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- 04/28/17--12:19: _The strange connect...
- 04/30/17--06:18: _Top Iraqi commander...
- 04/30/17--07:31: _National Security A...
- 04/30/17--08:56: _'We'll see': Trump ...
- 04/30/17--10:41: _Trump hints that th...
- 04/30/17--10:51: _Turkey's Erdogan sa...
- 04/30/17--10:55: _Trump says North Ko...
- 04/30/17--11:11: _Pentagon admits the...
- 05/01/17--06:45: _Trump explains why ...
- 05/01/17--07:18: _Hamas will no longe...
- 05/01/17--07:18: _Israel: Hamas is 'a...
- 05/01/17--13:05: _Why it's important ...
- 05/02/17--06:00: _A Navy SEAL command...
- 05/02/17--07:12: _Watch the US missil...
- 05/02/17--08:33: _The Trump administr...
- 05/02/17--10:13: _Here's the story be...
- 05/02/17--10:58: _US flies strategic ...
- 05/03/17--10:11: _Here's who would wi...
- 05/04/17--06:15: _The Navy thinks thi...
- 05/04/17--06:22: _This superfast elec...
- 04/30/17--10:55: Trump says North Korea's Kim Jong Un is 'a pretty smart cookie'
- 05/02/17--06:00: A Navy SEAL commander explains how he learned to never give up
After saying there was "absolutely" a chance that the US and North Korea could get involved in a "major, major conflict" in an interview with Reuters, President Donald Trump seemed to praise North Korea's leader, Kim Jong Un, in a way that may reveal a strange connection between the two.
"Not many 27-year-old men could go in and take over a regime... Say what you want, but that's not easy — especially at that age," said Trump.
This isn't the first time Trump has praised Kim.
"How many young guys — he was, like, 26 or 25 when his father died — take over these tough generals, and all of a sudden ... he goes in, he takes over, and he's the boss," said Trump during the campaign, according to ABC News. "It's incredible. He wiped out the uncle, he wiped out this one, that one. I mean, this guy doesn't play games."
The Washington Post described Trump's comments on Kim as "empathetic," but Jeffrey Lewis, founding publisher of Arms Control Wonk, has another theory.
In a series of tweets, Lewis explained that Kim's real age is a total mystery. Some estimate he was born in 1982, while others say he was born as late as 1984.
But according to Lewis, the fact that Trump chose to peg Kim's age at 27 is significant. Trump himself took over his father's company, Trump Management, at the age of 27.
Lewis concludes that Trump wasn't so much praising the dictator as he was lauding his own accomplishment.
Whatever Trump's emotional intention with his words, his comments on Kim come at a time when the US seems to be entering a new phase in dealing with North Korea — one that may include speaking to Kim directly.
On Friday, the same day his Reuters interview went out, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson finally signaled that the US may seek direct talks with North Korea.
A top Iraqi commander expects to dislodge Islamic State from Mosul in May despite resistance from militants in the densely populated Old City district.
The battle should be completed "in a maximum of three weeks", the Iraqi army's chief of staff, Lieutenant General Othman al-Ghanmi, was quoted as saying by state-run newspaper al-Sabah on Sunday.
A U.S.-led international coalition is providing air and ground support for the offensive in Mosul, the largest city in northern Iraq, which fell to hardline Sunni Muslim fighters in June 2014.
Islamic State has lost most of the city's districts since the offensive began in October and is now surrounded in the northwestern districts, including the historic Old City center.
The United Nation believes that up to half a million people remain in the area still controlled by the militants in Mosul, 400,000 of which are in the Old City with little food and water supply and no access to hospitals.
The militants have dug in between the civilians, often launching deadly counter-attacks to repel forces closing in on the Old City's Grand al-Nuri Mosque.
It was from this mosque, famous for its leaning minaret, that the group's leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, had declared a caliphate over parts of Iraq and Syria. Mosul was by far the largest city to have fallen under his control in both countries.
A Federal Police brigade commander and 18 other members of the interior ministry force were killed in attacks on two positions at the edge of the Old City on Friday, military sources said on Sunday.
Federal Police took back the two positions on Saturday but the interior ministry has sacked a top commander for failing to fend off the counter-attacks, the sources said.
The U.S.-trained Counter Terrorism Service and Federal Police are the main forces fighting inside Mosul.
Regular Iraqi army units are taking part in battles outside the city, alongside Shi'ite volunteers trained and armed by Iran, Kurdish Peshmerga fighters and Sunni tribes.
The total number of fighters aligned against Islamic State in Mosul from all forces and units exceeds 100,000.
Iraqi forces estimate the number of Islamic State fighters who remain in Mosul at 200 to 300, mostly foreigners, down from nearly 6,000 when the offensive started.
Several thousand have been killed so far in the battle, both civilians and military, according to international aid organizations. The total number of people displaced from Mosul since October is close to 400,000, about a fifth of Mosul's population before its capture by Islamic State.
South Korea said the United States had reaffirmed it would shoulder the cost of deploying the THAAD anti-missile system, days after President Donald Trump said Seoul should pay for the $1-billion battery designed to defend against North Korea.
In a telephone call on Sunday, Trump's national security adviser, H.R. McMaster, reassured his South Korean counterpart, Kim Kwan-jin, that the U.S. alliance with South Korea was its top priority in the Asia-Pacific region, the South's presidential office said.
The conversation followed another North Korean missile test-launch on Saturday which Washington and Seoul said was unsuccessful, but which drew widespread international condemnation.
Trump, asked about his message to North Korea after the latest missile test, told reporters: "You'll soon find out", but did not elaborate on what the U.S. response would be.
