Factbox: New revelations from the Mueller report

(Reuters) – There are several aspects of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russia’s role in the 2016 U.S. election campaign that were not previously known until the release of his report on Thursday.

TRUMP’S REACTION TO APPOINTMENT OF SPECIAL COUNSEL

U.S. President Donald Trump believed the appointment of a special counsel to take over an active federal investigation would spell the end of his presidency, according to Mueller’s report.

When then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions told Trump of Mueller’s appointment on May 17, 2017, the report said, Trump slumped back in his chair and said: “Oh my God. This is terrible. This is the end of my presidency. I’m fucked.”

Trump asked Sessions, whom he had berated for months for recusing himself from the investigation of Russian interference in the election: “How could you let this happen, Jeff?” and told Sessions he had let him down.

Trump told Sessions he should resign, and Sessions agreed to do so. When Sessions delivered his resignation letter to Trump the following day, Trump put the letter in his pocket but said he wanted Sessions to stay on the job.

That alarmed chief of staff Reince Priebus and senior advisor Steve Bannon, who worried Trump would use the letter to control the Department of Justice, and they tried to return it to Sessions.

Trump took the letter with him on a trip to the Middle East, where he showed it to several senior advisers and asked them what he should do about it. On May 30, he finally returned the letter to Sessions with a note saying: “Not accepted.”

THE PRESIDENTIAL INTERVIEW THAT WASN’T

Mueller tried for more than a year to interview Trump, but in the end, Trump refused. Trump provided written answers on some Russia-related topics but did not agree to answer questions about possible obstruction of justice or events that took place during the presidential transition.

Mueller said he thought he had the legal authority to order Trump to testify before a grand jury, but he decided not to take that course because of the “substantial delay that such an investigative step would likely produce at a late stage in our investigation.”

TRUMP’S EFFORTS TO FIRE MUELLER

Trump tried to get Mueller fired in June 2017, shortly after he was appointed, according to the 448-page report. Trump called then-White House counsel Don McGahn twice and directed him to order Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to fire Mueller on the grounds that he had conflicts of interest.

McGahn felt “trapped,” but did not carry out the order, deciding that he would rather resign, Mueller said.

Other White House advisers later talked McGahn out of resigning, and Trump did not follow up to ask whether McGahn had fulfilled his directive.

Trump pressured McGahn to deny that these events took place when they surfaced in news accounts in January 2018, but McGahn refused, according to Mueller’s report, some of which was blacked out to protect some sensitive information.

TRUMP’S EFFORTS TO LIMIT THE INVESTIGATION

Trump also enlisted his former campaign manager, Corey Lewandowksi, to try to narrow the investigation’s scope. The report said Trump asked Lewandowski in June 2017 to tell Sessions that he should publicly announce that the Russia probe was “very unfair” to the president, say Trump had done nothing wrong, and limit Mueller’s probe into interference in future elections, not the one that had put him in the White House.

A month later, Trump asked Lewandowski about the status of his request and Lewandowski assured Trump he would deliver the message soon. Trump then publicly criticized Sessions in a New York Times interview and a series of Twitter messages.

Mueller says Lewandowski did not want to deliver the message to Sessions, so he asked senior White House official Rick Dearborn to speak to him. Dearborn also did not want to carry out the task. Ultimately, the message never reached Sessions.

MANAFORT’S EFFORTS TO MONETIZE THE CAMPAIGN

Mueller found that campaign chairman Paul Manafort’s efforts to work with his former business partners in Ukraine were greater than previously known, as he tried to use his insider status on the campaign to collect on debts owed for his past work by Oleg Deripaska, an oligarch who is close to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Shortly after he joined the campaign in the spring of 2016, Manafort directed his deputy Rick Gates to share internal polling data and other campaign materials with Konstantin Kilimnik, a former Ukrainian business partner, with the understanding that it would get passed on to Deripaska, the report said.

During an August 2016 meeting in New York, Manafort told Kilimnik about the campaign’s efforts to win the battleground states of Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Minnesota, the report said. Trump ended up winning three of those states in the November election.

Manafort worked with his Ukrainian allies until the spring of 2018, after he had been indicted by Mueller, to promote a peace plan that would have split the country in two. These efforts did not constitute coordination between the campaign and Russian efforts to disrupt the election, Mueller found.

