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Trump issues new, revised order to counter terrorism

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WASHINGTON: A day before the anniversary of 9/11, President Donald Trump on Tuesday issued an executive order to expand the administration’s ability to go after suspected terrorists and their financiers and supporters.
“Today’s executive order by President Trump adds further muscle to US counterterrorism efforts,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said during a briefing to reporters at the White House.
He said Trump’s action amends an earlier executive order that former President George W. Bush initially signed after 9/11 by adding clauses to let the State and Treasury departments directly target leaders of suspected terror groups and their affiliates “without having to tie terrorist leaders to specific acts.”
Pompeo said the order also more effectively targets individuals and groups participating in terrorist training and provides new authorities to impose sanctions on foreign financial institutions that knowingly do business with suspected terrorists.
Eric Lorber, a former Treasury Department senior adviser, said the new order is a “significant change.”
“While most financial institutions would not have done business with designated terrorists even before this new authority, this action makes clear that the US Treasury is willing to take serious steps to punish those financial institutions that do,” Lorber said.
Using the new order, Treasury on Tuesday imposed sanctions on more than two dozen individuals and entities from 11 terrorist groups, including the Quds Force, the foreign wing of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, Hamas, the Islamic State, al-Qaida and their affiliates.
The State Department put an al-Qaida-affiliated group in Syria on a list of specially designated global terrorists and designated a dozen suspected leaders of Hezbollah’s Jihad Council, Hamas, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, IS affiliates in West Africa and the Philippines, and the Tehrik-e Taliban in Pakistan.



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What is the best way forward for China-U.S relations?

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More U.S. products have a chance to be exempted from China’s countermeasure tariffs a week after the phase one trade deal took effect. However, the lingering tough U.S. policies on China are not doing either side a favor, which presents a big challenge for the National Committee on U.S.-China Relations.

CGTN’s Tian Wei has interviewed Stephen Orlins, president of the National Committee on U.S.-China Relations, to discuss the best way forward.
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Department of Defense Communications Hub Reports Likely Data Breach – NBC Chicago

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The branch of the U.S. military that oversees information technology and communications has suffered a potential breach of service members’ personal information, the branch said in letters sent to victims this month.

The letters, dated Feb. 11, told recipients that last May and June, “some of your personal information, including your Social Security number, may have been compromised in a data breach on a system hosted by the Defense Information Systems Agency,” NBC News reported.

The Department of Defense confirmed the authenticity of the letters, but declined to share information on what system was potentially breached or how many service members were potentially affected.

“While there is no evidence to suggest that any of the potentially compromised PII was misused, DISA policy requires the agency to notify individuals whose personal data may have been compromised,” DOD spokesperson Chuck Prichard said in a statement to NBC.

Read the full story on NBCNews.com.





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Trump ally Roger Stone gets 40 months prison amid meddling firestorm

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WASHINGTON: Donald Trump’s longtime ally Roger Stone was sentenced Thursday to 40 months in prison for impeding a congressional investigation, in a case that ignited a firestorm over the US president’s political interference in the justice system.
Stone, a veteran Republican operative and one of Trump’s oldest confidants, was convicted in November of lying to Congress, tampering with a witness and obstructing the House investigation into whether the Trump campaign conspired with Russia to cheat in the 2016 election.
“The truth still exists,” said US District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson as she handed down the sentence.
“The truth, still matters. Roger Stone’s insistence that it doesn’t, his belligerence, his pride in his own lies are a threat to our most fundamental institutions, to the very foundation of our democracy.”
Stone was not immediately sent to prison as Jackson said implementation of the sentence would be delayed while she considered his request for a new trial.
Trump sparked a scandal by decrying a “miscarriage of justice” after prosecutors he smeared as corrupt recommended a prison sentence of seven to nine years, in accordance with federal sentencing guidelines.
The president has also taken to Twitter to attack the jurors in the case and Jackson, who last year jailed former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort for unlawful lobbying and witness tampering.
Attorney General Bill Barr, who has been blasted for being too close to Trump, personally intervened to have the “extreme and excessive” recommendation withdrawn, prompting all four prosecutors to quit the case.
Trump took to Twitter to praise Barr for getting involved in the “totally out of control” process after a new prosecutor suggested a more lenient sentence of three to four years.
Stone is the sixth aide of Trump — who was impeached last year for abusing his power but acquitted by the Senate — to be convicted of charges arising from special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into Russian election interference.
Barr said the president’s comments had had no impact on his the decision, but has found himself vilified by Democrats who accuse him and the president of undermining the rule of law.
In addition, more than 2,000 former Justice Department officials have signed a statement calling for Barr to resign.
“A person should not be given special treatment in a criminal prosecution because they are a close political ally of the president,” the open letter said.
In a rare public rebuke, Barr — one of Trump’s most staunch defenders — said the president’s Twitter pronouncements in ongoing cases were making his job “impossible.”
“I think it’s time to stop the tweeting about Department of Justice criminal cases,” Barr said in an interview with ABC News.
Multiple US media outlets have also reported that Barr has informed the president’s inner circle that he might resign if the tweets continue.
His public attempt to distance himself from the president was met with skepticism however by critics who accuse Barr of having repeatedly acting more like the Trump’s personal lawyer than a public servant.
Despite his attorney general’s warning, Trump continued this week to be vocal in his support for Stone, who appeared in court in a striped suit and a polka-dot tie.
The self-avowed “dirty trickster” was convicted of lying in testimony to Congress about acting as an intermediary between the Trump campaign and WikiLeaks, which released documents hacked by Russia that embarrassed rival Hillary Clinton during the 2016 White House race.
The seven-count indictment also accused Stone of threatening an associate to stop him from cooperating with investigators.
Stone accused jury members of being biased against him and appealed to overturn their verdict.
Jackson had previously forbidden Stone from posting on social media about his trial, after he shared a picture of her on Instagram with what appeared to be the crosshairs of a gun sight.
“He was not convicted and is not being sentenced for exercising his first amendment rights, his support of the president’s campaign or his policies,” the judge said.
“He was not prosecuted, as some have complained, for standing up for the president.”
Stone, known for his flashy fashion sense, could potentially receive a presidential pardon.
“President Trump could end this travesty in an instant with a pardon, and there are indications tonight that he will do that,” news anchor Tucker Carlson said Tuesday in a Fox News segment shared by Trump on Twitter.
The president has already commuted the sentence of nearly a dozen people this week including former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich, who was jailed for corruption, and a New York police chief imprisoned for tax fraud.
The flurry of clemency actions — 11 in total — raised expectations that Trump is considering wielding his power in more controversial cases involving close former associates, including Stone.





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