Trump's comments in an interview with Reuters on Thursday that he wanted Seoul to pay for the THAAD deployment perplexed South Koreans and raised questions about his commitment to the two countries' alliance.
South Korean officials responded that the cost was for Washington to bear, under the bilateral agreement.
"National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster explained that the recent statements by President Trump were made in a general context, in line with the U.S. public expectations on defense cost burden-sharing with allies," South Korea's Blue House said in a statement, adding that McMaster requested the call.
Major elements of the advanced Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system were moved into the planned site in Seonjgu, in the south of the country, this week.
The deployment has drawn protests from China, which says the powerful radar which can penetrate its territory will undermine regional security, and from local residents worried they will be a target for North Korean missiles.
About 300 residents rallied on Sunday as two U.S. Army lorries tried to enter the THAAD deployment site. Video provided by villagers showed protesters blocking the road with a car and chanting slogans such as “Don’t lie to us! Go back to your country!”
Police said they had sent about 800 officers to the site and two residents were injured during clashes with them.
South Korea and the United States say the sole purpose of THAAD is to guard against North Korean missiles.
The United States is seeking more help from China, the North's major ally, to rein in Pyongyang's nuclear and missile development. Trump, in the Reuters interview, praised Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping as a "good man".
The North has been conducting missile and nuclear weapons related activities at an unprecedented rate and is believed to have made progress in developing intermediate-range and submarine-launched missiles.
Tension on the Korean peninsula has been high for weeks over fears the North may conduct a long-range missile test, or its sixth nuclear test, around the time of the April 15 anniversary of its state founder's birth.
In excerpts of an interview with CBS News released on Saturday, Trump said the United States and China would "not be happy" with a nuclear test but gave no other details.
Trump discussed the threat posed by North Korea in a telephone call with Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte, the White House said.
In an address to a summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations on Saturday, Duterte urged the United States to show restraint after North Korea's latest missile test and to avoid playing into the hands of leader Kim Jong Un, who "wants to end the world".
Two-month long U.S.-South Korean joint military drills were due to conclude on Sunday, U.S. and South Korean officials said.
The exercise, called Foal Eagle, was repeatedly denounced by North Korea, which saw it as a rehearsal for war.
In a further show of force, the USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier group arrived in waters near the Korean peninsula and began exercises with the South Korean navy late on Saturday. The South Korean navy declined to say when the exercises would be completed.
The dispatch of the Carl Vinson was a "reckless action of the war maniacs aimed at an extremely dangerous nuclear war," the Rodong Sinmun, the official newspaper of North Korea's ruling Workers' Party, said in a commentary on Saturday.
The carrier group has just completed drills with the Japanese navy.
Japanese Defence Minister Tomomi Inada, in an apparent show of solidarity with Washington, has ordered the Izumo, Japan's biggest warship, to protect a U.S. navy ship that might be going to help supply the USS Carl Vinson, the Asahi newspaper said.
President Donald Trump told CBS' John Dickerson on "Face the Nation" on Sunday that he was not happy with North Korea's latest missile test and hinted at a possible military strike should Kim Jong Un continue with provocations.
When asked if the pressure Trump has applied to North Korea has worked, Trump stressed the importance of his relationship with Chinese President Xi Jinping, but seemed restrained in his condemnation of North Korea's latest missile launch.
"This was a small missile. This was not a big missile. This was not a nuclear test, which he was expected to do three days ago. We'll see what happens," said Trump, referring to the launch of a KN-17 ballistic missile on Friday.
Experts say North Korea has readied a nuclear test, which many suspected would take place earlier in April on the anniversary of the country's founder's birth or the foundation of its military. So far, no test has taken place.
"If he does a nuclear test, I will not be happy," said Trump.
When pressed on if being "not happy" would mean military action, Trump demurred.
"I don't know. I mean, we'll see," he said.
But unlike previous statements in which Trump and his top officials have touted military action as a way forward, Trump stressed his relationship with China above all other levers in the North Korean conflict on Sunday.
"The relationship I have with China, it's been already acclaimed as being something very special, something very different than we've ever had. But again, you know, we'll find out whether or not President Xi is able to affect change," Trump said.
Trump's pivot to China's influence in dealing with North Korea comes after his secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, signaled Friday that the US would be open to direct talks with North Korea.
Though diplomatic efforts with the Kim regime have failed in the past, experts have told Business Insider that with the increasing capability of North Korea's nukes and mounting international pressure, they may represent the only way to avert a full crisis.
It happened again — a North Korean missile launch exploded in the air, over land, just a few minutes after launching on Friday.
While North Korea can still learn a lot from a failed missile test and use those lessons to advance their program, they've failed to demonstrate capability with missile types the US perfected in the 1970s — and cyber espionage may be to blame.
Asked about North Korea's unsuccessful missile test by CBS' John Dickerson on "Face the Nation" on Sunday, President Donald Trump refused to address whether or not the US had anything to do with the rogue nation's missile failures.
"I'd rather not discuss it. But perhaps they're just not very good missiles," said Trump. Pressed further on possible US sabotage of North Korea's missiles, Trump did not deny it. "I just don't want to discuss it."
In the past, US leaders have forcefully denied cyber attacks on other countries, but Trump only reiterated his preference for not telegraphing his intentions or plans in military ventures.
Indeed North Korea lacks the missile manufacturing infrastructure of a world power like Russia or the US, but a recent New York Times report uncovered a secret operation to derail North Korea's nuclear-missile program that has been raging for three years.
Essentially, the report attributes North Korea's high rate of failure with Russian-designed missiles to US meddling in the country's missile software and networks.
But to those in the know, the campaign against North Korea came as no surprise. Dr. Ken Geers, a cybersecurity expert for Comodo with experience in the NSA, told Business Insider that cyberoperations like the one against North Korea were actually the norm.