Manafort urged Gates not to plead guilty after they were both indicted by Mueller, apparently believing that they would be pardoned by the president if they did not cooperate with investigators. Trump’s numerous sympathetic statements before and during Manafort’s criminal trial could be interpreted as an effort to sway the outcome, but they also could be interpreted as a sign that he genuinely felt sorry for Manafort, Mueller said.

PLAN FOR U.S.-RUSSIA RECONCILIATION

Relations between Washington and Moscow had deteriorated under two previous administrations and the United States had imposed sanctions on Russia. Following Trump’s election victory, Russian financier Kirill Dmitriev worked on a proposal to improve ties with Rick Gerson, a hedge fund manager who is friends with Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner. Dmitriev runs Russia’s sovereign wealth fund and reports directly to Putin.

Gerson gave the plan to Kushner before Trump was sworn in, Mueller’s report said, and Kushner gave copies to Bannon and then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

After Trump took office in January 2017, Dmitriev told Gerson that his “boss” – an apparent reference to Putin – wanted to know if there was a reaction to the proposal, which called for cooperation on terrorism, weapons of mass destruction, and economic matters. When Putin and Trump spoke by phone, Dmitriev told Gerson that their plan had “played an important role.”

Gerson told Mueller’s team that he acted as an intermediary between Trump and Russia on his own initiative, not at the request of Trump’s aides.

(Compiled by Andy Sullivan; editing by Grant McCool)

Barr defends Trump before release of special counsel’s Russia report

By Sarah N. Lynch

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Attorney General William Barr on Thursday offered a spirited defense of President Donald Trump ahead of the release of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report on Russia’s role in the 2016 U.S. election, but revealed that it detailed 10 episodes of potential obstruction of justice by the president.

Barr, the top U.S. law enforcement official and a Trump appointee, gave a news conference at the Justice Department as he sought to shape the narrative on a watershed day in Trump’s tumultuous presidency.

Barr is one of a handful of people to have seen the report before its release later on Thursday. He emphasized that Mueller did not conclude there was collusion between Trump’s campaign and Moscow.

The attorney general previously said Mueller had not exonerated Trump on the question of whether the president had committed the crime of obstruction of justice by trying to impede the Russia inquiry.

At the news conference, Barr said the report details “ten episodes” involving Trump and “discusses potential legal theories for connecting these actions to elements of an obstruction offense.” Barr said he concluded Trump had not committed obstruction of justice.

Barr said he and Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who appointed Mueller as special counsel in May 2017, “disagreed with some of the special counsel’s legal theories and felt that some of the episodes examined did not amount to obstruction as a matter of law.”

“Apart from whether the acts were obstructive, this evidence of non-corrupt motives weighs heavily against any allegation that the president had a corrupt intent to obstruct the investigation,” Barr said.

The prospect of the Democratic-led House of Representatives beginning an impeachment process to remove Trump from office receded with the release of Mueller’s initial findings last month.

Some House Democrats had spoken of launching impeachment proceedings against Trump in Congress but top Democrats have been notably cautious. Any such effort would be unlikely to be successful because Trump fellow Republicans controls the Senate, which would decide the president’s fate.

The report’s disclosure, with portions expected to be blacked out by Barr to protect some sensitive information, is certain to launch a new political fight in Congress and on the 2020 presidential campaign trail, as Trump seeks re-election in a deeply divided country.

BARR DEFENDS TRUMP

“President Trump faced an unprecedented situation. As he entered into office and sought to perform his responsibilities as president, federal agents and prosecutors were scrutinizing his conduct before and after taking office and the conduct of some of his associates,” Barr said.

“At the same time, there was relentless speculation in the news media about the president’s personal culpability. Yet, as he said from the beginning, there was in fact no collusion,” added Barr.

Moments after Barr concluded his news conference, Trump posted an image of himself on Twitter surrounded by fog with the words: “No collusion. No obstruction. For the haters and the radical left Democrats – GAME OVER.”

Barr said Trump’s personal lawyers “were given the opportunity to read a final version of the redacted report before it was publicly released,” a revelation certain to infuriate congressional Democrats.

“The Russian government sought to interfere in our election process but thanks to the special counsel’s thorough investigation, we now know that the Russian operatives who perpetrated these schemes did not have the cooperation of President Trump or the Trump campaign,” Barr said.

