, Saudi official news agency SPA reported.

Along with the US, the participants included Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

The meeting took place on the second day of Trump’s visit to Saudi Arabia, part of his first foreign tour since taking office, hours before his address an Arab Islamic American Summit.

The White House did not immediately release a text of the agreement.

US President Donald Trump (C) attends a meeting with leaders of the Gulf Cooperation Council at the King Abdulaziz Conference Center in Riyadh on May 21, 2017. (AFP PHOTO / MANDEL NGAN)

Trump and the GCC leaders watched as Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef and US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson exchanged documents.

Most GCC monarchies accuse Tehran of meddling in their internal affairs and want Washington to be tougher with Iran, which secured a landmark nuclear deal with world powers when Trump’s predecessor Barack Obama was in office.

They consider Tehran to be a destabilizing factor in the region.

US First Lady Melania Trump (L) and US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (R) chat with Saudi Crown Prince and Minister of Interior, Muhammad bin Nayef Abdulaziz, at the Saudi Royal Court in Riyadh on May 20, 2017. (MANDEL NGAN / AFP)

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Saturday demonstrated a tougher position on Tehran, saying multi-billion-dollar defense deals signed with Riyadh aim to protect Saudi Arabia from a “malign Iranian influence.”

In a joint news conference with his Saudi counterpart Adel al-Jubeir, Tillerson urged newly re-elected Iranian President Hassan Rouhani to dismantle his country’s “network of terrorism” and end “ballistic missile testing.”

Erekat warns Trump embassy move would end peace process

DEAD SEA, Jordan — Moving the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem would end the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians, top Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat warned on Saturday.

The warning came two days ahead of a visit to Israel and the West Bank by US President Donald Trump. US officials have said that he is still considering the move, which he promised during his election campaign.

“We believe that moving the US embassy to Jerusalem would mean the end of the peace process,” said Erekat, who is also second-in-command of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) during a World Economic Forum meeting at the Dead Sea in Jordan on Saturday. Erekat met with former Israeli foreign minister Tzipi Livni, a member of the Zionist Union party, at the gathering, where the two expressed their optimism for Trump’s reported Mideast bid.

The Palestinians and the Arab world fiercely oppose a potential relocation of the US embassy, repeatedly warning that it could spark fresh unrest.

Former Israeli foreign minister Tzipi Livni and senior Palestinian official Saeb Erekat attend the World Economic Forum held in the Dead Sea resort of Shuneh, west of the Jordanian capital Amman, on May 20, 2017. (AFP / khalil mazraawi)

The new US ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, who took up office on Monday, has expressed his backing of such a move, as have Israeli officials including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

There has been no movement so far on the pledge which would break with decades of American policy on the city. The international community, including the US, never recognized Israel’s annexation of East Jerusalem after recapturing it in the Six Day war in 1967. Israel claims the undivided city of Jerusalem as its capital while the Palestinians would like to see East Jerusalem as the capital of a future Palestinian state.

Erekat said a Palestinian state without East Jerusalem as its capital would have “no meaning.”

An aerial view of Jerusalem, on December 12, 2013. (Flash90)

Erekat said Saturday that he “hope[s] that President Trump would give us a chance.”

“He said… he will not impose solutions on us or on the Israelis,” Erekat said. “(But) the fact that he is going to move the embassy is imposition, is dictation.”

This is not the first time that Erekat has warned against a possible relocation of the embassy, but his strong statment comes at a time when the Palestinians appear eager to stay on Trump’s good side.

Trump, who arrived in Saudi Arabia Saturday on his first foreign tour since taking office, is set to visit Israel on Monday and then meet Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas in Bethlehem on Tuesday.

The timing of the visit led to intense speculation as to whether he would use the opportunity to fulfill his repeated campaign pledge to relocate the embassy.

Trump seemingly backed off his promise early in his presidency. It was reported that his conversation with King Abdullah II of Jordan at the National Prayer Breakfast in February was instrumental to his decision to put the issue on the back burner.

Shortly after Trump’s visit to the region, he will have to make a decision whether or not to waive a 1995 law that mandates the relocation of the embassy but allows the president to exercise six-month delays on national security grounds.

The most recent waiver, signed by Barack Obama, expires on June 1.

Trump has placed a high priority on trying to broker a peace accord between Israelis and Palestinians.

Trump asks Colombia’s help to end Venezuela political crisis

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump said Thursday that he intends to work closely with his Colombian counterpart to find a solution to spiraling violence in Venezuela.