While the fact that the US hacked another country's missile program may be shocking to some, "within military intelligence spaces this is what they do," Geers said. "If you think that war is possible with a given state, you're going to be trying to prepare the battle space for conflict. In the internet age, that means hacking."
North Korea's internal networks are fiercely insulated and not connect to the larger internet, however, which poses a challenge for hackers in the US, but Geers said it's "absolutely not the case" that computers need to connect to the internet to be hacked.
Furthermore, Geers said, because of the limited number of servers and access points to North Korea's very restricted internet, "If it ever came to cyberwar between the US and North Korea, it would be an overwhelming victory for the West."
"North Korea can do a Sony attack or attack the White House, but that's cause that's the nature of cyberspace," Geers said. "But if war came, you'd see Cyber Command wipe out most other countries' pretty quickly."
Istanbul (AFP) - President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Sunday said Ankara was "seriously saddened" by footage showing American military vehicles operating close to the border with Syrian Kurdish fighters Turkey sees as a terror group.
The Syrian Kurdish Peoples' Protection Units (YPG) are seen by Washington as the most effective fighting force in the battle against jihadists in Syria.
Ankara says the fighters of the YPG are merely the Syrian branch of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), who have waged an insurgency since 1984 inside Turkey that has left tens of thousands dead.
Turkish forces last week carried out air strikes on YPG positions in Syria, angering the United States and sparking days of border clashes with the Kurdish fighters.
The US sent military vehicles with American flags to the Syrian side of the frontier accompanied by YPG fighters to carry out patrols, in an apparent bid to prevent further fighting.
"Unfortunately... the presence of an American flag along with the (insignia) of a terror organisation called YPG in a convoy has seriously saddened us," Erdogan told reporters in Istanbul before heading on a trip to India.
The difference of opinion over the YPG has cast a shadow over US-Turkish relations for some time and Erdogan is hoping for a drastic change in US policy when he meets President Donald Trump next month.
"We will bring this up when we meet Mr President on May 16," said Erdogan.
He expressed regret that the US-YPG cooperation -- which began under the former Barack Obama administration -- was being continued under the new president.
"This needs to be stopped right now," said Erdogan. "Otherwise it will continue to be a bother in the region and for us."
"It will also bother us as two NATO countries and strategic partners," he said.
Erdogan reaffirmed that Turkey could again bomb the YPG positions at any time it wanted.
"I said yesterday: 'We can come unexpectedly in the night'. I really meant that. We are not going to tip off the terror groups and the Turkish Armed Forces could come at any moment."
"Better they live in fear than we have worries," he said.
Washington (AFP) - US President Donald Trump offered some backhanded praise for North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un, calling him "a pretty smart cookie" in a television interview that aired Sunday.
Trump's almost admiring remarks came amid soaring tensions with North Korea over its missile and nuclear programs, with an alarmed Washington looking to China for help in reining in Kim.
Trump said he had "no idea" whether Kim was sane or not, but said the North Korean leader had faced a formidable challenge in taking over the country at a reported age of 27 after his father's death in 2011.
"He's dealing with obviously very tough people, in particular the generals and others. And at a very young age, he was able to assume power," Trump said in the interview with CBS's "Face the Nation."
"A lot of people, I'm sure, tried to take that power away, whether it was his uncle or anybody else. And he was able to do it.
"So obviously, he's a pretty smart cookie," he said.
"But we have a situation that we just cannot let -- we cannot let what's been going on for a long period of years continue," Trump added.
North Korea has kept the West on edge for weeks over signs it may conduct a sixth nuclear test, punctuated by a series of missile tests that have aroused US fears that the regime may be close to developing a ballistic missile capable of hitting the US mainland with a nuclear warhead.
'A chess game'
The North, defying mounting US pressure, launched its latest missile test on Saturday, which South Korea said failed.
Trump refused comment on whether the United States had anything to do with the missile test failure.
"It is a chess game. I just don't want people to know what my thinking is. So eventually, he will have a better delivery system. And if that happens, we can't allow it to happen."
Hours before the North Korean test, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson warned of "catastrophic consequences" if the international community does not act more forcefully to sanction Pyongyang.
The United States has deployed a naval strike group to the area led by the carrier USS Carl Vinson, which on Saturday began drilling with the South Korean navy to practice procedures for tracking and intercepting enemy ballistic missiles.
On Sunday, the two allies concluded a massive annual military exercise called "Foal Eagle," which involved around 20,000 South Korean and 10,000 US troops.
Betting on China
If North Korea carries out a nuclear test, Trump told CBS, "I would not be happy."
"And I can tell you also, I don't believe that the president of China, who is a very respected man, will be happy either," Trump said.
Asked if "not happy" signified "military action," Trump answered: "I don't know. I mean, we'll see."
So far, Trump has placed his biggest bet on getting China to use its leverage to pressure Pyongyang to change its behavior, a strategy that has failed to produce results in the past.
Since meeting with China's President Xi Jinping at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida April 6-7, Trump has set aside his campaign threats to impose tariffs on Chinese imports and declare Beijing a currency manipulator.
"I think that, frankly, North Korea is maybe more important than trade. Trade is very important. But massive warfare with millions, potentially millions of people being killed? That, as we would say, trumps trade," he told CBS.
"Now, if China can help us with North Korea and can solve that problem -- that's worth making not as good a trade deal for the United States," he said.
At least 352 civilians have been killed in U.S.-led strikes against Islamic State targets in Iraq and Syria since the operation began in 2014, the U.S. military said in a statement on Sunday.
The Combined Joint Task Force, in its monthly assessment of civilian casualties from the U.S. coalition's operations against the militant group, said it was still assessing 42 reports of civilian deaths.