The report promises to provide new details about some of the biggest questions in the investigation, including the extent and nature of his campaign’s interactions with Russia and actions Trump may have taken to hinder the inquiry including his 2017 firing of FBI Director James Comey.

Mueller submitted the report to Barr on March 22. Two days later, Barr told lawmakers the inquiry did not establish that Trump’s 2016 campaign team engaged in a criminal conspiracy with Russia and that Mueller had not reached a formal conclusion on obstruction of justice.

U.S. Attorney General William Barr, flanked by Edward O'Callaghan, Acting Principal Associate Deputy Attorney General (L) and Deputy U.S. Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, speaks at a news conference to discuss Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report on Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential race, in Washington, U.S., April 18, 2019. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

U.S. Attorney General William Barr, flanked by Edward O’Callaghan, Acting Principal Associate Deputy Attorney General (L) and Deputy U.S. Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, speaks at a news conference to discuss Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report on Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential race, in Washington, U.S., April 18, 2019. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

Barr seemed to offer cover for Trump’s actions by saying the report acknowledges that “there is substantial evidence to show that the president was frustrated and angered by a sincere belief that the investigation was undermining his presidency, propelled by his political opponents, and fueled by illegal leaks.”

Justice Department regulations give Barr broad authority to decide how much of the report to make public.

“That’s the bottom line. After nearly two years of investigations, thousands of subpoenas, hundreds of warrants and witness interviews, the special counsel confirmed that the Russian government-sponsored efforts to illegally interfere in the 2016 presidential election but did not find that the Trump campaign or other Americans colluded in those efforts,” Barr said.

The release of the report may deepen an already bitter partisan rift between Trump’s fellow Republicans, most of whom have rallied around the president, and his Democratic critics, who will have to decide how hard to go after Trump as they prepare congressional investigations of his administration.

Wall Street took Barr’s comments in stride, with the S&P 500 holding slight gains during the news conference then slipping into negative territory after it ended.

Democrats were furious that Barr held a news conference on the report before it was provided to Congress.

Copies of the report will be delivered to Congress between 11 a.m. and noon (1500-1600 GMT), a senior Justice Department official said. The delay in seeing the report sparked Democratic complaints that Barr wanted to shape the public’s views during his news conference before others had a chance to draw their own conclusions.

Barr said “significant portions” of the report could have been kept secret because of a legal doctrine called executive privilege that lets the president withhold information about executive branch deliberations from other branches of government, but were not redacted.

(Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch; Additional reporting by David Morgan, Doina Chiacu, Andy Sullivan, Jan Wolfe, Nathan Layne, Karen Freifeld and Makini Brice; Writing by John Whitesides and Will Dunham, Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Alistair Bell)

U.N. Security Council considers demanding Libya ceasefire

FILE PHOTO: Libya's eastern-based commander Khalifa Haftar attends General Security conference, in Benghazi, Libya, October 14, 2017. REUTERS/Esam Omran Al-Fetori/File Photo

By Michelle Nichols

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) – The U.N. Security Council is considering a British-drafted resolution that would demand a ceasefire in Libya and call on all countries with influence over the warring parties to ensure compliance.

Diplomats from the 15-member council are due to meet later on Tuesday to discuss the text that also calls for unconditional humanitarian aid access in Libya, which has been gripped by anarchy and conflict since Muammar Gaddafi was toppled in 2011.

The latest flare-up began almost two weeks ago – during a visit to the country by U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres – when eastern Libyan commander Khalifa Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA) advanced to the outskirts of the capital Tripoli.

Haftar’s forces predicted victory within days, but Prime Minister Fayez al-Serraj’s internationally-recognized government has managed to bog them down in southern suburbs with help from armed groups from various western Libyan factions.

The Security Council informally expressed concern on April 5, calling on all forces to de-escalate and halt military activity and specifically calling out the LNA.

However, in the following days the council was unable to issue a more formal statement, diplomats said, as Russia objected to a reference to the LNA, while the United States said it could not agree a text that did not mention Haftar’s forces.

The draft U.N. Security Council resolution, seen by Reuters, expresses “grave concern at military activity in Libya near Tripoli, which began following the launching of a military offensive by the LNA … and threatens the stability of Libya.”

It also demands that all parties in Libya immediately de-escalate the situation, commit to a ceasefire, and engage with the United Nations to end hostilities.

Diplomats said the draft text could be put to a vote as early as this week. A resolution needs nine votes in favor and no vetoes by the United States, Britain, France, Russia or China to pass.

