Articles by "United States"

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un meets with his military officers. (file photo)
The United States has asked North Korea “to refrain from provocative” actions amid rising tensions between the two countries.
"We call on [North Korea] to refrain from provocative, destabilizing actions and rhetoric, and to make the strategic choice to fulfill its international obligations and commitments and return to serious talks," US Navy Commander Gary Ross, a Pentagon spokesman, said on Monday.
"North Korea's unlawful weapons programs represent a clear, grave threat to US national security,” he added.
The statement came a day after North Korea threatened to sink an American aircraft carrier that President Donald Trump is sending to the western Pacific Ocean.
"Our revolutionary forces are combat-ready to sink a US nuclear powered aircraft carrier with a single strike," North Korea's ruling Workers' Party newspaper said in a commentary on Sunday.
The article said Pyongyang had weaponry that “can reach continental US and Asia Pacific region.”
The USS Carl Vinson is currently conducting exercises with two Japanese destroyers in the Philippines Sea.
Last week, President Trump called on China to rein in North Korea.
"China is very much the economic lifeline to North Korea so, while nothing is easy, if they want to solve the North Korean problem, they will," he tweeted.
Trump discusses North Korea with Xi, Abe
US President Donald Trump
On Sunday, Trump spoke on the phone with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe as well as Chinese President Xi Jinping to discuss the North Korean issue.
After the phone call with Trump, Abe told reporters Monday that he and Trump had agreed to keep close contact on North Korea. He appreciated Trump’s stance of keeping “all options on the table” regarding Pyongyang.
The Trump administration has several times warned that all options, including a military strike, were being considered to halt Pyongyang’s missile and nuclear activities.
"The North Korean nuclear and missile problem is an extremely serious security threat to not only the international community but also our country," Abe told reporters.
Xi, the Chinese president, told his American counterpart during the telephone call that all sides had to exercise restraint.
China has opposed any move that runs counter to the UN Security Council resolutions already in place against North Korea.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (left) and Chinese President Xi Jinping
Tensions have increased between North Korea and the US in recent weeks. The US has been unnerved by North Korea’s advancing missile and nuclear programs and has dispatched a military strike group to the Korean Peninsula. Pyongyang has said it is ready for war.
The prospects of a potential military confrontation have made regional countries worried.
North Korea has threatened the US with “all-out war” and announced that Pyongyang would continue to test missiles on a weekly basis.
Pyongyang says its missile and nuclear programs act as deterrence against a potential invasion by its adversaries, particularly the US.
The US has military forces in South Korea on a permanent basis, and routinely threatens the North with military action.

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson speaks at the State Department on April 19, 2017 in Washington, DC. (Photo by AFP)
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson says Russia’s “actions” in eastern Ukraine serve as an “obstacle” in ties between the administration of US President Donald Trump and the Kremlin.
Tillerson, who recently visited Russia, made the comments during a phone conversation with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko on Sunday, according to acting spokesman Mark Toner.
“Secretary Tillerson phoned Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko today to discuss his recent trip to Moscow and his message to the Russian leadership that, although the United States is interested in improving relations with Russia, Russia’s actions in eastern Ukraine remain an obstacle,” Toner said.
He added that the former ExxonMobil CEO also accepted the Ukrainian president’s “condolences” in regard to the Sunday death of an American monitor with the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, who hit a landmine in eastern Ukraine.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (L) and US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson arrive to attend a press conference after their talks in Moscow on April 12, 2017. (Photo by AFP)
     
Toner further reiterated Washington’s “firm commitment to Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and confirmed that sanctions will remain in place until Russia returns control of the Crimean peninsula to Ukraine and fully implements its commitments in the Minsk agreements,” adding that Tillerson also “emphasized the importance of Ukraine’s continued progress on reform and combating corruption.”
Crimea declared independence from Ukraine on March 17, 2014 and formally applied to become part of Russia following a referendum, in which 96.8 percent of participants voted in favor of the move.
After Crimea rejoined Russia, an armed conflict broke out in eastern Ukraine when Kiev launched military operations to quell similar pro-Russia sentiments there. Ukraine accuses Moscow of involvement in the conflict, a charge Russia has denied.
Trump, who has called for better relations between the Kremlin and the White House, said prior to his election victory that "The people of Crimea, from what I've heard, would rather be with Russia than where they were."

