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By Adam Edelman

President Donald Trump on Friday denied that his administration had paid any money as part of a deal to get North Korea to return Otto Warmbier, whom the regime had detained.

“No money was paid to North Korea for Otto Warmbier, not two Million Dollars, not anything else,” Trump tweeted.

The tweet came in response to a Washington Post report on Thursday that North Korea had issued a $2 million bill to the U.S. for the medical care of Warmbier, who was returned to the U.S. in an unconscious state.

The regime, The Post reported, demanded that a U.S. official sign a pledge to pay the bill before Warmbier was allowed to be returned to the U.S.

State Department official Joseph Yun, who had traveled to North Korea in 2017 to help retrieve Warmbier, was instructed to sign the agreement by Trump and did so, The Post said. The bill was sent to the U.S. Treasury Department and remained unpaid throughout 2017. The Post said it was not clear whether the bill was later paid.

Responding to questions from NBC News about the report, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said Thursday, “We do not comment on hostage negotiations, which is why they have been so successful during this administration.”

Warmbier, 22, was arrested for taking a propaganda banner from a hotel while on a visit to Pyongyang in January 2016. The University of Virginia student from Ohio was later sentenced to 15 years of hard labor.

The North Korean government released him in June 2017, and when he returned to U.S. soil, doctors found him to be in a state of unresponsive wakefulness. He died days later; the exact cause of death is still not known.

His parents, Fred and Cindy Warmbier, were told he had been in a coma since shortly after being sentenced.

In February, Trump was slammed by politicians on both sides of the aisle after he absolved North Korean Kim Jong Un of blame in the death of Warmbier. Following a summit with Kim, Trump said at a press conference in Hanoi, Vietnam, that it “just wasn’t to (Kim’s) advantage to let that happen.” He added: “He tells me that he didn’t know about it, and I will take him at his word.”

The president later tweeted that his comments had been misinterpreted and said, “Of course I hold North Korea responsible.”



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Brexit Party BOOST: Why Farage’s party is 'TROUNCING' the Tories and dominating the polls

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THE EUROPEAN ELECTIONS take place in the UK on Thursday and if the polls are anything to go by, it looks as though Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party will gain the most seats. But why is the Brexit Party so popular? EXCLUSIVE.

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Democrats still haven’t figured out how to fight Trump

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By Chuck Todd, Mark Murray and Carrie Dann

WASHINGTON — As House Speaker Nancy Pelosi tries to prevent her Democratic colleagues from rushing to impeachment proceedings, it’s worth asking again:

Five months into their majority, what do House Democrats have to show for it?

Not an infrastructure deal (the subject of today’s meeting with President Trump, which is unlikely to go anywhere, especially after Trump told Pelosi and Chuck Schumer that Congress should pass his U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade deal first).

Not any progress on health care, which was Democrats’ No. 1 priority in last year’s elections.

Not HR-1 — the campaign-finance and ethics bill that they passed in March, but which isn’t going anywhere in the Senate.

And the summer and fall is expected to be spent dealing with thorny issues like budget caps and raising the debt limit.

So Pelosi and House Democrats have to ask themselves: What does success look like heading in 2020 – beyond the presidential race, which is shaping up to be a 50-50 proposition?

And what’s the plan for 2019?

Is it triumphing over Trump in the courts?

Is it finding damaging information that could hurt Trump next year – a la how House Republicans Benghazi-ed Hillary Clinton in 2015?

Because one reason why House Democrats are growing restless – and increasingly talking about impeachment — is that they have little to show for their majority.

At least right now.

Biden or a Biden-slayer?

Unless your name is Joe Biden, no Democrat looks all that great in the early 2020 polling.

And, yes, it’s still really early.

But that early Biden strength is a potentially rewarding situation for the rest of the Dem field: Beating a strong Biden makes you a stronger candidate.

It would be akin to Barack Obama’s victory over Hillary Clinton in 2008 — remember, she was far from a lightweight in that race.

In fact, Obama’s win over Clinton ultimately proved to be more difficult than his general-election triumph over John McCain.

So it sets up a potentially virtuous situation for Democrats: They could end up with Biden as their nominee, or they could end up with the man or woman who ultimately beats him.