It added that 45 civilians were killed between November 2016 and March 2017. It reported 80 civilian deaths from August 2014 to the present that had not previously been announced. The report included 26 deaths from three separate strikes in March.
The military's official tally is far below those of other outside groups. Monitoring group Airwars said more than 3,000 civilians have been killed by coalition air strikes.
Included in Sunday's tally were 14 civilians killed by a strike in March that set off a secondary explosion, as well as 10 civilians who were killed in a strike on Islamic State headquarters the same month.
"We regret the unintentional loss of civilian lives ... and express our deepest sympathies to the families and others affected by these strikes," the Pentagon said in a statement.
Hours shy of his 100th day in power, President Trump strides into the Oval Office. The energy in the world's most famous room changes instantly and perceptibly as he sits down.
It's a little after 3 in the afternoon. Trump says he already has been up and working for 12 hours. He and first lady Melania Trump have met with Argentine President Mauricio Macri and his wife, Juliana Awada.
He has signed an executive order, creating an office to protect Veterans Affairs Department whistleblowers. Then he signed another, ordering an investigation of the relationship between aluminum imports and national security.
Staffers walk briskly in and out of the complex of offices; a line of journalists fills a hallway, waiting to interview the president.
His daughter Ivanka, perhaps his most trusted adviser, has just departed.
Now, as an exclusive conversation with the Washington Examiner begins, the words, the tone, the messages are vintage Trump: All the familiar superlatives, the choppy sentences, the insistence that his first 100 days have been the best of any president.
Over the next 40 minutes, he jumps, in classic Trump fashion, over a range of topics, from his relations with foreign leaders to the danger of North Korea, from the election last year to his hopes for America tomorrow.
Yet listen closely, especially when he speaks about decisions involving life and death, and you sense that sitting here, in the Oval Office, as the 45th president has humbled even Donald J. Trump.
"You can make a mistake in deals, and you work it out," he explains at one point. "You make a mistake here, there is nothing to work out. You know it's trouble. It could be big trouble. And it is life-threatening trouble for lots of people, potentially."
A portrait of Thomas Jefferson hangs to his right, one of Andrew Jackson, perhaps his favorite president, is to his left. A bust of a sober-looking Abraham Lincoln sits beneath Jefferson, while Trump's father smiles broadly from a black-and-white photo behind the Resolute Desk, given by Queen Victoria in 1880 to Rutherford B. Hayes and used by many presidents since.
"It's a very intensive process," he says of the presidency. "Really intense. I get up to bed late and I get up early." He rarely sleeps more than four hours, which is good, he explains, because he can call leaders around the world in the dark hours while the rest of Washington sleeps.
"When I was doing many real estate deals at one time, I always thought that was going to be more comprehensive and lengthier than a day like this.
So far into his presidency, as with so many modern-era presidents before him, much of his focus has been on challenges from abroad.
Freeing a prisoner
Last week, the Trump administration flew Aya Hijazi, an Egyptian-American aid worker, home to the United States after negotiating her release from a three-year captivity in Egypt.
Trump felt strongly about achieving Hijazi's release, he says, when he met with Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi in April in the Oval Office.
"As you know, President Obama tried to have Aya released for three and a half years," he says. "They were unsuccessful. I was with President el-Sissi for 10 minutes. During that 10-minute session, I said it would be a great honor for this country and I think it would be a very positive step if Aya were released."
Trump explains that Sissi replied, "I would like to consider that," to which Trump responded that he considered the issue "really very" important.
"And he was so great. He not only released Aya, he released her husband, and he released eight people total ... I thought it was fantastic."
Sissi, he concludes, is a good man: "I know that he didn't like President Obama, and I know President Obama did not like him. But I do like him. And I thought it was a great and brilliant gesture.
"And I very much appreciated it. She would have been in jail for 28 years. She is a young person. She is a good person. She is a totally innocent person."
Hijazi, a graduate of George Mason University in Virginia, was arrested in 2014 with her husband, Mohamed Hassanein. Both worked at Beladi Foundation, which she founded to care for homeless children in Cairo.
A smiling Hijazi visited the president at the White House after her release last week.
A legitimate 'red line'
In sharp contrast, Trump authorized the U.S. Navy to fire 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles against Syria in April after the regime of Bashar Assad attacked civilians with chemical weapons.
It was, he admits, his toughest decision so far.
"I legitimized President Obama's red line in the sand," he says. "Which we had to do. I mean, somebody had to do it."
Nevertheless, it was, he says, an incredibly difficult moment: "First of all, it is a hard decision. You don't know what is going to happen," once the missiles are fired. "Is one of them going to go haywire and end up in a city or in a town and kill a lot of people?
"But it was an important decision. Not an easy decision to make. Because you know, when you say 'yes,' there is death.
"And death is very tough. Very tough. There is a lot of weight on this kind of decision."
A 'tipping point' in North Korea
If his Syria decision was "tough," those yet to be made on North Korea and its nuclear weapons sound absolutely nightmarish.
Trump hopes for a diplomatic solution, he says, while bracing himself for something worse.
"North Korea weighs on me, but we have to be prepared for the worst," he says. "We have to be prepared to do what we have to do. We cannot allow this to go on."
He describes North Korean leader Kim Jong Un as "very threatening ... saying terrible things. And people can't do that."
On the other hand, he has nothing but praise for Chinese President Xi Jinping, especially Xi's efforts to prevent conflict involving its erstwhile ally, North Korea.
Trump says he has pressed the Chinese leader to use his influence to halt any further North Korean tests of nuclear warheads and ballistic missiles that could, one day, threaten the United States.
