By Doina Chiacu and Jason Lange WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump on Sunday stepped up outreach to allies in Asia to secure their cooperation to pressure North Korea over its nuclear and missile programs. Trump spoke to the prime ministers of Thailand and Singapore in separate phone calls about the North Korean threat and invited both of them to Washington, U.S. officials said. "They discussed ways to maintain diplomatic and economic pressure on North Korea," one U.S. official said of the calls, speaking on condition of anonymity. Trump's calls to the two Asian leaders came two days after North Korea test-launched another missile that Washington and Seoul said was unsuccessful but which drew widespread international condemnation. Trump talked on Saturday night with Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte, who was also invited to the White House. Duterte has been criticized by human rights groups for an anti-drug campaign in which more than 8,000 people have died. A week ago, Trump spoke with the leaders of China and Japan on the North Korea issue. "We need cooperation at some level with as many partners in the area as we can get to make sure that we have our ducks in a row," White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus told ABC's "This Week" earlier on Sunday. "So if something does happen in North Korea, that we have everyone in line backing up a plan of action that may need to be put together with our partners in the area,” he said. "We have got to be on the same page." Priebus said the conversations were prompted by the "potential for nuclear and massive destruction in Asia" and eventually in the United States. The U.S. president, who warned in an interview with Reuters that a "major, major conflict" with North Korea was possible, did not elaborate on any U.S. response to the test. "You'll soon find out," he said on Saturday. Trump has stressed he would not broadcast military options to preserve an element of surprise. His secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, said on Friday all options remained on the table. Pyongyang's missile test came as the USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier group arrived in waters near the Korean peninsula, where it began exercises with the South Korean navy on Saturday about 12 hours after the failed launch, a South Korean navy official said. Priebus said Trump was in regular contact with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and that the president had become "very close" to Chinese President Xi Jinping. Trump, for whom China was a virtual punching bag during the 2016 presidential campaign over trade, told CBS that any trade disputes with the Asian economic giant took a back seat to securing its cooperation on North Korea. China, North Korea's only major ally and its largest trading partner, has expressed increasing concern about Pyongyang's pursuit of nuclear weapons and long-range ballistic missiles in violation of U.N. resolutions. But it has warned against escalation. "Trade is very important. But massive warfare with millions, potentially millions of people being killed? That, as we would say, trumps trade," Trump said in the "Face the Nation" interview. Similarly, concerns over human rights in the Philippines, where critics cite extrajudicial killings in Duterte's war on drugs, take a back seat to possible confrontation in Asia. "There is nothing right now facing this country and facing the region that is a bigger threat than what is happening in North Korea," Priebus said in the ABC interview. Thailand Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, a former general, heads a military-dominated government that took power in a 2014 coup. His government had strained relations with Trump's predecessor, Barack Obama. H.R. McMaster, Trump's national security adviser, was asked if Washington must respond to the latest test, especially after Vice President Mike Pence told allies during a trip to Asia this month that the "era of strategic patience is over." "Well, yes, we do have to do something," McMaster said on "Fox News Sunday." He said that may mean ratcheting up U.N. sanctions and also being prepared for military operations. AMERICA-FIRST TRUMP GOES MULTILATERAL It was unclear whether the consultations meant Washington was preparing imminent action against Pyongyang. The United States may just be lining up the largest coalition possible in the region to present a united front against North Korea, said professor Jens David Ohlin, an international law expert at Cornell Law School. "It's the only option on the ground - to do this multilaterally rather than try to solve it on our own," he said. Adam M. Smith, a Treasury Department sanctions expert in former President Barack Obama's administration, said the lesson from trying to contain Iran's nuclear ambitions was that the more multilateral the pressure, the more effective it was. He said it was notable that Trump was talking to the money centers in Asia - Singapore and Japan - and reaching out to some countries in the region, including the Philippines, that have been unwilling to go beyond what was required by U.N. sanctions. "It makes a lot of sense, I think, to try to expand the net, and not just rely on Beijing," Smith said. "I think this is sort of a good start on multilateralization." Senator John McCain, a leading Republican on foreign policy, said he did not believe Trump was considering a pre-emptive strike on North Korea. That would put U.S. ally South Korea in immediate danger, he said on CNN's "State of the Union." "But to say you absolutely rule out that option, of course, would be foolish. But it has to be the ultimate last option," McCain said. (Reporting by Jason Lange and Doina Chiacu; Additional reporting by Lindsay Dunsmuir, Matt Spetalnick and Yasmeen Abutaleb; Editing by Andrew Hay and Peter Cooney)
- Associated Press
A California congressman contracted the coronavirus before he could get a second dose of vaccine that would have improved his immunity. Democratic Rep. Lou Correa announced Saturday he tested positive upon returning home from Washington, D.C., prompting him to self-quarantine away from his family. “While this diagnosis will prevent me from attending the much-anticipated inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden, I look forward to working with the new administration to unite our country and help the millions of people devastated by the pandemic," Correa said in a statement.
