White House Director of Legislative Affairs Marc Short has refused the House Oversight Committee's request for documents regarding ousted National Security Adviser Michael Flynn. The House committee is investigating whether Flynn, who registered as a foreign agent after he was forced to resign from Trump's administration over his dealings with Russia, fully disclosed his work for foreign governments on his security clearance application.
In a letter, Short said some of the requested documents were in the custody of the Department of Defense, not the White House. In the case of other documents, Short wrote that the White House was "unable to accommodate" the requests. Short's response arrived as the committee convened Tuesday to review its first set of documents on Flynn, provided by the Pentagon.
Previous documents released by the White House at the beginning of April revealed Flynn had not disclosed income he'd received from three Russia-linked firms. Flynn's lobbying company has also been found to have worked for a firm linked to the Turkish government while Flynn was serving as a top adviser to Trump's presidential campaign.
Flynn is one of the major players from the Trump administration being looked at in FBI, House, and Senate investigations into the Trump team's ties to Russia's election meddling. Becca Stanek
U.S. imposes sanctions on 271 employees of Syrian Scientific Studies and Research Center after deadly chemical attack
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin announced at Monday's White House press briefing that the U.S. has issued new economic sanctions against Syria in response to the deadly chemical attack there earlier this month. The sanctions will be imposed on 271 individuals who work for the Syrian Scientific Studies and Research Center, the Syrian government agency that is believed to be responsible for developing chemical weapons.
Many of the individuals facing sanctions are "experts in chemistry and related fields" or people who have worked "in support of the center's 'chemical weapons program' since at least 2012, or both," Reuters reported. "We intend to hold the Assad regime accountable for its unacceptable behavior," Mnuchin said, noting the new sanctions send a "strong message."
The April 4 attack, which the Trump administration has blamed on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, killed nearly 100 people, including children. The U.S. responded days later with a missile strike. Becca Stanek
The State Department has named former Fox News Channel anchor Heather Nauert as its spokeswoman, filling a position that had been left vacant for nearly 100 days, The Associated Press reports. Mark Toner, the department's deputy spokesman under former President Barack Obama, had previously filled the role on an acting basis.
The State Department stopped its sporadic on-camera press briefings in late March, with officials saying Secretary of State Rex Tillerson would resume the briefings once the department hired a permanent spokesperson. It is unclear when Nauert, a Fox & Friends alumna, will restart briefings. The State Department has been criticized since President Trump took office for its inaccessibility. Jeva Lange
Early projections put centrist Emmanuel Macron and far-right nationalist Marine Le Pen in position to advance to the second round of voting in France's runoff presidential election. Per numbers from The Guardian, Macron has a slight lead with about 23.7 percent of the vote and Le Pen follows with about 22 percent.
The other two (of 11 total) candidates thought to have a shot at advancing, center-right François Fillon and far-left populist Jean-Luc Mélenchon, are each projected to take around 19.5 percent. The second vote is May 7. Bonnie Kristian
The Trump administration has denied ExxonMobil's request for a waiver from U.S. sanctions to work with Russia, The Wall Street Journal reports. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who formerly served as Exxon's CEO, recused himself from the deliberations; the announcement was made by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.
The Wall Street Journal noted earlier this week that it is not clear whether Exxon applied for the waiver before or after Tillerson was confirmed as President Trump's secretary of state. Tillerson struck a deal with Russian oil company Rosneft in 2012 to drill in Russia's portion of the Black Sea, but the agreement was hampered by sanctions slapped on Russia in 2014 in response to the annexation of Crimea. Exxon is reportedly worried that if it isn't proactive, it "could get boxed out of the Black Sea," which may hold billions of barrels of oil. Jeva Lange
More than 50 Afghans are believed to be dead or wounded after a Taliban-led attack Friday on an Afghan Army base in Afghanistan's Balkh Province, a U.S. military Central Command spokesman told Reuters. The Taliban fighters reportedly stormed the base brandishing firearms, and some were strapped with explosives.
The spokesman said the base's mosque and dining facility appeared to be the targets of the attack, which he called "significant." No American service personnel or U.S.-led coalition forces appeared to be injured.
With the 100-day deadline looming, the White House is reportedly looking for a win. Citing two sources "close to the health-care legislative process," CNN reported Wednesday that the White House is exploring whether it can accomplish the famed repeal-and-replace of ObamaCare before the administration's 100th day lapses on Saturday, April 29.
President Trump threw his support behind House Speaker Paul Ryan's American Health Care Act, which Republicans withdrew from the House floor last month after it failed to garner enough support to pass. A senior administration official told CNN that the problem is not TrumpCare, but intra-party scuffling. "I don't think it's having to re-write the bill," the official said. "It's just a total trust gap. As soon as we solve that, we can have a vote."
Both Trump and Vice President Mike Pence have expressed optimism about health-care reform this week, with Trump telling CNN on Tuesday that "the plan is getting better and better all the time" and Pence saying Wednesday that he was "very confident" that Congress would "come together" on health care. Congress has been on recess since April 10, but will return to session Monday.
"We'd all like to have it done by [the 100th day], but not sure that's feasible," an unnamed Republican source told CNN. "We need to manage expectations. We've learned a lesson on arbitrary deadlines." Kimberly Alters
ExxonMobil has reportedly asked for a waiver from U.S. sanctions to work in Russia, The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday. The request, made in "recent months," comes as the oil and gas corporation reportedly eyes resuming its joint venture with Russian state oil company, PAO Rosneft, to drill in the Black Sea.
The application was submitted to the Treasury Department, but the State Department — headed by former ExxonMobil executive Rex Tillerson — will also have a say in whether the oil company gets a waiver from U.S. sanctions on Russia. The Wall Street Journal noted it's not clear whether Exxon applied for the waiver before or after Tillerson was confirmed as President Trump's secretary of state; Tillerson has agreed to recuse himself from Exxon-related discussions for two years.
Tillerson struck a deal with Rosneft in 2012 to drill in Russia's portion of the Black Sea, but the agreement was hampered by sanctions slapped on Russia in 2014 in response to the annexation of Crimea. Though Exxon was previously granted a waiver in 2014 to wrap up its ongoing work there, The Wall Street Journal noted it's "unusual for a company to seek a waiver based purely on future business prospects." Exxon is reportedly worried that if it isn't proactive, it "could get boxed out of the Black Sea," which may hold billions of barrels of oil.
Exxon's request comes as Congress investigates Trump's potential ties to Russia's meddling in the U.S. presidential election. Becca Stanek