Haftar enjoys the backing of Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, who view him as an anchor to restore stability and combat Islamist militants, while western powers support Serraj.

The draft U.N. text “calls upon all member states to use their influence to ensure compliance with this resolution.”

(Reporting by Michelle Nichols; Editing by Alistair Bell)

Russia signs agreement to free captive whales after outcry

A view shows a facility, where nearly 100 whales including orcas and beluga whales are held in cages, during a visit of scientists representing explorer and founder of the Ocean Futures Society Jean-Michel Cousteau in a bay near the Sea of Japan port of Nakhodka in Primorsky Region, Russia April 7, 2019. Press Service of Administration of Primorsky Krai/Alexander Safronov/Handout via REUTERS

By Andrew Osborn

MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russia on Monday signed an agreement with a group of international scientists to free nearly 100 whales that have been held for months in cramped pens in Russia’s Far East, a scandal that has triggered a wave of criticism.

Images of the 10 orcas and 87 beluga whales, kept in enclosures in a bay near the Sea of Japan port of Nakhodka, first appeared after they were caught last summer by firms which planned to sell them to marine parks or aquariums in China.

A view shows a facility, nicknamed a "whale prison", where nearly 100 whales including orcas and beluga whales are held in cages, during a visit of scientists representing explorer and founder of the Ocean Futures Society Jean-Michel Cousteau in a bay near the Sea of Japan port of Nakhodka in Primorsky Region, Russia April 7, 2019. Press Service of Administration of Primorsky Krai/Alexander Safronov/Handout via REUTERS

A view shows a facility, nicknamed a “whale prison”, where nearly 100 whales including orcas and beluga whales are held in cages, during a visit of scientists representing explorer and founder of the Ocean Futures Society Jean-Michel Cousteau in a bay near the Sea of Japan port of Nakhodka in Primorsky Region, Russia April 7, 2019. Press Service of Administration of Primorsky Krai/Alexander Safronov/Handout via REUTERS

Their plight angered animal rights groups and spurred a petition to release the whales, shared by actor Leonardo DiCaprio on social media, which gathered almost 1.5 million signatures online. Actress Pamela Anderson also posted an open letter to Russian President Putin on her website.

The Kremlin intervened and ordered local authorities to act, prompting Russia’s FSB security service to bring charges against four companies for breaking fishing laws.

But although the Kremlin agreed that the whales were held in cruel conditions, it said it was difficult to release them into the wild without harming them.

On Monday, however, international scientists, including Jean-Michel Cousteau, son of French marine expert Jacques Cousteau, signed a joint agreement with Russian scientists, backed by the local authorities, to free the mammals.

Their release is likely to be phased.

“A decision in principle has been taken to release all the animals into the wild,” Oleg Kozhemyako, the governor of Primorsky Region, told reporters after the signing ceremony.

“Scientists from Cousteau’s team and Russian scientists will decide when and which animals to release.”

A special rehabilitation facility for whales would be set up under the agreement, with conditions as close as possible to their natural environment. Any whales in the Sea of Japan that were hurt or got into trouble could be treated there, said Kozhemyako.

Cousteau told reporters it was a very emotional moment for him and the scientists would do all they could to save the animals.

“I know it’s a lot of work, but I have no doubt that we are going to succeed,” said Cousteau.

The scientists promised they would devise a plan to release the whales, some of which were captured as long ago as July, by next month.

The Kremlin has said Russia has no direct ban on catching whales, but they can only legally be caught in specific circumstances, for scientific and educational purposes.

(Editing by Christian Lowe and Giles Elgood)

Pompeo urges NATO allies to adapt to new threats from Russia, China

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (3rd L) speaks at the meeting of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Foreign Ministers at the State Department in Washington, U.S., April 4, 2019. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

By Lesley Wroughton and David Brunnstrom

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Thursday called on NATO allies to adapt to confront a wide variety of emerging threats, including Russia’s increased aggression, Chinese strategic competition and uncontrolled migration.

Pompeo made the call at the start of a meeting of North Atlantic Treaty Organization foreign ministers in Washington marking the 70th anniversary of the transatlantic military alliance.

“We must adapt our alliance to confront emerging threats … whether that’s Russian aggression, uncontrolled migration, cyber attacks, threats to energy security, Chinese strategic competition, including technology and 5G, and many other issues,” Pompeo said.