Sitting side by side with President Juan Manuel Santos in the Oval Office, Trump said he will seek Colombia’s help in pressuring neighboring Venezuela to address the near-daily protests and violence that have shaken President Nicolas Maduro’s grip on power.

At least 40 people have been killed and hundreds injured in protests that erupted after Venezuela’s supreme court issued a ruling in late March stripping the opposition-controlled National Assembly of its last remaining powers. The ruling was later partially reversed amid a storm of international criticism.

The meeting came as the Trump administration rolled out new sanctions Thursday on members of Venezuela’s supreme court for alleged human rights violations.

“A stable and peaceful Venezuela is in the best interest of the entire hemisphere,” Trump said at a joint news conference. “We will be working with Colombia and other countries on the Venezuela problem. It is a very, very horrible problem.”

Driving the latest outrage is a decree by Maduro to begin the process of rewriting Venezuela’s constitution. The opposition rejects that plan as another attempt by the president to tighten his grip on power, and opposition leaders are calling on Venezuelans to continue to take to the streets in protest.

Santos is the third Latin American leader to meet with Trump since he took office, after the leaders of Peru and Argentina. The president’s bullish policies toward illegal immigration and his proposed border wall with Mexico have incensed many across Latin America who say they are being unfairly targeted. The dispute led Mexico’s President Enrique Pena Nieto to cancel his trip to Washington weeks after Trump took office.

Santos has been among the critics of Trump’s proposed wall, though he avoided outwardly criticizing the plan during their joint remarks.

Trump defended his proposed border wall Thursday, saying, “Walls work, just ask Israel.”

Santos is looking for Trump’s support on a number of domestic issues. His government signed a peace accord last year with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, ending one of the world’s bloodiest and longest-running armed conflicts. The rebel group agreed to turn over 30 percent of its arsenal of assault rifles, machine guns and explosives.

 

The Trump administration is also looking to work with Colombia to stem the flow of drugs into the U.S. from Latin America. “We have a problem with drugs, and you have a very big problem with drugs,” Trump said to Santos at the start of their meeting.

Santos said he is committed to working with the United States and other countries in Latin America “to fight the other links in the chain,” saying they will join forces to “seize cocaine in transit.”

Santos is a graduate of the University of Kansas and holds a master’s degree from Harvard University.

Comey Memo Says Trump Asked Him to End Flynn Investigation

WASHINGTON — President Trump asked the F.B.I. director, James B. Comey, to shut down the federal investigation into Mr. Trump’s former national security adviser, Michael T. Flynn, in an Oval Office meeting in February, according to a memo Mr. Comey wrote shortly after the meeting.

“I hope you can let this go,” the president told Mr. Comey, according to the memo.

The documentation of Mr. Trump’s request is the clearest evidence that the president has tried to directly influence the Justice Department and F.B.I. investigation into links between Mr. Trump’s associates and Russia. Late Tuesday, Representative Jason Chaffetz, the Republican chairman of the House Oversight Committee, demanded that the F.B.I. turn over all “memoranda, notes, summaries and recordings” of discussions between Mr. Trump and Mr. Comey.

Such documents, Mr. Chaffetz wrote, would “raise questions as to whether the president attempted to influence or impede” the F.B.I.

Mr. Comey wrote the memo detailing his conversation with the president immediately after the meeting, which took place the day after Mr. Flynn resigned, according to two people who read the memo. It was part of a paper trail Mr. Comey created documenting what he perceived as the president’s improper efforts to influence a continuing investigation. An F.B.I. agent’s contemporaneous notes are widely held up in court as credible evidence of conversations.

Mr. Comey shared the existence of the memo with senior F.B.I. officials and close associates. The New York Times has not viewed a copy of the memo, which is unclassified, but one of Mr. Comey’s associates read parts of it to a Times reporter.

“I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go,” Mr. Trump told Mr. Comey, according to the memo. “He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go.”

Mr. Trump told Mr. Comey that Mr. Flynn had done nothing wrong, according to the memo.

Mr. Comey did not say anything to Mr. Trump about curtailing the investigation, replying only: “I agree he is a good guy.”

In a statement, the White House denied the version of events in the memo.

“While the president has repeatedly expressed his view that General Flynn is a decent man who served and protected our country, the president has never asked Mr. Comey or anyone else to end any investigation, including any investigation involving General Flynn,” the statement said. “The president has the utmost respect for our law enforcement agencies, and all investigations. This is not a truthful or accurate portrayal of the conversation between the president and Mr. Comey.”