Clearly, he sees Xi as a friend and an asset when it comes to dealing with North Korea. Yet, the relationship sounds deeper, more personal, too — a stark contrast with the presidential campaign, when he frequently cited China as a currency-manipulating rival.
His meeting with the Chinese leader at Trump's Florida retreat, Mar-a-Lago, seems to have changed the dynamic between them.
"President XI of China, who I think is a very good person, wants the best for his people," he says. "... I think he is a fantastic person. Now, maybe he won't do anything for the United States or maybe he will. But I think he is a very good person, and my opinion of that won't change.
"So when I met him at Mar-a-Lago, which is a dealmakers paradise, and we sat in that living room, in these big beautiful chairs, and we sat there, it was supposed to be a 10-minute one-on-one, then we go into a breakout room where we have 40 people — 40 people, you know, 40 each — and that was going to be the whole day."
But Trump recounts being told by Stephen Schwarzman, CEO of the global private-equity firm Blackstone, "that President Xi is a great guy and, if you could, get to know him one-on-one [rather] than sitting in the big breakout room.
"So we sat for 10 minutes, but the 10 minutes turned out to be three hours."
The same thing happened the next day. "And, so, now we have a real relationship. I spoke to him again two days ago. He is a great guy. Now, with that being said, he is in love with China, and he is in love with the people of China. And that is a great thing.
"But I think he is going to try to help us with North Korea. Because he does not want to see us wanting to attack North Korea. And I think he would love to see if he could work something out."
Even so, the administration has been pressing the United Nations to enact more sanctions on North Korea over its nuclear and missile programs, while U.S. military maneuvers are being conducted alongside South Korean forces near their capital, Seoul.
Amid all of the administration's dealings with the U.N., Trump says he likes "a lot" of world leaders.
"Well, believe it or not, I have a great relationship with [German] Chancellor Angela Merkel," he says, refuting reports that he refused to shake her hand during a meeting. "I shook hands with her four times before I sat down. ... We get along great."
The same is true, he says, of Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, and of Britain's Theresa May: "I thought she was great."
As for Russia's Vladimir Putin, the source of so much trouble for his administration, he says simply that they haven't met yet.
Although foreign affairs have been a preoccupation, the one thing Trump insists he will not stop doing is staying connected to Americans, in particular, to those who voted for him.
"I love my people," he says. "They are the greatest people."
And with that, he reaches across the Resolute Desk for a sheet of paper showing a map of the United States. It illustrates the latest figures from the 2016 electoral map, and it is covered in a sea of red ink.
"That's the final map of the numbers — not bad, right?" he says. "The red is us, the blue is Hillary. There is a lot of red."
How does that make him feel? He lingers over the map, takes a deep breath.
"Very, very honored. And proud. And I love the people of this country. These people are incredible people."
He is not worried about staying connected to them.
"I think I am doing that," he says, pointing as one example to the executive orders on protecting U.S.-made aluminum and steel that he signed in the past 10 days.
"And, you know, that is just a first step. You can't do what you want to do. You have to do the steps, you have to do the study, you have to review the study, you have to go through a process and then you have to do what you have to do."
Bringing back skilled and well-paid workers involved in manufacturing aluminum, steel, other goods? It's going to happen, he insists, and very soon.
"We have been tremendously mistreated by the world, with dumping" of foreign-made products, he insists.
But, he continues, "we have a great country, and it is turning around. And there has never been optimism like this before."
He promises, as he did during the campaign, to get rid "of tremendous regulations," to help American companies compete more easily in the world market and to put more of America's citizens back to work.
That leads, naturally, to an assessment of his own work in his first 100 days, which is, predictably, that no president "has ever done what I have done" even though "the first-hundred-day standard is ridiculous."
"Well, I think that the Supreme Court is very important," he explains, "because every 5-to-4 decision is because of me. And that could go on for 40 years," since his first appointment to the court, Associate Justice Neil Gorsuch, "is a young man" at age 49.
"Don't forget, I got him nominated and confirmed in those 100 days," he adds, not willing to give up the 100-day argument quite yet.
What about longer-term, after four or even eight years of a Trump presidency?
"What I would like to do is peace. Have great strength for the country. And jobs."
As the interview ends, the room suddenly fills with White House officials once again: Vice President Mike Pence, who gives this reporter two big hugs; chief of staff Reince Priebus, who shakes hands warmly and chats happily about political trends and gossip; campaign manager and now presidential counselor Kellyanne Conway, smiling broadly and offering an update on her children.
An atmosphere — friendly, happy, energetic — infuses the Oval Office, already glowing with afternoon sunlight. You find yourself wondering what the next discussion among these figures will be, how it might add to two centuries of history, sometimes good, sometimes terrifying, that has unfolded within these curved walls.
And you wonder, too, what keeps this president awake at night?
The Palestinian Islamist group Hamas will remove a call for Israel's destruction and drop its association with the Muslim Brotherhood in a new policy document to be issued on Monday, Gulf Arab sources said.
Hamas's move appears aimed at improving relations with Gulf Arab states and Egypt, which label the Brotherhood as a terrorist organization, as well as with Western countries, many of which classify Hamas as a terrorist group over its hostility to Israel.
The sources said Hamas, which has controlled the Gaza Strip since 2007, will say in the document that it agrees to a transitional Palestinian state along the borders from 1967, when Israel captured Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem in a war with Arab states. Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005.
A future state encompassing Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem along 1967 borders is the goal of Hamas' main political rival, the Fatah movement led by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. His Palestinian Authority has engaged in peace talks with Israel on that basis, although the last, U.S.-mediated round collapsed three years ago.
The revised Hamas political document, to be announced later on Monday, will still reject Israel's right to exist and back "armed struggle" against it, the Gulf Arab sources told Reuters.
