U.S. monitors reports of North Korean leader’s illness; South Korea, China doubtful

By Hyonhee Shin

SEOUL (Reuters) – South Korean and Chinese officials on Tuesday cast doubt on reports that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is ill after media outlets said he had undergone a cardiovascular procedure and was in “grave danger,” while U.S. officials said they were closely monitoring the situation.

Daily NK, a Seoul-based speciality website, reported late on Monday, citing one unnamed source in North Korea, that Kim was recovering after undergoing the procedure on April 12. The North Korean leader is believed to be about 36.

Two South Korean government officials rejected an earlier CNN report citing an unnamed U.S. official saying the United States was “monitoring intelligence” that Kim was in grave danger after surgery but they did not elaborate on whether Kim had undergone surgery. South Korea’s presidential Blue House said there were no unusual signs coming from North Korea.

Bloomberg News separately quoted an unnamed U.S. official as saying the White House was told that Kim had taken a turn for the worse after the surgery.

“We’re monitoring these reports very closely,” U.S. President Donald Trump’s national security adviser, Robert O’Brien, told Fox News in an interview on Tuesday.

Asked about how any political succession would work in North Korea, O’Brien said, “The basic assumption would be maybe it would be someone in the family. But, again, it’s too early to talk about that because we just don’t know what condition Chairman Kim is in and we’ll have to see how it plays out.”

Kim is a third-generation hereditary leader who rules reclusive, nuclear-armed North Korea with an iron fist, holding the titles of head of state and commander in chief of the military since late 2011.

In recent years Kim has launched a diplomatic offensive to promote himself and his country as a world leader, holding three meetings with Trump, four with South Korean President Moon Jae-in and five with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Trump has described Kim as a friend but the unprecedented engagement by a U.S. president with a North Korean leader has failed to slow Kim’s nuclear weapons program, which now poses a threat to the United States.

Kim is the unquestioned leader of North Korea and the sole commander of its nuclear arsenal. He has no clear successor and any instability in the country could present a major international risk.

North Korea’s official KCNA news agency gave no indication of the whereabouts of Kim in routine dispatches on Tuesday, but said he had sent birthday gifts to prominent citizens.

Speaking to Reuters, an official at the Chinese Communist Party’s International Liaison Department, which deals with North Korea, expressed the belief that Kim was not critically ill. China is North Korea’s only major ally.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said Beijing was aware of reports about Kim’s health, but said it does not know their source, without commenting on whether it has any information about the situation.

Daily NK said Kim had been hospitalized on April 12, just hours before the cardiovascular procedure, as his health had deteriorated since August due to heavy smoking, obesity and overwork. It said he was now receiving treatment at a villa in the Mount Myohyang resort north of the capital Pyongyang.

“My understanding is that he had been struggling (with cardiovascular problems) since last August but it worsened after repeated visits to Mount Paektu,” a source was quoted as saying, referring to the country’s sacred mountain.

Kim took two well-publicised rides on a stallion on the snowy slopes of the mountain in October and December.

Speculation about Kim’s health first arose due to his absence from the anniversary of the birthday of its founding father and Kim’s grandfather, Kim Il Sung, on April 15.

KIM’S HEALTH KEY TO STABILITY

Authoritative U.S. sources familiar with internal U.S. government reporting on North Korea questioned the CNN report that Kim was in “grave danger”.

“Any credible direct reporting having to do with Kim would be highly compartmented intelligence and unlikely to leak to the media,” a Korea specialist working for the U.S. government said on condition of anonymity.

Reporting from inside North Korea is notoriously difficult, especially on matters concerning the country’s leadership, given tight controls on information. There have been false and conflicting reports in the past on matters related to its leaders.

Kim’s potential health issues could fuel uncertainty over the future of North Korea’s dynastic rule and stalled denuclearisation talks with the United States.

With no details known about his young children, analysts said his sister and loyalists could form a regency until a successor is old enough to take over.

Kim was the first North Korean leader to cross the border into South Korea to meet Moon in 2018. Both Koreas are technically still at war, as the Korean War of 1950-1953 ended in an armistice, not a peace treaty.

