TRUMP SAID TO BE INVESTIGATING RUSSIA INVESTIGATORS
As Special Counsel Robert Mueller investigates potential ties between the Trump campaign and the Russian government, President Trump has turned his own administration against Mueller, asking lawyers and aids to dig up dirt on the former FBI chief and his team to discredit their investigation. Additionally, Trump is said to be exploring the possibility of issuing presidential pardons to members of his administration and family in an effort to undercut Mueller’s work, which may depend on offering legal immunity to witnesses in exchange for testimony.
News of the Trump team’s efforts came the day after the president sat down for a wide-ranging interview with the New York Times, in which he complained of both his attorney general’s recusal in the Russia investigation and Mueller’s team’s potential conflicts of interest stemming from past political activity. Additionally, Trump said that any investigation into his or his family’s finances to look for potential links to Russia would constitute a breach of the mandate given Mueller’s office. He left open the possibility that he might order his Justice Department to fire Mueller to block his investigation from proceeding.
ISRAEL’S QUIET AID TO SYRIA
Beginning in June 2016, the Israeli government launched a campaign entitled Operation Good Neighbor, in which it began passing supplies through a gate in the Israeli-Syrian border to help needy villages during the country’s civil war. Israel has also allowed international NGOs to organize their aid efforts by bringing supplies into Israeli ports and transporting them through the border.
News of the operation emerged Thursday just days after announcement of a U.S.-Russian ceasefire for southern Syria which Israel’s government worries could allow Iran-backed Shiite militias safe harbor along the Israeli border. Still, Israeli government officials hope the program will help mend relations between their nation and the Syrian people. “The aid creates a positive awareness of Israel on the Syrian side,” said an Israeli military officer, expressing hope that the program might constitute the “first seeds” of a future deal with Israel’s neighbor.
EXXON’S LEGAL BATTLE WITH U.S. GOVERNMENT OVER RUSSIA DEALINGS
After receiving a $2 million fine for engaging with the Russian government despite sanctions, Exxon Mobil Corp announced Thursday a suit against the U.S. government for what it calls a “capricious” penalty. According to the U.S. government, Exxon, the world’s largest publicly-traded oil company, signed multiple agreements with the head of Russian state-owned oil producer Rosneft, which violated sanctions imposed against Russia as punishment for its actions in Ukraine. Exxon said in its counter suit that Igor Sechin, the head of Rosneft, “was subject to sanctions only in his individual capacity” and thus any deal with him as a representative of his company was lawful.
Complicating the law suit is the fact that the current U.S. secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, served as Exxon’s chief executive at the time of the deal’s signings. Tillerson agreed to recuse himself from any issues involving his former company for his first year in office and the State Department said that Tillerson was not consulted on the fine. Still, Tillerson’s ties to the Putin regime have long drawn suspicion, especially since he was awarded the Russian Order of Friendship, the nation’s highest honor for foreigners, in 2013 for his dealings with Rosneft.
DEADLOCK AFTER FIRST ROUND OF BREXIT TALKS
As the first round of Brexit negotiations ended Thursday, reports indicate that officials do not believe they will meet an October deadline for a deal. According to Politico Europe, the two sides remain deadlocked over how the two sides will deal with residents of each party living in the other’s territory, as well as the nature of a financial settlement between Brussels and London.
While the EU has offered a methodology for calculating a financial settlement between the two parties, Britain reportedly has not offered outlines of its own calculations, instead opting solely to critique Brussels’ methods. One source told Politico Europe that announcing such a method would be “politically impossible” for Prime Minister Theresa May’s government and thus he does not believe the issue will be resolved by October. Following tense negotiations, the report added that both sides seemed “testy and ill-at-ease” at a press conference Thursday, originally intended for both sides to announce the progress they had made this week.
SPANISH COURT ORDERS DALI’S BODY EXHUMED
A Catalonia court order led to the exhumation of late surrealist artist Salvador Dali’s body Thursday as part of an effort to settle a longstanding paternity dispute. Sixty-one-year-old Pilar Abel, who currently works as a tarot-card reader, claims Dali had an affair with her mother, a domestic helper at a home near Dali and his wife Gala’s home in Figueres, more than sixty years ago, leading to her birth. A victory in the suit would give Abel the right to subsequently claim one-fourth of Dali’s estate.
Joan Vehi, who worked for Dali as a carpenter, dismissed the efforts in interviews Thursday. “I’ve never heard of this woman, Dali never talked to me about her, and now suddenly all this fuss,” said Vehi. “This is self-publicity.”
After his death in 1989, Dali endowed his estate to the Spanish government, which buried the painter’s body at a Figueres’ theater and transformed the building into a museum honoring the late artist’s work. Investigators plan to determine whether they can harvest genetic information from the corpse, which they will then analyze alongside Abel’s at a laboratory in Madrid.