Of course, that assumes Biden remains formidable and healthy over the next year. And it also assumes the Dem nomination doesn’t devolve into chaos (contested convention, mass protests, a party that’s unable to come together).

Because anything is possible in American politics…

Kentucky governor: It’s going to be Bevin versus Beshear

State Attorney General Andy Beshear won the Democratic gubernatorial nomination in Kentucky last night, and he’ll face incumbent Republican Gov. Matt Bevin in the fall.

Beshear got 38 percent of the vote, while state House Minority Leader got 32 percent and former state Auditor Adam Edelen finished third at 28 percent. (It’s a reminder that going negative – like Edelen did – can have consequences with voters.)

Strikingly, Bevin won just 52 percent in his own GOP primary, with state Rep. Robert Goforth taking 39 percent of the vote.

And as we’ve said before, November’s election could be a canary in the coal mine for 2020.

A relatively unpopular Republican incumbent. A relatively strong economy. And a state with a considerable urban-versus-rural divide.

Tweet of the day

2020 Vision: Breaking down Beto’s town hall

NBC’s Garrett Haake reports on the highlights of Beto O’Rourke’s CNN town hall appearance last night.

  1. On impeachment, O’Rourke said it is time to begin, damn the political consequences.
  2. On abortion, he said any federal judge he nominates must understand that Roe v. Wade is settled law.
  3. And he defended two positions that sometimes don’t sit well with progressives — his support for Medicare For America versus Bernie Sanders’ Medicare for All, and his past vote to lift a ban on oil exports.

On the campaign trail today

Pete Buttigieg visits New York, including participating in a 92nd St. Y event with Jonathan Capehart… And John Delaney stumps in Iowa.

Data Download: The number of the day is … 71 percent and 38 percent

Seventy-one percent and 38 percent.

That’s the share of American voters who say that the state of the economy is good or excellent (71 percent, the highest percentage in almost 18 years) and the share who say that they approve of the job Donald Trump is doing as president (38 percent, a typical but decidedly poor number for the commander-in-chief), according to a new Quinnipiac poll.

It’s a striking difference between the record high economic optimism and a presidential approval rating mired in the high 30s.

Asked specifically about Trump’s economic performance, 48 percent of voters say they approve, while 45 percent disapprove.

Still, 54 percent said they “definitely” would not vote for him in 2020.

The Lid: Pelosi and the Giant Impeach: Don’t miss the pod from yesterday, when we look at the numbers behind the impeachment debate.

ICYMI: New clips you shouldn’t miss

The Washington Post reports that a confidential draft IRS memo says the White House must turn over the president’s tax returns to Congress UNLESS he invokes executive privilege.

Today’s the day for Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam’s medical school to release the findings of its investigation into a racist yearbook photo.

HUD Secretary Ben Carson misheard real estate term “REO” as cookie “OREO.”

Former Ohio State University students don’t think that Jim Jordan has been exonerated in the school’s molestation cover-up scandal.

Trump agenda: Riders on the (tweet)storm

Here’s Trump’s impeachment tweetstorm from this morning.

Trump is hiring Ken Cuccinelli for a senior DHS job. Here’s why that matters.

How exactly does the Trump administration plan to pay for its huge infrastructure plan?

2020: About last night

Here’s the Courier-Journal’s look ahead at the general election in KY-GOV.

And here are the results from that special election in Pennsylvania, where Republican Fred Keller easily won in a heavily red district.

North Korea is taking aim at Joe Biden.

NBC’s Benjy Sarlin asks: Do Democrats have TOO MANY new ideas?

Elizabeth Warren’s plans are built around a huge tax on the wealthy. But will the rich avoid it?

Bernie Sanders is exploring new ways to raise cash.

Meanwhile, Biden raised $2.2 million from two Florida fundraisers.

Kirsten Gillibrand is out with a new “Family Bill of Rights.”



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Brexit Party polls latest: Policies and manifesto – What does Brexit Party stand for?

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THE BREXIT PARTY is tipped to score a major victory against the Conservatives and Labour in the European Elections 2019 – but what does the party stand for and how is it faring in the latest polls?

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