Kim has sought to have international sanctions against his country eased, but has refused to dismantle his nuclear weapons programme.

(Reporting by Hyonhee Shin and Mark Hosenball in Washington; Additional reporting by Josh Smith and Sangmi Cha in Seoul and Lisa Lambert, Susan Heavey, Steve Holland and David Brunnstrom in Washington; Writing by Raju Gopalakrishnan; Editing by Jack Kim, Michael Perry, Paul Simao and Will Dunham)

Gatherings banned, travel restricted as coronavirus cases grow worldwide

By Steve Holland and Julia Harte

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Leaders in Europe, the Middle East and the Americas rolled out bans on big gatherings and stricter travel restrictions as cases of the new coronavirus spread around the world.

The United States on Saturday reported its first death from the disease, a man in his 50s in Washington state, where officials said two of the state’s three cases have links to a nursing home with dozens of residents showing disease symptoms.

Although most Americans face a low risk from the virus, more U.S. deaths could be imminent following the nation’s first, CNN quoted Vice President Mike Pence as saying.

“We know there will be more cases,” Pence told CNN’s Jake Tapper in a clip released on Saturday, echoing President Donald Trump’s earlier comments that additional cases in America were “likely.”

Travelers from Italy and South Korea would face additional screening, Trump and top officials told a White House news briefing, warning Americans against traveling to coronavirus-affected regions in both countries.

Pence said an entry ban on travelers from Iran would be expanded to include any foreign nationals who have visited Iran in the last 14 days.

The United States may also restrict travel on its southern border with Mexico, officials said. However, they encouraged Americans to travel around the country, including states that have recorded some of its more than 60 cases.

The outbreak is disrupting flight demand and many airlines have suspended or modified services in response. After Saturday’s press conference, the White House held a call with airlines to discuss new travel restrictions.

American Airlines Inc said late on Saturday it was suspending all U.S. flights to Milan.

NEW CASES

Ecuador on Saturday reported its first case, in a woman who had traveled from Madrid, while Mexico reported four cases, all in people who had visited Italy.

Brazilian officials confirmed that country’s second case, a patient in São Paulo who recently visited Italy.

As governments worldwide stepped up efforts to halt the spread of the virus, France announced a temporary ban on public gatherings with more than 5,000 people in confined spaces. It reported 16 new cases for a total of 73, and canceled a half-marathon of 40,000 runners scheduled for Sunday.

Switzerland said it is banning events expected to draw more than 1,000 people.

More than 700 tourists remain quarantined at a hotel in the Canary Islands, after several Italian guests there tested positive for coronavirus.

Schools and universities in Italy, which is experiencing Europe’s worst outbreak of the disease, will stay closed for a second consecutive week in three northern regions. The country has reported more than 1,100 cases and 29 deaths.

Analysts have warned that the outbreak looks set to shunt Italy’s fragile economy into its fourth recession in 12 years, with many businesses in the wealthy north close to a standstill and hotels reporting a wave of cancellations.

FOCUS ON IRAN

Iraq reported five new cases of the disease, bringing its total to 13, and Qatar reported its first Saturday, leaving Saudi Arabia as the only Gulf state not to have signaled any coronavirus cases.

The majority of infections in other Gulf countries have been linked to visits to Iran or involve people who have come into contact with people who had been there.

Armenia reported its first infection on Sunday, in a citizen returning from neighboring Iran.

Tehran has ordered schools shut until Tuesday and extended the closure of universities and a ban on concerts and sports events for a week. Authorities have also banned visits to hospitals and nursing homes as the country’s case load hit nearly 600.

One Iranian lawmaker, elected in Feb. 21 polls, has died from the disease along with more than 40 other Iranians, and several high-ranking officials have tested positive for the virus.

Azerbaijan said on Saturday it had closed its border with Iran for two weeks to prevent the spread of coronavirus. Two Azerbaijanis who traveled to Iran have tested positive for the disease and quarantined.

Mainland China reported 573 new confirmed coronavirus cases on Feb. 29, up from 427 the previous day, national health officials said on Sunday in China. The number of deaths stood at 35, down from 47 the previous day, taking the toll in mainland China to 2,870.