Hamas has fought three wars with Israel since 2007 and has carried out hundreds of armed attacks in Israel and in Israeli-occupied territories since it was founded three decades ago.
It remains unclear whether the document replaces or changes in any way Hamas's 1988 charter, which calls for Israel’s destruction and is the Islamist group's covenant.
A Hamas spokesman in Qatar declined to comment. There was no immediate comment from Egypt and Gulf Arab states.
Arab sources said the Hamas document was being released ahead of a planned visit by Abbas to Washington on May 3 and as Donald Trump administration prepares to make a renewed push for Israeli-Palestinian peace.
Analysts say the revised document could allow Hamas to mend relations with Western countries and pave the way for a reconciliation agreement with the Palestine Liberation Organisation, now also headed by Abbas.
U.S.-allied Arab states including Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia classify the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organization. The 89-year-old Brotherhood held power in Egypt for a year after a popular uprising in 2011.
The Brotherhood denies links with Islamist militants and advocates Islamist political parties winning power through elections, which Saudi Arabia considers a threat to its system of absolute power through inherited rule.
Israel said Hamas was trying to delude the world by issuing a new policy document on Monday that purportedly softens the Palestinian Islamist group's policy towards Israel.
"Hamas is attempting to fool the world but it will not succeed," said David Keyes, a spokesman for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
"They build terror tunnels and have launched thousands upon thousands of missiles at Israeli civilians," he said. "This is the real Hamas."
President Donald Trump told Bloomberg on Monday that he'd be "honored" to talk to Kim Jong Un, and while it's not the first time he's signaled a willingness to meet with one of the world's most brutal dictators, it may provide an important glance into his North Korea strategy.
Several top Trump administration officials have stressed an "all options" approach to North Korea, at different times emphasizing military action, collaboration with China for harsher sanctions, playing coy about cyber-sabotaging its missile program, and now, finally, direct talks.
While Trump has been quick to condemn North Korea's military provocations and hasn't shied away from the prospect of conflict, he has at times had nice things to say about the country's leader.
"He's 27 years old, his father dies, took over a regime, so say what you want, but that's not easy, especially at that age," Trump said in an interview with Reuters.
In an interview with CBS's "Face the Nation," Trump called Kim a "pretty smart cookie."
During the campaign, he said he'd talk to Kim — and that there was a 10% to 20% chance he'd talk Kim out of his nuclear program, possibly over hamburgers.
But Yun Sun, a senior associate at the Stimson Center, told Business Insider that direct talks with Kim would have been "impossible" under President Barack Obama, who took office as North Korea had burned US diplomats by pulling out of the six-party talks at the critical moment when it was set to denuclearize.
"By telling the North Korean leader that he's a 'smart cookie' and he'd be 'honored' to talk to them, I sense a difference in the US policy goals coming to North Korea," Sun said. "President Trump's goal and his agenda are quite strictly limited to the denuclearization of North Korea."
Sun contrasted this with another agenda: addressing North Korea's abysmal human-rights record and the dynastic nature of its leadership. According to Sun, Trump may be speaking highly of Kim to signal his goal is not regime change, only neutralizing the nuclear threat.
Sun characterized Trump's apparent course as "pretty classic carrot-and-stick."
But according to Jenny Town, the assistant director of the US-Korea Institute and a managing editor at 38 North, there may not be much to gain by reading into Trump's statements, which have been all over the place. In addition to the "smart cookie" comment, "he's also called Kim a madman, imbalanced, and irrational," Town said.
Town noted that Trump said he'd talk to Kim only "under the right circumstances." If those circumstances were understood to mean North Korea's denuclearization, they would still be "above the threshold of what we can expect North Korea to do unilaterally," Town said.
However, if the US could assure the Kim regime that it didn't want to remove it from power, it may be a little more willing to abandon its nuclear ambitions.
"I think, across the board, this administration attaches less importance to ideological issues like authoritarianism," Sun said.
With China, where religious persecution is well documented and enemies of the Communist Party are routinely silenced, Trump has embraced its leader, Xi Jinping, often pointing to the strength of their relationship as a lever in the North Korean conflict.
None of the reports from Trump's summit with Xi at Mar-a-Lago has mentioned a discussion of human rights, which might have been a hot-button issue with past administrations.
"Trump has a pragmatic approach to the foreign-policy issues that he sees as most important," Sun said. "In the current state, he sees that the North Korean issue is the most important."
This pragmatism has appeared elsewhere in Trump's foreign policy. Trump authorized a cruise missile strike against the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad to punish its use of chemical weapons, while his administration simultaneously admitted Assad's leadership was a "political reality."
But even Xi, North Korea's treaty ally, hasn't found Kim honorable enough to meet with even once since Kim took power in 2011.
Although Trump said it would be an honor to meet with Kim, the US's evaluation of the North Korean regime most likely hasn't changed, Sun said. Trump may merely be signaling a new, tactical willingness to engage with a country that could eventually pose a nuclear threat.
Meanwhile, the USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier lurks off North Korea's coast, and Chinese and South Korean diplomats are meeting to discuss tightening sanctions on North Korea.
According to Sun, these actions are likely to pressure the Kim regime while showing that there's a realistic, non-humiliating off-ramp on the road to a nuclear confrontation.
Admiral William McRaven, author of "Make Your Bed: Little Things That Can Change Your Life... And Maybe The World," explains what he learned during Navy SEAL training that helped him never give up and quit. Following is a transcript of the video.
Admiral McRaven: We used to have a saying in SEAL training, "Take it one evolution at a time." Meaning don't look six months down the road. Don't ask yourself or don't look and say, "My gosh, I've got more swims and more runs and more PTs." If you do that, that event horizon becomes a little too far and I think it can be frightening. If all you do is try to do the very best you can at that very moment, you take it one step at a time and then six months goes by and you took it one evolution at a time and you made it.