In a 2018 strategy document, the U.S. military put countering China and Russia at the heart of a new national defense strategy.

The meeting’s first session focused on ways to deter Russia, including in the Black Sea where it seized three Ukrainian naval vessels last year.

NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg called on Moscow to release the ships and their crews.

He said Russia’s breach of the 1987 Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty was part of a “pattern of destabilizing behavior.”

Washington has said it will withdraw from the treaty this summer unless Moscow ends its alleged violations of the pact, which rid Europe of land-based nuclear missiles.

“We will not mirror what Russia is doing,” said Stoltenberg. “We will be measured and coordinated, and we have no intention of deploying ground-launched nuclear missiles in Europe.”

In his remarks, Pompeo said NATO should also confront increased cyber warfare, including from China.

Washington has warned it will not partner with countries that adopt China’s Huawei Technologies systems but has been at odds on the issue with the European Union, which has shunned U.S. calls to ban the company across the bloc. The bulk of NATO members are EU countries.

Huawei is under scrutiny from Western intelligence agencies for its perceived ties to China’s government and the possibility its equipment could be used for espionage. Huawei has repeatedly denied engaging in intelligence work for any government.

The United States has also been at odds with European countries over the failure of many of them to meet NATO defense spending guidelines of 2% of GDP.

Stoltenberg told reporters that NATO allies should commit to increased defense spending to improve burden-sharing in NATO.

“All NATO allies made a pledge to invest more in defense to improve burden sharing in our alliance, and I expect all allies, including Germany, of course, to make good on the pledge we made together,” the NATO secretary general said.

U.S. President Donald Trump has called on NATO countries to pay even more than 2% of their gross domestic product for defense. He told NATO leaders last year to increase defense spending to 4% of GDP. He said the United States pays 4.3% of its GDP to NATO.

Trump has singled out Germany for not doing enough.

Stoltenberg said Germany was now making progress, but all allies needed to do more.

“We didn’t make this pledge to please the United States. We made it because we live in a more unpredictable and uncertain world,” Stoltenberg said.

The NATO chief said disagreement between NATO members Turkey and the United States over Turkey’s plan to buy S-400 missile defense systems from Russia was not part of the formal agenda of the Washington meeting but would be discussed on the margins.

The United States has halted delivery of equipment related to its advanced F-35 fighter jets to Turkey over its S-400 plans.

The United States says Turkey’s purchase of the Russian air defense system would compromise the security of F-35 aircraft, which is built by Lockheed Martin Corp and uses stealth technology.

(Reporting by Lesley Wroughton and David Brunnstrom; editing by Jonathan Oatis and James Dalgleish)

Turkey says proposed working group to ease U.S. worries over Russian S-400s

FILE PHOTO: Russian servicemen drive S-400 missile air defence systems during the Victory Day parade, marking the 73rd anniversary of the victory over Nazi Germany in World War Two, at Red Square in Moscow, Russia May 9, 2018. REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin -/File Photo

ANKARA/ISTANBUL (Reuters) – Turkey has proposed to the United States that they form a working group to determine that Russian S-400 missile defense systems do not pose a threat to U.S. or NATO military equipment, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Wednesday.

The United States and Turkey have been at loggerheads over Ankara’s decision to purchase the S-400s, which are not compatible with NATO systems, from Russia. Washington has warned that proceeding with the deal could result in U.S. sanctions and the exclusion of Turkey from the F-35 fighter jet program.

“It will not be integrated into the NATO system…therefore we propose the United States to establish a technical working group to make sure that this system will not be a threat – neither to (U.S.) F-35s nor the NATO systems,” Cavusoglu told a panel in the United States.

He said it was “not our aim” to integrate the S400 system into that of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization because “it’s for our own use.” Turkey and the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump need to explain to the U.S. Congress why Ankara had to go through with the purchase from the Russians, Cavusoglu said.

Turkey says it needs the S-400s, to be delivered in July, to defend against potential security threats and President Tayyip Erdogan has repeatedly said he would not back down from the “done deal.” Cavusoglu, in Washington for a NATO summit, said he would “definitely” repeat this to U.S. counterparts during his visit.

Seeking to apply pressure, the United States halted delivery of equipment related to the stealthy F-35 fighter aircraft to Turkey, its first concrete step to block delivery of the jets due to Ankara’s planned purchase of the S-400s.