A man wearing a face mask is seen at a checkpoint for registration with a body temperature measurement tool in his hand near a residential compound, as the country is hit by a novel coronavirus outbreak in Beijing, China March 1, 2020. REUTERS/Stringer

The epidemic, which began in China, has killed almost 3,000 people worldwide, the ministry said.

Thailand reported its first death from the virus on Sunday, while in Australia, a former passenger on the Diamond Princess cruise ship quarantined off Japan died in the western city of Perth.

Churches closed in South Korea as many held online services instead, with authorities looking to rein in public gatherings, as 376 new infections took the tally to 3,526 cases.

(Reporting by Steve Holland and Julia Harte; Additional reporting by Reuters reporters worldwide; Writing by Heather Timmons; Editing by Daniel Wallis and Clarence Fernandez)

Texas shooting suspect’s mother alerted police about his gun ownership: CNN

A group of people hold candles during a vigil at a memorial four days after a mass shooting at a Walmart store in El Paso, Texas, U.S. August 7, 2019. REUTERS/Callaghan O'Hare

(Reuters) – The Dallas-area mother of the young man arrested in the mass shooting that killed 22 people in El Paso, Texas, had called police weeks earlier expressing concern about his fitness to own an assault-style rifle, CNN said on Wednesday.

The mother contacted the Allen Police Department because she worried whether her son, aged 21, was mature or experienced enough in handling such a weapon to have purchased an “AK”-type firearm, CNN said, citing lawyers for the suspect’s family.

CNN quoted the lawyers, Chris Ayres and R. Jack Ayres, as saying the mother’s call was “informational” in nature rather than motivated by concern that her son posed a threat to anyone.

“This was not a volatile, explosive, erratic-behaving kid,” Chris Ayres told the network. “It’s not like alarm bells were going off.”

CNN said it was not known whether the gun the mother inquired about was the same weapon police said was used in Saturday’s attack. Authorities have said they are investigating the attack as a hate crime and an act of domestic terrorism.

Police say the suspect, Patrick Crusius, a white male from the Dallas suburb of Allen, drove some 650 miles (1,046 km) to the west Texas border city of El Paso before opening fire at a Walmart store there.

Most of the 22 people killed were Hispanic, including eight Mexican citizens. At least two dozen people were injured. The suspect, who surrendered to police, has been charged with capital murder.

A racist, anti-immigrant manifesto believed by authorities to have been written by the suspect was posted online shortly before the attack, which the author called a “response to the Hispanic invasion of Texas.”

During his mother’s query to Allen police weeks earlier, according to her attorneys, she was transferred to a public safety officer who told her that based on her description of her son, he was legally allowed to buy the weapon in question, CNN said.

The mother, the lawyers told the network, did not give police her son’s name, and police did not seek any additional information from her before the call ended.

Attempts by Reuters to reach the attorneys cited in CNN’s story on Wednesday night were unsuccessful. Allen police were also not immediately available to discuss the report.

A statement posted by Allen police on Twitter this week, in response to media inquiries about the suspect’s prior encounters with law enforcement, listed just three relatively minor contacts in department records.

The most recent, in March, was a false burglar alarm reported by the suspect at his grandparents’ home, a call police said “was cleared without incident according to protocol.”

In 2016, the suspect was a passenger on a school bus involved in a minor accident investigated by police, and in 2014, he was reported as a juvenile runaway, but returned home without incident about 30 minutes later, police said.

Police told CNN those three incidents represent “the entirety of our dealings with Mr. Crusius, in any capacity, be it suspect, witness, reporting party, or in any other manner.”

CNN quoted an unnamed source familiar with the family as describing Crusius as undecided about his life, having considered transferring from a community college to a four-year university, enlisting in the military and seeking a full-time job.

“He was trying to figure out what to do next,” the source said. “When did the wheels come off? We don’t know.”