It is easy to quit in SEAL training. All you have to do is ring the bell three times and you're out. You don't have to talk to anybody. You don't have to do anything. You ring the bell, you take your helmet off, you put it down, and that's it. And you find that in tough times, there's always kind of a way out and that's quitting. That's just deciding you're not going to tackle this problem — you're going to let the problem or the situation win.
And so the one thing I'm always asked is, "How do you get through SEAL training?" I had a young man who was going off to SEAL training about a year ago and he was a phenomenal athlete. I had lunch with him and he said, "Well, do I need to run more?" I said, "No, I don't think so." He said, "Do I need to swim more?" I said, "Nope.""Do I need to lift more?" and he said "What is the key to going through SEAL training?" I said, "It's simple — you just don't quit."
US defense officials confirmed on Tuesday that the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense, or THAAD missile defense system has been successfully deployed in South Korea.
THAAD, the world's most advanced missile defense system, has both China and North Korea spooked, as its powerful radar could potentially spot and knock down Chinese missiles, and persistent rumors say it could be bad for the health of South Koreans in the region, despite evidence to the contrary.
But THAAD is a purely defensive weapons system. The missiles do not even carry warheads, and rely solely on kinetic energy to smash incoming missiles without detonating their high explosive, or possibly nuclear payload.
In the clip below, see how THAAD knocks out an incoming missile threat.
President Donald Trump's nominee for US ambassador to China continued the administration's tough line on China's development of "artificial islands" in the South China Sea on Tuesday — but there's still no concrete plan to back it up.
"China cannot be allowed to use its artificial islands to coerce its neighbors or limit freedom of navigation or overflight," Iowa Republican Gov. Terry Branstad said at his Senate confirmation hearing.
Branstad's statement echoed Secretary of State Tillerson's tough talk on the South China Sea during his confirmation hearing, where he suggested the US would stop Chinese ships from accessing their artificial islands.
At the time, Bonnie Glaser, a senior adviser for Asia and the director of the China Power Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told Business Insider that Tillerson's plan would cause the US to "certainly end up in a shooting war with China."
Other Trump administration officials have since walked back those claims, and overall the administration has said very little about the South China Sea — instead putting the focus on North Korea during talks with China's Xi Jinping.
Meanwhile, China's influence in the region, where five trillion in shipping passes annually, has only grown. The Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) dropped references to "land reclamation and militarization" from its chairman's statement this year at the end of its summit in the Philippine capital, Manila.
In the past, ASEAN has been a leading voice in opposing China's land grab. China maintains it has not militarized its artificial islands, but in early April, satellite imagery spotted a Chinese fighter jet on the Paracel islands.
Elsewhere on China's reclaimed islands, structures to house missile defenses and radars have been spotted.
Despite at times vocally opposing China's "massive fortress" in the South China Sea, the Trump administration has not yet carried out a single freedom of navigation patrol in the region.
Freedom of navigation patrols serve as the US's main way of pushing back on China's land claims, and involve sailing US Navy ships in close proximity to disputed islands in an attempt to check their sovereignty.
Adm. Harry Harris, leader of the US military's Pacific Command, told Congress that such patrols would be forthcoming without announcing any specific dates.
Reuters contributed to this report.
"Geronimo ... Geronimo. E.K.I.A. Enemy Killed in Action."
The time in Abbottabad, Pakistan, was approximately 1 a.m. local time (3:51 p.m. EST) when Navy Adm. William McRaven, then the commander of SEAL Team 6, relayed word that Osama bin Laden had been killed.
At 4:06 p.m. on May 1, 2011 (12:36 a.m., May 2, in Pakistan), the White House's official photographer, Pete Souza, took the following iconic photograph of President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, and the national-security team monitoring Operation Neptune Spear in real time.
"I need to watch this," Obama is said to have remarked, hunkering down in a spare chair in one of the White House's smaller conference rooms.
Obama entered the room as one of the two SEAL helicopters crash-landed at the bin Laden compound. "I was thinking that this is not an ideal start," Obama would later tell CNN's Peter Bergen. He described the call to strike the compound as "emblematic of presidential decision-making."
"You're always working with probabilities," he said, "and you make a decision, not based on 100% certainty, but with the best information that you've got."
[Seated in this picture from left to right: Vice President Biden, the President, Brig. Gen. Webb, Deputy National Security Advisor Denis McDonough, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, and then Secretary of Defense Robert Gates. Standing, from left, are: Admiral Mike Mullen, then Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; National Security Advisor Tom Donilon; Chief of Staff Bill Daley; Tony Blinken, National Security Advisor to the Vice President; Audrey Tomason Director for Counterterrorism; John Brennan, Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism; and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper.]
The bombers departed Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, to conduct “bilateral training missions with their counterparts from the Republic of Korea and Japanese air forces,” said Lt Col Lori Hodge, PACAF public affairs deputy director.
Hodge did not specify how close the bombers flew to the Korean Demilitarized Zone, known as the DMZ, but said they were escorted by South Korean fighter jets.
When asked if the bombers were carrying weapons, the command wouldn’t disclose, citing standard operating policy.
In September, the service put on a similar show of force over South Korea, deploying B-1B bombers alongside South Korean fighter jets after another nuclear test from North Korea.
The U.S. military has maintained a deployed strategic bomber presence in the Pacific since 2004.
While Hodge said the training was routine, the recent flyover marks another in a series of events the U.S. has taken to deter North Korea’s Kim Jong Un from additional ballistic missile tests — the latest which occurred April 28.