Mr. Chaffetz’s letter, sent to the acting F.B.I. director, Andrew G. McCabe, set a May 24 deadline for the internal documents to be delivered to the House committee. The congressman, a Republican, was criticized in recent months for showing little of the appetite he demonstrated in pursuing Hillary Clinton to pursue investigations into Mr. Trump’s associates.

But since announcing in April that he will not seek re-election in 2018, Mr. Chaffetz has shown more interest in the Russia investigation, and held out the potential for a subpoena on Tuesday, a notably aggressive move as most Republicans have tried to stay out of the fray.

In testimony to the Senate last week, Mr. McCabe said, “There has been no effort to impede our investigation to date.” Mr. McCabe was referring to the broad investigation into possible collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign. The investigation into Mr. Flynn is separate.

A spokesman for the F.B.I. declined to comment.

Mr. Comey created similar memos — including some that are classified — about every phone call and meeting he had with the president, the two people said. It is unclear whether Mr. Comey told the Justice Department about the conversation or his memos.

Mr. Trump fired Mr. Comey last week. Trump administration officials have provided multiple, conflicting accounts of the reasoning behind Mr. Comey’s dismissal. Mr. Trump said in a television interview that one of the reasons was because he believed “this Russia thing” was a “made-up story.”

The Feb. 14 meeting took place just a day after Mr. Flynn was forced out of his job after it was revealed he had lied to Vice President Mike Pence about the nature of phone conversations he had had with the Russian ambassador to the United States.

Despite the conversation between Mr. Trump and Mr. Comey, the investigation of Mr. Flynn has proceeded. In Virginia, a federal grand jury has issued subpoenas in recent weeks for records related to Mr. Flynn. Part of the Flynn investigation is centered on his financial links to Russia and Turkey.

Mr. Comey had been in the Oval Office that day with other senior national security officials for a terrorism threat briefing. When the meeting ended, Mr. Trump told those present — including Mr. Pence and Attorney General Jeff Sessions — to leave the room except for Mr. Comey.

Alone in the Oval Office, Mr. Trump began the discussion by condemning leaks to the news media, saying that Mr. Comey should consider putting reporters in prison for publishing classified information, according to one of Mr. Comey’s associates.

Mr. Trump then turned the discussion to Mr. Flynn.

After writing up a memo that outlined the meeting, Mr. Comey shared it with senior F.B.I. officials. Mr. Comey and his aides perceived Mr. Trump’s comments as an effort to influence the investigation, but they decided that they would try to keep the conversation secret — even from the F.B.I. agents working on the Russia investigation — so the details of the conversation would not affect the investigation.

Mr. Comey was known among his closest advisers to document conversations that he believed would later be called into question, according to two former confidants, who said Mr. Comey was uncomfortable at times with his relationship with Mr. Trump.

Mr. Comey’s recollection has been bolstered in the past by F.B.I. notes. In 2007, he told Congress about a now-famous showdown with senior White House officials over the Bush administration’s warrantless wiretapping program. The White House disputed Mr. Comey’s account, but the F.B.I. director at the time, Robert S. Mueller III, kept notes that backed up Mr. Comey’s story.

The White House has repeatedly crossed lines that other administrations have been reluctant to cross when discussing politically charged criminal investigations. Mr. Trump has disparaged the continuing F.B.I. investigation as a hoax and called for an inquiry into his political rivals. His representatives have taken the unusual step of declaring no need for a special prosecutor to investigate the president’s associates.

The Oval Office meeting occurred a little over two weeks after Mr. Trump summoned Mr. Comey to the White House for a lengthy, one-on-one dinner at the residence. At that dinner, on Jan. 27, Mr. Trump asked Mr. Comey at least two times for a pledge of loyalty — which Mr. Comey declined, according to one of Mr. Comey’s associates.

In a Twitter post on Friday, Mr. Trump said that “James Comey better hope that there are no ‘tapes’ of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!”

After the meeting, Mr. Comey’s associates did not believe there was any way to corroborate Mr. Trump’s statements. But Mr. Trump’s suggestion last week that he was keeping tapes has made them wonder whether there are tapes that back up Mr. Comey’s account.