- The Independent
Trump impeachment news – live: US braces for inauguration as Comey warns ‘very serious risk’ of violence
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- NBC News
Lonnie Coffman, a Capitol protester from the backwoods of Alabama, represents the kind of threat that keeps crime fighters “up at night,” a former FBI profiler said.
AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccine could win Swiss regulatory approval as early as this month, the NZZ newspaper reported on Saturday, citing two unnamed sources. It said watchdog Swissmedic plans a meeting at the end of the month to sign off on the jab. "If everything proceeds in an exemplary manner and we get the necessary data soon, the next approval decision can come very quickly," the paper cited a Swissmedic spokesman as saying without giving a date.
- Associated Press
From “emaciated” refugees to crops burned on the brink of harvest, starvation threatens the survivors of more than two months of fighting in Ethiopia’s Tigray region. The first humanitarian workers to arrive after pleading with the Ethiopian government for access describe weakened children dying from diarrhea after drinking from rivers. A local official told a Jan. 1 crisis meeting of government and aid workers that hungry people had asked for “a single biscuit.”
- National Review
Senator Rand Paul (R., Ky.) warned Friday that one-third of Republican voters could leave the party if GOP senators vote in impeachment proceedings to convict President Trump. Paul made the comments in an interview on Fox News’ The Ingraham Angle. The senator’s remarks come amid an increasing divide between congressional Republicans who oppose impeaching the president and a smaller number who support the measure following the riots at the Capitol on January 6. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) is reportedly hopeful that Republicans can use impeachment to purge Trump from the GOP, although he would need the support of at least 16 additional Republican senators to vote to convict. “Look, I didn’t agree with the [Capitol] fight that happened last week, and I voted against overturning the election, but at the same time, the impeachment is a wrongheaded, partisan notion, [and] if Republicans go along with it, it’ll destroy the party,” Paul said during the interview. “A third of the Republicans will leave the party,” Paul continued. “This isn’t about, anymore, the Electoral College, this is about the future of the party, and whether you’re going to ostracize and excommunicate President Trump from the party. Well, guess what? Millions of his fans will leave as well.” While a majority of Americans believe Trump should be removed from office immediately, just 17 percent of Republicans support expelling Trump from the presidency, according to an Axios–Ipsos poll released on Thursday. Support for Trump among Republicans has fallen since the Capitol riots; however, 60 percent believe the party should continue to follow Trump once he leaves office, an ABC News/Washington Post poll found.
The white woman caught on tape getting into a physical altercation with a Black female security guard the evening before the Capitol riots lost her job at UMass Hospital. The termination occurred after her daughter went viral for exposing her identity on social media. On January 5th, Therese Duke and a group of pro-Trump protesters that included other family members were filmed harassing Ashanti Smith, a security guard working at Black Lives Matter Plaza in Washington D.C.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas announced parliamentary and presidential elections on Friday, the first in 15 years, in an effort to heal long-standing internal divisions. The move is widely seen as a response to criticism of the democratic legitimacy of Palestinian political institutions, including Abbas's presidency. It also comes days before the inauguration of U.S. President-elect Joe Biden, with whom the Palestinians want to reset relations after they reached a low under President Donald Trump.
- Associated Press
The U.S. Forest Service released an environmental review Friday that paves the way for the creation of one of the largest copper mines in the United States, against the wishes of a group of Apaches who have been trying for years to stop the project. The Forest Service now has 60 days to turn over a tract of land in Tonto National Forest east of Phoenix to Resolution Copper Mining, a joint venture of the international mining companies Rio Tinto and BHP. Environmentalists contend the Forest Service was pressured to push the review over the finish line before President Donald Trump leaves office, complicating their efforts to reverse the land swap.