U.S. Pacific Command on Friday detected the missile launch near the Pukchang airfield, the command said at the time. “The missile did not leave North Korean territory,” PACOM said.
The isolated regime claims to have fired off at least seven missile tests, one space rocket and two nuclear weapons tests since 2016.
Meanwhile, the USS Carl Vinson carrier strike group finally arrived in the Sea of Japan on Saturday, weeks after the U.S. announced its plans to send the Vinson to deter North Korean aggression.
PACOM announced April 8 that the Vinson was canceling a planned port visit in Australia in order to return to the Western Pacific amid rising tensions with North Korea. But confusion soon followed when the carrier was spotted sailing the other direction — nearly 3,500 miles away.
Speaking before the House Armed Services Committee on Capitol Hill last week, PACOM commander Adm. Harry Harris took the blame for the unclear message about the Vinson’s stalled deployment. Harris also said that while all options remain on the table for dealing with the rogue regime, the goal is “to bring [dictator] Kim Jong-Un to his senses, not his knees.”
The Air Force also plans to carry out another long-range missile test launch this week, according to Air Force Global Strike Command.
The launch, set for Wednesday, comes after the service conducted a similar launch with an unarmed intercontinental ballistic missile on April 26 which traveled 4,000 miles from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, and landed in the South Pacific, according to Fox News.
The next launch is scheduled between 12:01 a.m. and 6:01 a.m. Pacific Time from Vandenberg.
With the rhetoric about global trade deficits heating up on the campaign trail, it might be appropriate to momentarily shift our focus away from the asymmetric threats of the Taliban and ISIS and look at the world of conventional warfare.
Here’s how the world’s three most powerful militaries stack up in four major categories:
1. Stealth fighters
While America holds the current stealth-jet lead with the only fielded fifth-generation fighter, Russia and China are both gunning for it.
There are only 187 F-22s, and the F-35 that is supposed to be joining them is running into all sorts of problems in test phase, including the hi-tech helmet that is supposed to put all kinds of info in the pilot’s visor but doesn’t work right yet.
Meanwhile, China is developing four stealth fighters.
The two newest designs, the J-23 and J-25, are mostly rumors and Chinese propaganda right now.
Russia is developing only one stealth fighter but it has capabilities that some put on par with the F-22.
The T-50 will likely enter service in late 2016 or early 2017. Also known as the PAK FA, it’s less stealthy than the Raptor but more maneuverable. The F-22 would likely get a jump on the Russians in a war, but would be in serious trouble if it was spotted first.
Likely winner: As long as the other planes are still more hypothetical than real, the F-22 remains the clear victor.
Still, Raptor drivers can’t rest easy knowing that multiple aircraft are being developed with the primary mission of bringing them down, and those planes are being developed with engineers who have the F-22’s schematics.
The US Army fielded the first M-1 Abrams in 1980.
But the tank has undergone so many upgrades, including those to the armor, drivetrain, and weapons systems, that everything but the shell is new.
It has a 120mm main gun, great electronics, remote-operated weapon stations, and an armor configuration that incorporates uranium, Kevlar, reactive, and Chobham armor layers.
Russia is developing the prototype T-14 on the Armata platform, but right now it relies on the T-90A, which is still an awesome tank.
One even survived a direct hit from a TOW missile in Syria. Originally fielded in 2004, the T-90A features an autoloader, reactive armor, a remotely operated machine gun, and a 125mm cannon. The crew can fire antitank guided missiles from the main gun.
Like Russia, China fields a few varieties of tanks and has new ones in development. It’s go-to for tank-on-tank engagements is the Type 99. It features a 125mm smoothbore gun with auto-loader that can also fire missiles.
The tank has been upgraded with reactive armor and is thought to be nearly as survivable in combat as Western or Russian tanks.
Likely winner: Strictly looking at the gear in a one-on-one fight, it’s a draw. But America has more top-tier tanks and a better history of training crews, plus (Ukraine notwithstanding) US forces have more recent combat experience than their rivals.
3. Surface ships
With the largest Navy in the world, America has any surface fight in the bag if it happens in the middle of the ocean.
The crown jewels are the Navy’s 10 full-sized aircraft carriers and nine landing helicopter docks. But the Navy’s technological advantages and sheer size might not be enough to overcome China’s missiles or Russia’s diesel subs if it had to fight in enemy waters.
Russia still struggles with force projection, but the launch of Kalibr cruise missiles at ground targets in Syria proved that Russia has found a way to give even their small ships some serious bite.
An anti-ship version of the missile is thought to be just as capable and, if fired in a large enough salvo, may be able to overcome US ship defenses like the Phalanx. Russia also fields the Club-K missile system, a land-attack and anti-ship cruise missile system that can be hidden in shipping containers.
China is pushing for a maritime revolution in both its Coast Guard and the People’s Liberation Army Navy. The Coast Guard is used to establish sovereignty in contested waters and is getting the world’s largest and most heavily armed Coast Guard ships. The Navy features hundreds of surface ships with advanced missiles and other weapons in addition to great sensors.
Likely winner: The US Navy is still the undisputed champ across the world but it would take heavy losses if it fought China or Russia at home. A full-scale invasion might even fail if planners aren’t careful.
See the rest of the story at Business Insider
The US Military is testing out new technology that uses virtual reality to help give machine-gunners an edge. The prototype was built by the Navy's Battlespace Exploitation of Mixed Reality Lab. It was showcased at Camp Pendleton and allows marines to take part in a simulation involving shooting enemy aircraft with a .50 caliber machine gun.
In the future, special ops could be taken into combat using electric vehicles that make very little noise. Nikola Zero can go from 0 to 60 mph in 3 seconds and has a range of up to 200 miles. Anyone can reserve one for $37K. It was showcased at Camp Pendleton in California.