(Reporting by Steve Gorman in Los Angeles; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)

Time Warner building in N.Y. evacuated due to suspicious package: police

Members of the public and media are pictured outside the Time Warner Center in the Manahattan borough of New York City after a suspicious package was found inside the CNN Headquarters in New York, U.S., October 24, 2018. REUTERS/Kevin Coombs

By Jonathan Allen

NEW YORK (Reuters) – The Time Warner Building in New York City was evacuated on Wednesday morning after a suspicious package that had been mailed was found in the CNN mail room, New York police and CNN said.

The New York Police Department’s bomb squad “believes they have this under control” and that the package appears to be an explosive device, CNN reported.

A member of the New York Police Department with a dog is pictured outside the Time Warner Center in the Manahattan borough of New York City after a suspicious package was found inside the CNN Headquarters in New York, U.S., October 24, 2018. REUTERS/Kevin Coombs

A member of the New York Police Department with a dog is pictured outside the Time Warner Center in the Manahattan borough of New York City after a suspicious package was found inside the CNN Headquarters in New York, U.S., October 24, 2018. REUTERS/Kevin Coombs

The package contained a device that looked like a pipe, similar to those found at other locations, including the homes of former President Barack Obama and Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.

There were wires in the package found at the CNN mail room, the network reported.

Two new anchors were on air shortly after 10 a.m. when a fire alarm was audible to viewers, and the network went on a commercial break. After the commercials, reporters from the CNN bureau in New York were seen on air outside on the street.

The NYPD said the package to CNN was reported to police at 9:53 a.m. local time on Wednesday.

(Reporting by Jonathan Allen in New York; Additional reporting by Bernie Woodall in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)

North Korea tells U.S. denuclearization talks may fall apart

FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Donald Trump addresses members of his cabinet and the news media as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo looks on during a cabinet meeting at the White House in Washington, U.S., August 16, 2018. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

WASHINGTON/SEOUL (Reuters) – North Korean officials have warned in a letter to the United States that denuclearization talks were “again at stake and may fall apart”, CNN reported on Tuesday, citing people familiar with the matter.

The letter was delivered directly to U.S Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and stated that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s government felt that the process could not move forward.

“The U.S. is still not ready to meet (North Korean) expectations in terms of taking a step forward to sign a peace treaty,” CNN reported, citing sources.

The 1950-1953 Korean War ended in an armistice rather than a peace treaty, leaving U.S.-led U.N. forces technically still at war with North Korea.

FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un leave after signing documents that acknowledge the progress of the talks and pledge to keep momentum going, after their summit at the Capella Hotel on Sentosa island in Singapore June 12, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst/File Photo

FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un leave after signing documents that acknowledge the progress of the talks and pledge to keep momentum going, after their summit at the Capella Hotel on Sentosa island in Singapore June 12, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst/File Photo

The North has long made clear that it sees an official end to the state of war as crucial to lowering tensions on the Korean peninsula.

The United States has been reluctant to declare an end to the Korean War until after North Korea abandons its nuclear weapons program.

The Washington Post reported on Monday that U.S. President Donald Trump called off a visit to North Korea by Pompeo after the latter received a belligerent letter from a senior North Korean official just hours after the trip was announced last week.

CNN reported that the letter was sent by the former head of North Korea’s spy agency, Kim Yong Chol, but it was not known how it was sent. The Washington Post said North Korea had been increasingly communicating through its U.N. mission.

CNN reported that the letter also mentioned that if a compromise could not be reached and the nascent talks crumble, North Korea could resume “nuclear and missile activities”.

‘PLOT’

On Sunday, North Korea’s state media accused the United States of “double-dealing” and “hatching a criminal plot” but did not mention Pompeo’s canceled visit.

The Washington Post said the exact contents of the message were unclear, but it was sufficiently belligerent that Trump and Pompeo decided to call off the planned trip.

The trip had been announced the previous day for this week and Pompeo had intended to introduce a newly named special envoy, Stephen Biegun, to his North Korean counterparts.

The White House referred queries on the Washington Post report to the State Department, which did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

In canceling Pompeo’s trip, Trump publicly acknowledged for the first time that his effort to get North Korea to denuclearize had stalled since his June 12 summit with Kim in Singapore.

