This clarifies things. A military spokesperson said Friday that the process of withdrawing some 2,000 American soldiers from Syria — as announced in a @realDonaldTrump tweet last month — is now underway. The sudden policy shift alarmed both U.S. officials, causing Defense Secretary Jim Mattis to quit Jan. 1, and allies. And that was recently thrown into doubt by Michael Bolton, Trump’s national security adviser, saying safeguarding Kurdish and Israeli allies could slow the pullout. Now even Republican legislators are expressing concern about the Kurds, whom Turkey plans to pursue militarily.
The Presidential Daily Brief
During a visit to the U.S.-Mexico border yesterday, President Donald Trump claimed he has “the absolute right to declare a national emergency” if House Democrats refuse to fund his border wall to end the three-week partial government shutdown. Back in Washington, White House officials were reportedly considering diverting $13.9 billion in federal aid from disaster-hit Puerto Rico, Florida, Texas and California for the project. Meanwhile, Trump claimed he “never meant” Mexico would directly pay for the wall — even though the pledge was a key part of his campaign platform.
They’re driving this one home. Japanese prosecutors have leveled a new indictment against the former Nissan chairman, who’s already been charged with underreporting his pay by around $44 million over a five-year period that ended in early 2015. Now authorities say the 64-year-old continued the illicit practice through March 2018. As Ghosn’s lawyers push for his release on bail, prospects for the disgraced executive — once one of the auto world’s most powerful — don’t look good: Japan boasts a 99 percent conviction rate for criminal indictments.
Two Reuters reporters jailed for violating the country’s Official Secrets Act will remain in prison after a court found they’d presented insufficient evidence to prove their innocence. Wa Lone, 32, and Kyaw Soe Oo, 28, are serving seven-year sentences for what critics claim are fabricated charges in retaliation for their reporting on Myanmar’s alleged ethnic cleansing of Rohingya Muslims. Human rights groups say the case represents the country’s broader crackdown on civic freedoms, while Reuters Editor-in-Chief Stephen J. Adler called their prosecution “yet another injustice among many.”
President Trump’s former personal attorney will appear before the House Oversight and Reform Committee Feb. 7 in the first major move by Democrats to scrutinize the president’s dealings with Russia. Cohen said he welcomed giving “a full and credible account” as part of his commitment to “provide the American people with answers.” Earlier, he admitted in court to paying hush money over alleged affairs at Trump’s behest. Cohen will begin serving three years in prison on March 6 for lying to Congress, violating campaign finance laws and committing financial crimes.
Know This: A 13-year-old Wisconsin teen has been found alive after being missing for nearly three months following the murder of her parents. Chinese Vice Premier Liu He will reportedly head to Washington later this month to talk trade with his U.S. counterparts. And Germany and Sweden have been hit by heavy snowstorms that have closed schools and blocked roads and railways.
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Looks like trouble’s brewing. Those new spring ales by craft breweries will likely be delayed as the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau — responsible for approving bottle labels — remains closed due to the partial government shutdown. As the 3,000 weekly applications pile up, the Brewers Association estimates that half of American craft beermakers will have at least one new brew delayed. Since there’s no end in sight to the woes in Washington, patrons may have to pull a draft to taste the season’s latest drink.
Following a Motherboard investigation this week that revealed how wireless customers’ phone locations were sold to bounty hunters, Sprint, T-Mobile and AT&T have all pledged to completely end the practice. The announcement came shortly after U.S. lawmakers, spurred by the report, called on the Federal Communications Commission to look into the alleged breach of privacy. But it’s the second time in the past year that the companies have made such a pledge — sparking Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden to tweet that they appeared to be “empty promises.”
In a shake-up of the American in vitro fertilization industry, more women are choosing single-embryo therapy rather than the riskier — though long-favored — multiple-embryo treatment. Technological improvements, including greater success in implanting blastocysts, has decreased the risk of failure for the single-embryo procedure. In 2015, more than a third of aspiring moms under 35 opted for that approach, up from only 5 percent in 2007. Experts say the shift could be a transformative one for millions of Americans who rely on fertility treatments.
Maho Yamaguchi, a member of J-pop girl group NGT48, apologized onstage Thursday for “causing trouble for those who have taken care of me.” The 23-year-old was referring to her recent comments about an incident last month when she was grabbed and pinned down outside her apartment by two men, allegedly after another group member leaked her address. Yamaguchi said she reported the incident to NGT48’s managers, but went online when they did nothing. The men told police they “only wanted to talk” to the singer and haven’t been charged.
Is the ball still in his court? In a tearful address today, the three-time Grand Slam winner said this year’s Australian Open could be the final tournament of his career. The 31-year-old is struggling to recover from hip surgery last January that forced him to miss nearly six months of play. While Murray said he plans to retire after Wimbledon in July, the pain could force him to bow out sooner. He said, “I don’t want to continue playing that way.” Murray will face Roberto Bautista Agut in Melbourne on Monday.