A U.S. official on Tuesday said that the purchase risked triggering sanctions. Acting U.S. Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan later said that he expected the dispute to be resolved.

In a broader move to stop the delivery of the fighter jets, four U.S. senators introduced a bipartisan bill last week to prohibit the transfer of F-35 aircraft until Washington can certify Turkey will not take the delivery of the S-400s.

(Reporting by Tuvan Gumrukcu and Sarah Dadouch; Writing by Ali Kucukgocmen; Editing by Dominic Evans and Jonathan Spicer)

Colombia rejects Russia warning against Venezuelan military action

Colombian President Ivan Duque speaks during the presentation of a security report, accompanied by the military commands in the presidential palace, in Bogota, Colombia April 2, 2019. Courtesy of Colombian Presidency/Handout via REUTERS

BOGOTA (Reuters) – Colombia on Tuesday rejected a Russian warning against foreign military intervention in Venezuela and said it supported a peaceful transition to democracy in the neighboring South American country.

“Colombia reiterates that the transition to democracy must be conducted by the Venezuelans themselves peacefully and within the framework of the Constitution and international law, supported by political and diplomatic means, without the use of force,” Colombian Foreign Minister Carlos Holmes Trujillo said in a statement.

He was responding to a March 28 letter from the upper house of Russia’s parliament, forwarded to Colombia’s Congress by Russian Ambassador Sergei Koshkin, that said the “illegitimate use of military force against Venezuela by other states that support the opposition will be interpreted … as an act of aggression against a sovereign state.”

Russia has emerged as a staunch backer of Venezuela’s leftist President Nicolas Maduro as his nation descended into political turmoil this year. The United States and dozens of other nations have backed opposition leader Juan Guaido, who invoked the constitution to assume Venezuela’s interim presidency in January, arguing that Maduro’s 2018 re-election was illegitimate.

Colombia, which supports Guaido, has repeatedly denied it has any intention of launching a military offensive across its border with Venezuela.

But in his statement on Tuesday, Trujillo said military support for Maduro’s socialist government risked harming the transition to democracy while threatening regional peace and security.

The March touchdown near Caracas of two Russian air force planes carrying some 100 Russian special forces and cyber-security personnel has raised international concerns about Moscow’s backing for Maduro.

Russia, which has supplied fighter jets, tanks, and air defense systems to Venezuela, has dismissed U.S. criticism of its military cooperation with Caracas saying it is not interfering in the Latin American country’s internal affairs and poses no threat to regional stability.

Colombia acted as a staging ground in February as the United States and other countries supported Guaido’s effort to transport hundreds of tons of humanitarian aid into Venezuela. Maduro, who dismisses Guaido as a U.S. puppet, blocked the aid and Venezuelan troops pushed back protesters with tear gas.

Millions of Venezuelans have fled to Colombia to escape widespread food and medicine shortages in their chaotic homeland, seeking jobs locally and passage into other Latin American countries.

(Reporting by Helen Murphy; Editing by Julia Symmes Cobb and Tom Brown)

Dutch security agency warns against Chinese, Russian technology

FILE PHOTO: EU leaders including Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel (C), Netherlands Prime Minister Mark Rutte (R), Luxembourg Prime Minister Xavier Bettel (L) and Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni (rear left) gather around a computer screen at the European Union leaders summit in Malta, February 3, 2017. REUTERS/Darrin Zammit-Lupi/File Photo

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) – The Dutch security service advised the government on Tuesday not to use technology from countries with active cyber-hacking campaigns against the Netherlands, such as China and Russia.

The recommendation came as the Dutch government is weighing options for a new 5G telecommunications network in the coming years and seeks to replace its domestic emergency services network, known as C2000.

The AIVD security agency flagged Chinese and Russian attempts at digital espionage as a major security risk.

“It is undesirable for the Netherlands to exchange sensitive information or for vital processes to depend on the hardware or software of companies from countries running active cyber programs against Dutch interests,” the AIVD said in its annual report.

Prime Minister Mark Rutte has refused to rule out doing business with Chinese technology companies, even as key allies the United States and Australia restricted Huawei Technologies from accessing its next-generation mobile networks on national-security grounds.

Washington has said that Huawei is at the beck and call of the Chinese state, warning that its network equipment may contain “back doors” that could open them up to cyber espionage. Huawei says such concerns are unfounded.