U.S. intelligence and defense officials have repeatedly expressed doubts about North Korea’s willingness to give up its nuclear weapons and they had not expected Pompeo’s trip to yield positive results.

A South Korea presidential spokesman said he was not in a position to comment on the authenticity of the letter but acknowledged that talks between Washington and Pyongyang were in a stalemate.

“With North Korea and the U.S. remaining stalemated, there is an even bigger need for an inter-Korea summit,” Kim Eui-kyeom, a spokesman for the presidential Blue House told a briefing.

South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in said this month his planned third summit with North Korea’s Kim next month would be another step towards the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula and an end to the Korean War.

(Reporting by Mekhla Raina in BENGALURU, David Brunnstrom and Matt Spetalnick in WASHINGTON, Cynthia Kim in SEOUL; Editing by Peter Cooney, Robert Birsel)

Super Bowl security document found on commercial flight

Policemen talk as a Super Bowl promotional banner showing Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Nick Foles and New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady hangs in an atrium at the Mall of America in Minneapolis, Minnesota, U.S. January 29, 2018

By Alex Dobuzinskis

(Reuters) – A U.S. government document outlining plans for responding to a possible biological attack at Sunday’s Super Bowl in Minneapolis was left on a commercial jetliner, CNN reported on Monday, saying one of its employees found the paper in a seat pocket.

Multiple copies of the document, marked “for official use only” and “important for national security,” were found during a flight before the Super Bowl was played.

CNN said on its website it had delayed reporting about its discovery until after the game, at the request of federal officials. It did not say when the document turned up or if the flight in question was going to or coming from Minneapolis. CNN said it could not determine who left the documents on the airplane.

The errant document offered a critique of how officials performed during a simulated release of the infectious disease anthrax in Minneapolis on the day of the Super Bowl. Other sensitive material was also found, CNN said, without further description.

Officials conducted such exercises in July and November, as part of the Department of Homeland Security’s BioWatch program, according to CNN.

One of the biggest sporting events of the year, the National Football League’s championship Super Bowl is high on the list of potential targets for an attack, security experts have previously said.

The Department of Homeland Security often conducts exercises with state and local governments to guard against national security threats, Tyler Houlton, acting press secretary of the department, said in a statement in response to a Reuters inquiry about the CNN report.

“It is important that operators regularly exercise their capabilities against a wide range of scenarios in order to effectively counter the changing threat environment,” Houlton said.

Houlton declined to confirm whether any sensitive documents related to the Super Bowl were misplaced.

The game went off without a hitch, with the Philadelphia Eagles beating the New England Patriots, 41-33, at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis.

The security plan included bomb-sniffing dogs, a massive police presence, helicopters and a chain-link and concrete fence surrounding the stadium, officials said at a news conference ahead of the game on Wednesday.

In preparation for the game, authorities conducted more than 200 security assessments of critical infrastructure in the Minneapolis area, in addition to training for everything from active shooters to bombings.

(Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis in Los Angeles; Editing by Frank McGurty and Lisa Shumaker)

Russia to amend law to classify U.S. media ‘foreign agents’

Journalists watch Russia's President Vladimir Putin on a big screen during his annual news conference in Moscow, December 20, 2012.

By Polina Nikolskaya and Andrew Osborn

MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russia’s parliament warned on Friday some U.S. and other foreign media could be declared “foreign agents” and obliged to regularly declare full details of their funding, finances and staffing.

Vyacheslav Volodin, the speaker of the State Duma, said parliament could back legislation as early as next week in response to what lawmakers view as U.S. pressure on Russian media.

“Possible restrictions will be the same as those taken by the United States,” Interfax news agency quoted him as saying.

He said some U.S. media in Russia were trying to turn U.S. public opinion against Moscow.

“We understand that it’s essential to protect the interests of our citizens and the country and we will do this in the same way as the country which lays claim to be the gold standard and mentor and which is constantly talking about freedom.”

Russian lawmakers said the move was retaliation for a demand by the U.S. Department of Justice that Kremlin-backed TV station RT register in the United States as a “foreign agent”, something Moscow has said it regards as an unfriendly act.