The Jan. 27 dinner came a day after White House officials learned that Mr. Flynn had been interviewed by F.B.I. agents about his phone calls with the Russian ambassador, Sergey I. Kislyak. On Jan. 26, the acting attorney general, Sally Q. Yates, told the White House counsel about the interview, and said Mr. Flynn could be subject to blackmail by the Russians because they knew he had lied about the content of the calls.

Trump, May aim to convince Moscow to end Assad support

LONDON — A “window of opportunity” exists to convince Moscow to end its support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, British Prime Minister Theresa May and US President Donald Trump said in a phone call Monday.

“The prime minister and the president agreed that a window of opportunity now exists in which to persuade Russia that its alliance with Assad is no longer in its strategic interest,” a spokeswoman for May’s Downing Street office said.

The phone call between the two leaders came after last week’s suspected chemical attack on a rebel-held Syrian town that killed at least 87 civilians.

Washington retaliated with an air strike on a Syrian air base, the first time the US has directly intervened against the Assad regime which it has blamed for the attack on civilians.

Britain said it “fully supported” the US strikes and both countries have put pressure on Russia to stop backing the Syrian regime, with British Foreign Minister Boris Johnson cancelling a visit to Moscow scheduled for Monday.

Johnson said his decision came after developments in Syria “changed the situation fundamentally” and that his priority would instead be the meeting of G7 foreign ministers on Monday.

The Italy summit of the seven major advanced economies was expected to be dominated by Syria, ahead of US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson travelling to Moscow on Tuesday for talks with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov.

In their phone call on the eve of Tillerson’s visit, Trump and May said it “provides an opportunity to make progress towards a solution which will deliver a lasting political settlement”.

The Syrian regime has denied it was behind the April 4 attack in the town of Khan Sheikhun.

Moscow has so far stood by Assad, describing the US strikes as inflicting “considerable damage” to already “lamentable” US-Russia ties.

Russia also threatened to suspend a vital hotline established to avoid mid-air collisions or clashes with a US-led coalition targeting the Islamic State group.

More than 320,000 people have been killed in Syria since the conflict erupted in March 2011 with anti-government demonstrations.

Jared Kushner and Steve Bannon meet to end ‘palace intrigue’

(JTA) — President Donald Trump’s top strategist Steve Bannon and his advisor and son-in-law Jared Kushner reportedly met in an attempt to smooth tensions that have roiled the administration.

White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus ordered the meeting at the request of the president, according to reports. The meeting was confirmed to the political news website Politico by two unnamed White House officials.

News of tensions between Bannon and Kushner, who reportedly were close during the campaign, followed Trump’s order last week removing Bannon from the National Security Council.

According to the reports, Kushner believes Bannon went too far in pushing for the Muslim travelers’ bans and in playing hardball with Congress in an attempt to replace the Affordable Care Act. Both initiatives failed.

Bannon reportedly resents Kushner for bringing figures associated with Democrats into the White House.

A Daily Beast report on Thursday said Bannon called Kushner a “cuck” and “globalist,” terms familiar to “alt-right” conspiracy theorists. “Cuck,” a play on “cuckold,” is the alt-right term for conservatives who allowed themselves to be played by liberals and the establishment. “Globalist” refers to theories of a conspiracy of elites to maintain control of the global economy.

It is not known if the meeting between the two men was successful.

Reuters reported, citing an unnamed White House official, that Priebus’ message to Bannon and Kushner was to “stop with the palace intrigue” and focus on the president’s agenda.

Both aides left having agreed that it was time to “bury the hatchet and move forward,” the official said, according to Reuters.

Rumors have surfaced about an upcoming White House shake-up that could see Bannon and Priebus leaving their positions.

SA’AR TO ‘POST’: ISRAEL MUST PERSUADE WORLD TO END ASSAD’S REGIME

 

Syrian dictator Bashar Assad must go, and Israel must help convince the international community to bring him down, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s former No.2 in the Likud, Gideon Sa’ar, told The Jerusalem Post Sunday.

In his first interview with a print newspaper since he returned to politics following a two-and-a-half year hiatus, Sa’ar explained why he has the best chance to succeed Netanyahu as prime minister.

 

During his timeout from politics, Sa’ar conducted in-depth research of the Syrian issue at the Institute for National Security Studies, adding to the knowledge he gained in the security cabinet.

“Israel has an interest in Assad losing power,” Sa’ar said. “His replacement won’t be a Zionist. But Iran is the most dangerous enemy of Israel, and therefore its control over Syria and its ability to deliver arms to Hezbollah make it the most problematic situation for us.”