(Reporting by Anthony Deutsch; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)

Pentagon says expects to resolve row with Turkey over S-400

Acting U.S. Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan testifies to the House Armed Forces Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., March 26, 2019. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan said on Tuesday that he expected to solve a dispute with Turkey over its purchase of Russia’s S-400 air defense system, a day after the United States halted the delivery of equipment related to the F-35 aircraft to Ankara.

“I expect we’ll solve the problem so that they have the right defense equipment in terms of Patriots and F-35s,” Shanahan told reporters at the Pentagon. Washington has sought to persuade Turkey to purchase the Patriot defense system, instead of S-400s.

Shanahan added that he expected the delivery of F-35s currently at Luke Air Force base to Turkey.

(Reporting by Idrees Ali and Phil Stewart)

U.S. sends message to Turkey, halts F-35 equipment shipments

FILE PHOTO: A Lockheed Martin F-35 aircraft is seen at the ILA Air Show in Berlin, Germany, April 25, 2018. REUTERS/Axel Schmidt/File Photo

By Mike Stone and Humeyra Pamuk

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States has halted delivery of equipment related to the stealthy F-35 fighter aircraft to Turkey, a Pentagon spokesman said on Monday, marking the first concrete U.S. step to block delivery of the jet to the NATO ally in light of Ankara’s planned purchase of a Russian missile defense system.

In recent days, U.S. officials told their Turkish counterparts they will not receive further shipments of F-35 related equipment needed to prepare for the arrival of the stealthy jet, two sources familiar with the situation told Reuters on Monday.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan has refused to back down from Ankara’s planned purchase of a Russian S-400 missile defense system that the United States has said would compromise the security of F-35 aircraft.

“Pending an unequivocal Turkish decision to forgo delivery of the S-400, deliveries and activities associated with the stand-up of Turkey’s F-35 operational capability have been suspended,” Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Mike Andrews, a Defense Department spokesman, said in a statement.

Turkey has said it will take delivery of the S-400s in July.

The sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told Reuters the next shipment of training equipment, and all subsequent shipments of F-35 related material, had been canceled. The aircraft is built by Lockheed Martin Corp.

The disagreement over the F-35 is the latest of a series of diplomatic disputes between the United States and Turkey including Turkish demands that the United States extradite Islamic cleric Fethullah Gulen, differences over Middle East policy and the war in Syria, and sanctions on Iran.

A Pentagon official had told Reuters in March that the United States had a number of items it could withhold in order to send Turkey a signal that the United States was serious about Ankara dropping its ambition to own the S-400.

Turkish officials in Ankara were not immediately available for comment.

NATO SUMMIT

The U.S. decision on the F-35s was expected to complicate Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu’s planned visit to Washington this week for a NATO summit. The latest development in the F-35 dispute came a day after Erdogan suffered one of his biggest electoral losses in decades in local elections.

Reuters reported last week that Washington was exploring whether it could remove Turkey from the production of the F-35. Turkey makes parts of the fuselage, landing gear and cockpit displays. Sources familiar with the F-35’s intricate worldwide production process and U.S. thinking on the issue last week said Turkey’s role can be replaced.

The United States and other NATO allies that own F-35s fear the radar on the Russian S-400 missile system will learn how to spot and track the jet, making it less able to evade Russian weapons in the future.

In an attempt to persuade Turkey to drop its plans to buy the S-400, the United States offered the pricier American-made Patriot anti-missile system in a discounted deal that expired at the end of March. Turkey has shown interest in the Patriot system, but not at the expense of abandoning the S-400.

Turkey has engaged with U.S. negotiators in recent days about buying the Patriot system, a person familiar with the matter said on condition of anonymity. The system is made by Raytheon Co.

Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar in March said that despite some issues, Turkish pilots were continuing their training at an air base in Arizona on the F-35, each of which costs $90 million, and that Ankara was expecting the aircraft to arrive in Turkey in November.

U.S. lawmakers also have expressed alarm over Turkey’s planned purchase of the Russian system. Four U.S. senators last week introduced a bipartisan bill that would prohibit the transfer of F-35s to Turkey until the U.S. government certifies that Ankara will not take delivery of the S-400 system.

(Reporting by Mike Stone and Humeyra Pamuk in Washington; Editing by Chris Sanders and Will Dunham)