The U.S. action against RT came after U.S. intelligence agencies accused Russia of trying to interfere in last year’s U.S. presidential election to help President Donald Trump win the White House, something Moscow has denied.

 

RUSSIAN ELECTION

Russia faces a presidential election next March. Vladimir Putin is widely expected to stand again and to win. He remains broadly popular though critics accuse him of suppressing dissent not least by tight control of domestic media.

Lawmakers will conduct a first reading of the new restrictions on Nov. 15 and try to complete approval in two further readings by the end of next week.

U.S. and any other foreign media that fall under the new restrictions could have to regularly disclose to Russian authorities full details of their funding, finances and staffing and might be obliged to say on their social media profiles and internet sites visible in Russia that they are “foreign agents”.

The Duma earlier this year launched an investigation into whether CNN, Voice of America, Radio Liberty and “other American media” were complying with Russian law.

U.S. government-sponsored Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) said last month Moscow had threatened to brand their Russian language service projects “foreign agents” in retaliation for U.S. pressure on RT.

Russia said the same month it had dropped accusations against CNN International of violating Russian media law and that the U.S. channel could continue broadcasting in Russia.

 

San Francisco-based social network Twitter has also angered Russian authorities when it accused RT and the Sputnik news outlet of interfering in the 2016 U.S. election and banned them from buying ads on its network.

 

(Writing by Andrew Osborn; Editing by Ralph Boulton)

 

First charges filed in U.S. special counsel’s Russia investigation: source

First charges filed in U.S. special counsel's Russia investigation: source

By Mark Hosenball

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A federal grand jury on Friday approved the first charges in the investigation into alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, a source briefed on the matter told Reuters.

The indictment was sealed under orders from a federal judge so it was not clear what the charges were or who the target was, the source said, adding that it could be unsealed as early as Monday.

The filing of charges by the grand jury in Washington was first reported on Friday by CNN, which said the target could be taken into custody as soon as Monday.

U.S. intelligence agencies concluded in January that Russia interfered in the election to try to help President Donald Trump defeat Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton through a campaign of hacking and releasing embarrassing emails, and disseminating propaganda via social media to discredit her campaign.

Special counsel Robert Mueller, a former director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, is investigating whether Trump campaign officials colluded with those Russian efforts.

“If the Special Counsel finds it necessary and appropriate, the Special Counsel is authorized to prosecute federal crimes arising from the investigation of these matters,” Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein said in a May 17 letter appointing Mueller.

Sources familiar with Mueller’s investigation said he has used that broad authority to investigate links between Trump aides and foreign governments as well as possible money laundering, tax evasion and other financial crimes.

Peter Carr, a spokesman for Mueller, declined to comment on Friday.

Trump, a Republican who was elected president last November, has denied allegations that his campaign colluded with Russians and condemned investigations into the matter as “a witch hunt”.

The Kremlin has denied the allegations.

Mueller’s investigation also includes an effort to determine whether Trump or any of his aides tried to obstruct justice.

The special counsel’s team has conducted interviews with former White House chief of staff Reince Priebus, former spokesman Sean Spicer and other current and former White House officials.

In July, FBI agents raided the home in Virginia of Trump’s former campaign manager, Paul Manafort, whose financial and real estate dealings and prior work for a pro-Russian political party in Ukraine are being investigated by Mueller’s team.

Mueller was appointed to lead the investigation a week after Trump fired FBI Director James Comey, who was heading a federal probe into possible collusion with Russia.

Trump initially said he fired Comey because his leadership of the FBI was inadequate and hurt morale, but in a later interview with NBC he cited “this Russia thing” as his reason.

SHADOW

The Russia investigation has cast a shadow over Trump’s nine-month-old presidency and widened the partisan rift between Republicans and Democrats.

Republican lawmakers earlier this week launched investigations to examine several of Trump’s longstanding political grievances, including the FBI probe of Hillary Clinton’s emails and her alleged role in a sale of U.S. uranium to a Russian firm.