Sa’ar said he does not think Israel should be involved militarily in Syria, but if the US decided to remove Assad, it will be in Israel’s interest.

He praised the American attack on a Syrian base Friday morning, but said it was a pinpoint strike in response to Assad using chemical weapons and does not show an American strategy on Syria.

The former minister explained that the world lives in fear of radical Sunni Islam, because ISIS is behind most of the recent terrorist attacks in the world, but because Iran is the dominant military force funding terrorism in the region, is pursuing nuclear weapons and exports Islamic radicalism, Israel sees it as much more dangerous. He said that makes Israel’s focus on Iran different than that of the international community.

“We have to understand what our interests are, then persuade the world, which is not simple,” he said. “But the Trump administration sees the world differently than the Obama administration, which saw Iran as stabilizing the region.”

Asked whether he backed Netanyahu’s efforts to prevent Obama’s deal with Iran, he said he supported the prime minister’s decision to address Congress and warn against the agreement. But he suggested that perhaps the efforts should have ended once they were hopeless because of the importance of maintaining bipartisan US support for Israel.

“Once the deal was signed, I have my doubts as to whether continuing the struggle was the right thing to do,” he said. “Continuing to fight the deal once it was signed did not change anything, and it is doubtful we could have changed anything at that stage.”

Sa’ar lamented that a decision on attacking Iran did not reach the security cabinet between 2011 and 2013, when the geopolitical situation would have made it relatively easier. He now favors a regional security framework formalizing cooperation between Israel and its neighbors against the Iranian threat.

Israel has mutual strategic interests with Egypt and Jordan against Iran, Sa’ar said. He warned that those interests could be harmed by engaging in the Palestinian issue. Unlike Netanyahu, Zionist Union head Isaac Herzog and Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid, Sa’ar is more cautious about using a regional approach to solving the Palestinian issue.

“A regional approach is just a slogan, so the question is what the content would be,” he said. “There are two options. If Jordan and Egypt take part in the solution – the approach can be constructive. But if the Arab countries back the Palestinians, pressure on Israel would grow and this would not serve Israel’s interests.”

Sa’ar said possible ideas for the Trump administration to consider would be a confederation of Jordan with the Palestinian Authority, and former national security council head Giora Eiland’s plan for regional exchanges of territories that includes expanding Palestinian-controlled territory into the Sinai Peninsula.

When asked what his advice would be to Trump, he said: “Israel needs to present new ideas, not the paradigm that has failed over the past 25 years. The negotiations didn’t just fail time after time, even after Israel presented generous offers.

The paradigm of a Palestinian state based on 67 lines and dividing Jerusalem cannot work. It’s not practical.

It won’t give the Palestinians a viable state or bring security to Israel.”

Sa’ar has been careful not to criticize Netanyahu since his return, following tradition in the Likud of respecting the party leader.

He went further on Sunday, saying that his comeback is not impacted by investigations of Netanyahu and that he hopes the current government can last its full term, which ends in November 2019.

“I said all along that I would return to politics within the Likud, and with elections taking place no later than 2019; I can’t come back 15 minutes before,” he said. “I have to work and that means journeying all over the country, presenting Likudniks and the general public with ideas and reforms I thought of during my break from politics.”

Sa’ar will soon begin in Haifa and he has already set 10 stops. He made his comeback speech in Acre to put an emphasis on helping those in the periphery, where he believes his ideas could improve the quality of life.

Although Sa’ar opposed the Likud’s decision to already select Netanyahu as its candidate in the next general election, he has accepted it and is preparing for the post-Netanyahu era, whenever it comes.

When Sa’ar announced his comeback, Lapid praised him and expressed hope they would work together in the future. But Sa’ar poured cold water over Lapid’s idea of heading a government that would include the Likud as a coalition partner in a government led by Yesh Atid.

“I don’t believe in Lapid’s path, and ideology is what matters,” he said. “The Likud must lead and Lapid, like others, cannot be ruled out as a partner for us. It is healthy that the Likud has tended to be either be in power or in the opposition.”

Asked if it bothers him how little he is known overseas compared to Lapid and others, Sa’ar said he will continue devoting most of his efforts to reaching out to Israelis.

“When I run for prime minister, I don’t know if Lapid will still be a candidate, but I have a higher chance of getting elected and forming a government than he does,” he said. “I have much wider support.

I have the best chance of anyone to be the next prime minister.”