- The Week
President Trump is known for going off script, but his premature presidential election victory declaration in the early hours of the morning on Nov. 4 wasn't a completely spur-of-the-moment decision, Axios' Jonathan Swan reports.In the first installment of a reported series on Trump's final two months in office, Swan writes that Trump began "choreographing election night in earnest" during the second week of October following a "toxic" debate with President-elect Joe Biden on Sept. 29 and a bout with COVID-19 that led to his hospitalization. At that point, Trump's internal poll numbers had reportedly taken a tumble, Swan notes.With that in mind, he reportedly called his first White House chief of staff, a stunned Reince Priebus, and "acted out his script, including walking up to a podium and prematurely declaring victory on election night if it looked like he was ahead." Indeed, in the lead up to Election Day, Trump reportedly kept his focus on the so-called "red mirage," the early vote counts that would show many swing states leaning red because mail-in ballots had yet to be counted. Trump, Swan reports, intended to "weaponize it for his vast base of followers," who would go to bed thinking he had secured a second-term, likely planting the seeds of a stolen election. Read more at Axios. > As I've been writing, the plan was to steal the election all along. Fantastic reporting here. https://t.co/k8C73o8vH7> > -- Jonah Goldberg (@JonahDispatch) January 16, 2021More stories from theweek.com 5 more scathing cartoons about Trump's 2nd impeachment Trump's vaccine delay is getting suspicious Here's what Biden reportedly plans to do his 1st day in office
- Yahoo News Video
A friendly $100 wager over the 2020 presidential election has landed in a Florida small claims court.
- The Independent
‘I think we all deserve a pardon’: Texas realtor who attended Capitol riots says she was ‘following president’
‘He asked us to fly there. He asked us to be there. So I was doing what he asked us to do,’ says Jenna Ryan
Brazil's health regulator is seeking further data on Russia's Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine before considering its approval for emergency use. Documents supporting drugmaker Uniao Quimica's application for emergency use of the vaccine have been returned to the company because they did not meet its minimum criteria, the watchdog said on Saturday. In a statement on the Health Ministry's website, regulator Anvisa said the request failed to provide adequate assurances on Phase III clinical trials and issues related to the manufacture of the vaccine.
- Associated Press
A close ally of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro said Friday he’s hopeful the Biden administration will roll back a “cruel” sanctions policy and instead give room for diplomacy that could lead to the reopening of the U.S. Embassy and the release of several jailed American citizens. Jorge Rodríguez’s comments came in his first interview since taking the helm of Venezuela’s National Assembly over strong protests from the U.S., European Union and domestic opponents. Rodriguez, extending an olive branch to the incoming U.S. president, said the ruling socialist party is eager for a new start after four years of endless attacks by the Trump administration that he believes not only exacerbated suffering among Venezuelans and failed to unseat Maduro but also punished U.S. investors who historically have been important in the OPEC nation.
- The Telegraph
When George H. Bush handed over to his Democratic successor, Bill Clinton, he wrote a heartfelt letter wishing President 42 luck and “great happiness”. George W. Bush offered Barack Obama friendly advice as he was leaving office to “ignore the critics” and that he was "pulling" for him. Since George Washington gave the keys to the White House over to John Adams in 1797, the transfer of power between presidents has largely been peaceful, if on occasion spiteful. This year all norms, however, have been broken. For starters, Donald Trump only conceded last week - at the urging of White House lawyers - after his supporters stormed the US Capitol. The formal process finally began this week, with White House staff pictured removing its current occupants’ belongings - everything from paintings to a taxidermy pheasant.
- NBC News
It's unclear how many doses have wound up in the trash because many hospitals aren't reporting these numbers for fear of retribution, a leading public health doctor said.
- Architectural Digest
You'll love the twist these designers have put on old-school entertainmentOriginally Appeared on Architectural Digest
Britain is tightening border controls to block new variants of COVID-19, suspending all "travel corridor" arrangements that had meant arrivals from some countries did not require quarantine. Prime Minister Boris Johnson is grappling to control a third wave of the virus and prevent the health service from collapse while also racing to vaccinate millions each week. "What we don't want to see is all that hard work undone by the arrival of a new variant that is vaccine-busting," he told a news conference, explaining the end of travel corridors at least until Feb. 15.
- Associated Press
Republicans are worried that a corporate backlash stirred by the deadly Capitol insurrection could crimp a vital stream of campaign cash, complicating the party’s prospects of retaking the Senate in the next election. The GOP already faces a difficult Senate map in 2022, when 14 Democratic-held seats and 20 Republican ones will be on the ballot. Eight Republican senators voted to reject Electoral College votes for President-elect Joe Biden, even after the ransacking of the Capitol by a mob of Donald Trump supporters who were exhorted by the president to stop Congress from certifying Biden's victory.
- The Independent
Kayleigh McEnany leaves White House after final two-minute press briefing following deadly Capitol riot
Trump’s press secretary refused to take questions following the deadly insurrection at the US Capitol earlier this month