The Associated Press reported Friday that drugmaker Fresenius Kabi USA forbade Arkansas from purchasing its products for use in capital punishment. Fresenius has identified itself as the possible source of Arkansas' supply of potassium chloride, one of three drugs the state is using in its eight executions scheduled this month.
Months after Fresenius asked the state not to use its drugs for lethal injections, AP reports a state corrections official accepted a "donation" of the drug "by driving to an undisclosed location to meet an unnamed seller" who made no record of the sale.
Arkansas had planned four double executions in 11 days before its supply of another drug expired April 30. The first inmate was executed Thursday, after the Supreme Court reversed a judge's order blocking the state's use of another lethal injection drug, vecuronium bromide. The state was previously prohibited from using the drug after the distributor claimed the state had misled it by indicating the drug would be used for "medically approved purposes," AP reports.
Four of the eight inmates scheduled for execution have received court reprieves. Becca Stanek
A Russian think tank linked to Russian President Vladimir Putin created a "road map" for how to tip the U.S. presidential election in Donald Trump's favor, Reuters reported Wednesday, citing seven current and former U.S. officials. Two confidential strategy documents were reportedly created by the think tank and "circulated at the highest levels of the Russian government."
The first, distributed in June, reportedly recommended the Kremlin "launch a propaganda campaign" nudging American voters toward a candidate who would be sympathetic to Russia. The plan was "a broadening" of Putin administration efforts that were already underway, Reuters reported.
The second document, drafted in October, apparently predicted Hillary Clinton would win the election and suggested forgoing efforts to boost Trump in favor of pushing voter fraud claims to undermine Clinton's power once she assumed office.
U.S. intelligence agencies declined to comment to Reuters on the documents, and the agents who spoke to Reuters did not reveal how the U.S. obtained them. The officials told Reuters the documents were "central to the Obama administration's conclusion that Russia mounted a 'fake news' campaign and launched cyber attacks against Democratic Party groups and Clinton's campaign." Read more on the story at Reuters. Becca Stanek
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said he was frank with Russian President Vladimir Putin about the unsatisfactory state of U.S.-Russia relations at their meeting Wednesday during Tillerson's Moscow visit. While speaking at a joint press conference alongside Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, Tillerson said he'd told Putin relations "are at a low point" and there is presently a "low level of trust between our two countries." "The world's two foremost nuclear powers cannot have this relationship," Tillerson said.
Sec. of State Tillerson: “The world’s two foremost nuclear powers cannot have this kind of relationship” https://t.co/GMQWhvM3Ic
— NBC Politics (@NBCPolitics) April 12, 2017
Tensions between the U.S. and Russia recently reached a new high after President Trump decided last week to strike Syria in retaliation for a chemical attack believed to be carried out by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. The White House has accused Russia of attempting to cover up Assad's use of chemical weapons. Lavrov on Wednesday demanded an investigation by the United Nations into the chemical attack.
Tillerson's assessment of the relationship between the U.S. and Russia echoed comments made by Putin earlier Wednesday. "One could say that the level of trust on a working level, especially on the military level, has not improved but has rather deteriorated," Putin said during an interview aired on Russian television.
Tillerson said he and Putin have agreed to establish a "working group" to improve relations. Becca Stanek
Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley (R) will reportedly resign Monday amid allegations he abused his powers by using state resources to cover up an affair with one of his top advisers, Rebekah Mason. Bentley will reportedly announce his departure at a Cabinet meeting, following the Alabama Republican Party's calls for his resignation. Lt. Gov. Kay Ivey is set to be sworn in as Alabama's next governor Monday evening.
Though Bentley has apologized for his actions, he has maintained that he did not break the law. The Alabama Ethics Commission concluded last week that Bentley may have broken ethics and campaign laws, offenses punishable by up to 20 years in prison.
Impeachment hearings officially began Monday. Becca Stanek
President Trump is reportedly considering taking military action in Syria, after a chemical attack in the Idlib province Tuesday killed at least 70 people and injured dozens more. The White House has blamed Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime for the attack, which was perpetrated by the banned nerve agent sarin, though the Syrian government has denied responsibility.
CNN reported that Trump has not yet officially decided whether to move forward with the Pentagon's "long-standing options to strike Syria's chemical weapons capability," but he has reportedly floated the possibility to some members of Congress. He also plans to discuss the matter with Defense Secretary James Mattis, whose judgment will likely prove instrumental in Trump's decision-making.
House Ethics Committee to investigate whether Nunes made 'unauthorized disclosures of classified information'
The House Ethics Committee announced Thursday that it is investigating House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), who until recently was heading up the House investigation on Russia's election interference. The Ethics Committee said it will look into allegations that Nunes violated House rules and law by making "unauthorized disclosures of classified information."
The allegations stem from a press conference Nunes held last month announcing Trump team communications may have been inadvertently swept up in routine surveillance by U.S. intelligence officials. Nunes' announcement came shortly after he met with sources on White House grounds, raising questions about possible collusion with the White House.
Earlier Thursday, Nunes announced that he would temporarily step aside from the investigation due to the allegations, which he attributed to "leftwing activist groups." Though Nunes fervently denied the allegations, he said he believed it's "in the best interests" of the committee for him to temporarily hand over the reins to his Republican colleagues.
The Ethics Committee stressed in a statement that it was investigating the allegations "to fulfill its institutional obligation," and noted "the mere fact that it is investigating these allegations ... does not itself indicate that any violation occurred." Becca Stanek
Malaysia to release the body of Kim Jong Nam back to North Korea after 'very sensitive' negotiations
After "very sensitive" negotiations, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said Thursday that Malaysia has agreed to release the body of Kim Jong Nam, the assassinated half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, to North Korea. Kim died in February after a woman sprayed him in the face with the banned, lethal VX nerve agent at Malaysia's Kuala Lumpur airport. In exchange for Kim's body, North Korea has agreed to release the nine Malaysian citizens who had been blocked from leaving the country.
Kim's assassination last month, which The Associated Press noted is "widely suspected" to be the work of North Korea, has ratcheted up tensions between North Korea and Malaysia. After the incident at the airport, Malaysia demanded North Korea hand over suspects who were believed to be "hiding in North Korea's embassy in Malaysia," BBC reported. North Korea denied its involvement in the assassination, and called for Malaysia to release Kim's body.
The standoff prompted both countries to remove their ambassadors. After North Korea prevented nine Malaysians from leaving the country, Malaysia responded by barring North Korean citizens from leaving Malaysian soil.
President Trump declared Friday that the real reason the GOP plan to repeal and replace ObamaCare failed was because there were "no votes from the Democrats." "I think the losers are [House Minority Leader] Nancy Pelosi and [Senate Minority Leader] Chuck Schumer, because now they own ObamaCare. They own it, 100 percent own it," Trump said, shortly after the planned vote on the American Health Care Act was called off by House Republican leadership. Trump said he was "a little surprised" by the House Freedom Caucus' refusal to support the GOP-backed bill, but insisted they were still his "friends."
Though Trump claimed "a lot of people don't realize how good" the GOP's health-care proposal was, he maintained that Republican leaders' decision Friday to pull the vote was "perhaps the best thing that could happen." "The best thing politically speaking is to let ObamaCare explode," Trump said, predicting Democrats will eventually "come to us."
Watch Trump's remarks below. Becca Stanek
— Bloomberg (@business) March 24, 2017