NEW YORK — France’s Foreign Minister suggested today that the international community must respond “with force” if it’s proven that hundreds of deaths in Syria on Wednesday were caused by chemical weapons. In a television interview on Thursday, Laurent Fabius did not specify what action might be taken or who should do it. (France, NATO, the U.S. or some combination?) He also specifically ruled out sending ground forces into Syria. However, his statement reflects a growing concern that Bashar al-Assad’s regime may have finally gone too far for the rest of the international community to ignore the problem any longer.
His statement came after an emergency Security Council meeting at the United Nations resulted in predictably toothless response. The group did not even officially order a full investigation into the attack and allegations of chemical weapon use, but merely asked for “clarity” and expressed “strong concern.” No resolutions or new sanctions were proposed. Any formal action taken by the Security Council is likely to be blocked by Russia, which remains Assad’s most steadfast ally.
The lack of action also drew outrage from Turkey, which shares a border with Syria and has been vocally opposed to Assad from the beginning. The tepid response from the U.N. is even more disappointing given that one of their chemical weapons investigation teams is already in Syria, and staying at a hotel just minutes from the attack site, but has not been permitted to investigate. There are even reports that Assad’s forces have been bombing the same area with conventional weapons, perhaps to cover evidence.
Israeli intelligence has also declared that the evidence of a chemical attack is credible, and that the Assad government is responsible. Rebel opposition groups says as many as 1,300 people were killed in the attack.
Reprinted with permission from the Atlantic Wire. The original story can be found here.
What We're Following See More »
As the Russia investigation heats up, "the role of Marc E. Kasowitz, the president’s longtime New York lawyer, will be significantly reduced. Mr. Trump liked Mr. Kasowitz’s blunt, aggressive style, but he was not a natural fit in the delicate, politically charged criminal investigation. The veteran Washington defense lawyer John Dowd will take the lead in representing Mr. Trump for the Russia inquiry."
President Trump's attorneys are "actively compiling a list of Mueller’s alleged potential conflicts of interest, which they say could serve as a way to stymie his work." They plan to argued that Mueller is going outside the scope of his investigation, in inquiring into Trump's finances. They're also playing small ball, highlighting "donations to Democrats by some of" Mueller's team, and "an allegation that Mueller and Trump National Golf Club in Northern Virginia had a dispute over membership fees when Mueller resigned as a member in 2011." Trump is said to be incensed that Mueller may see his tax returns, and has been asking about his power to pardon his family members.
In addition to ties between Russia and the Trump campaign, Robert Mueller's team is also "examining a broad range of transactions involving Trump’s businesses as well as those of his associates, according to a person familiar with the probe. FBI investigators and others are looking at Russian purchases of apartments in Trump buildings, Trump’s involvement in a controversial SoHo development in New York with Russian associates, the 2013 Miss Universe pageant in Moscow, and Trump’s sale of a Florida mansion to a Russian oligarch in 2008, the person said. The investigation also has absorbed a money-laundering probe begun by federal prosecutors in New York into Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort."
Special Counsel Robert Mueller's team is "is examining a broad range of transactions involving Trump’s businesses as well as those of his associates", including "Russian purchases of apartments in Trump buildings, Trump’s involvement in a controversial SoHo development with Russian associates, the 2013 Miss Universe pageant in Moscow and Trump’s sale of a Florida mansion to a Russian oligarch in 2008."
"A Senate bill to gut Obamacare would increase the number of uninsured people by 32 million and double premiums on Obamacare's exchanges by 2026, according to an analysis from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. The analysis is of a bill that passed Congress in 2015 that would repeal Obamacare's taxes and some of the mandates. Republicans intend to leave Obamacare in place for two years while a replacement is crafted and implemented."