Mueller’s team has also investigated Michael Flynn, who was an adviser to Trump’s campaign and later briefly served as his national security adviser.

Flynn was fired from that post in February after misleading Vice President Mike Pence about the extent of his conversations with Russian ambassador Sergei Kislyak last year.

While he was on Trump’s campaign team, Flynn also had a $600,000 contract from a Turkish businessman to help discredit U.S.-based Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen, accused by Turkey’s government of instigating a failed coup in July 2016.

Former CIA director James Woolsey, who was also an adviser to the Trump campaign, has alleged that Flynn discussed with the businessman and two Turkish government ministers the idea of covertly spiriting Gulen out of the United States to face charges in Turkey.

Jonathan Franks, a spokesman for Woolsey, said on Friday that Woolsey and his wife have been in communication with the FBI and Mueller’s team about the claim.

Woolsey and his wife, Nancye Miller, “have responded to every request, whether from the FBI, or, more recently, the Office of the Special Counsel,” Franks said in a statement.

Flynn has previously denied through a spokesperson that such a plan was ever discussed.

Reuters reported on Thursday that Woolsey and his wife last year pitched a $10 million project to the same Turkish businessman who had agreed a smaller contract with Flynn. They did not win a contract.

Bidding for a lobbying or consulting contract with a foreign company or government is not illegal but Flynn came under scrutiny because he waited until March to retroactively register with the Justice Department as a foreign agent for the work he did on the Gulen project.

(Additional reporting by Nathan Layne, Mohammad Zargham and Eric Beech; Editing by Kieran Murray and Nick Macfie)

Trump Jr. to testify in Senate, Manafort lawyer subpoenaed: CNN

FILE PHOTO: Donald Trump Jr. speaks at the 2016 Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio U.S. July 19, 2016. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni/File photo

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Donald Trump’s oldest son, Donald Trump Jr., has agreed to testify privately to the Senate Judiciary Committee as it looks into allegations of Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election, CNN reported on Tuesday, weeks after he was invited to testify in public at a hearing in July.

Spokesmen and spokeswomen for the committee’s leaders did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the report.

CNN also reported that Special Counsel Robert Mueller had issued subpoenas to Melissa Laurenza, an attorney with the Akin Gump law firm, who formerly represented Trump’s former campaign manager, Paul Manafort, and to Jason Maloni, a Manafort spokesman.

CNN said Maloni and a spokesman for Mueller declined comment and that Laurenza referred questions to a spokesman who did not immediately comment.

Russia has loomed large over the first six months of the Trump presidency. U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded that Russia worked to tilt last year’s presidential election in Trump’s favor. Mueller, who was appointed special counsel in May, is leading the investigation, which also examines potential collusion by the Trump campaign with Russia.

Several congressional committees are also looking into the matter.

Moscow denies any meddling. Trump denies any collusion by his campaign, while regularly denouncing the investigations as political witch hunts.

(Reporting by Patricia Zengerle; editing by Grant McCool)

Three CNN journalists resign after Russia-related article retracted

(Reuters) – Time Warner’s news division CNN has accepted the resignations of three journalists after the publication of a Russia-related article that was later retracted, a CNN spokesperson said on Monday.

The three journalists included Thomas Frank, the writer of the story; Eric Lichtblau, an editor in CNN’s investigative unit; and Lex Haris, who oversaw the unit, the network had earlier reported. [http://cnnmon.ie/2td7Ufy]

The Russia-related story, published on Thursday, reported Congress was investigating the ties of a Russian investment fund to an aide of U.S. President Donald Trump.

CNN had reported an internal investigation by its management found that certain editorial processes were not followed when the article was published.

The report said CNN had deleted the story from its website on Friday night after its investigation.

The story was replaced with an editor’s note of apology to Anthony Scaramucci, the Trump aide who was reported to be investigated in the story. [http://cnn.it/2rVWDgm]

Trump has been critical of CNN, calling the news outlet “fake news” and refusing to take a CNN reporter’s questions at his first formal news conference earlier in the year after his Nov. 8 electoral win.

(Reporting by Kanishka Singh in Bengaluru; Editing by Bill Trott)