US District Judge Derrick Watson
The US Justice Department has submitted a notice to appeal a ruling from a Hawaii federal judge that indefinitely blocked President Donald Trump's travel restrictions on people from several Muslim-majority countries.
Two weeks ago, US District Judge Derrick Watson was the first to rule against the president’s revised executive order, saying that the state of Hawaii had established that the law could not be enforced because it was unconstitutional.
The ruling blocked the travel ban on the grounds that it violates the Establishment Clause of the Constitution by disfavoring Muslims.
But Watson's initial decision was designed to last only a couple of weeks.
On Wednesday night however, Watson agreed to convert that decision into a longer-term preliminary injunction, extending his previous temporary restraining order.
Protesters rally in front of the Trump Building on Wall Street during a protest against the Trump administration's proposed travel ban and refugee policies, March 28, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by AFP) 
On Thursday, the Justice Department announced to file an appeal to the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco, which had already ruled against the initial travel ban.
"The Justice Department strongly disagrees with the federal district court's ruling. The President's executive order fails squarely within his lawful authority in seeking to protect our nation's security, and the department will continue to defend this executive order in the courts," a department spokesperson said in a statement.
In the previous ruling, Watson, a Barack Obama appointee, cited several comments made by Trump and declared that the travel order is, despite the administration’s denials, a Muslim ban.
The court in Hawaii was the first to rule on several legal challenges against the travel ban, which targets people from six mainly Muslim countries -- Iran, Syria, Libya, Yemen, Somalia and Sudan.

The President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker delivers a speech during the European People's Party (EPP) annual conference in Malta, March 30, 2017. (Photo by AFP)
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker has warned US President Donald Trump to stop supporting Britain's decision to leave the European Union.
Speaking at the European People's Party annual conference in Malta on Thursday, Juncker said he would encourage the independence of the US states of Texas and Ohio unless Trump stops urging  EU countries to follow the Brexit example and leave the EU.
“The newly elected president is delighted to see Britain leave the EU. If he carries on, I am going to promote the independence of Ohio and Austin, Texas.”
He added that Brexit isn’t the end and it should be a new beginning for the European integration.
Juncker made the comments a day after UK Prime Minister Theresa May triggered Article 50 of the EU’s Lisbon Treaty, formally launching the process of leaving the 28-nation bloc.
In January, Trump described the UK’s referendum in June to withdraw from the EU as a “great thing,” arguing that the bloc is heavily influenced by Germany.
Trump also said Brexit signaled the British people’s desire for “their own identity” and predicted that other EU countries would soon follow suit and leave the bloc.
EU leaders have been rattled by Trump's comments on Europe, which they say is aimed at destroying the integrity of the bloc by advocating other nations to follow Brexit.
In late January, French President Francois urged European leaders to form a united front against Trump's stance and remarks.
"Whenever there are statements coming from the president of the United States on Europe and whenever he talks of Brexit as a model for other countries, I believe we should respond," Hollande said.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel and her pro-European allies have also called for a united Europe. “If we act together in Europe, we can do it much better than if we do things on our own in a world that isn’t sleeping,” she said.

North Korean military forces partake in a parade. (file photo)
North Korea is capable of killing millions of Americans by launching a nuclear attack, two high ranking US intelligence officials have claimed, arguing that the secretive republic has already mastered the technology needed to fire massive atomic bombs at the US mainland.
“The mainstream media, and some officials who should know better, continue to allege North Korea does not yet have capability to deliver on its repeated threats to strike the US with nuclear weapons,” James Woolsey, a former CIA director, and Peter Vincent Pry, head of the Congressional EMP Commission, wrote in an article published by The Hill on Wednesday.
The EMP (ectromagnetic pulse) Commission is tasked with assessing the EMP threats against the US and address the country’s vulnerabilities to such threats.
“False reassurance is given to the American people that North Korea has not ‘demonstrated’ that it can miniaturize a nuclear warhead small enough for missile delivery, or build a reentry vehicle for an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) capable of penetrating the atmosphere to blast a US city,” added the article, titled How North Korea could kill 90 percent of Americans.
According to Woolsey and Pry, the CIA's top East Asia analyst publicly confirmed in 2008 that Pyongyang had successfully miniaturized a nuclear warhead and tested it using the Nodong medium-range ballistic missile.
Three years later, then Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) Lieutenant General Ronald Burgess told the Senate Armed Services Committee that North Korea “has weaponized its nuclear devices into warheads for arming ballistic missiles.”
Admiral William Gortney, then Commander of North American Aerospace Defense (NORAD), repeated the same claim in 2015, warning that the North could strike the US with a nuclear-capable KN-08 mobile ICBM.
The article goes on to warn that North Korea’s KMS-3 and KMS-4 satellites have been orbiting the US “on trajectories consistent with surprise EMP attack.”
The authors referred to North Korea’s successful satellite launch and testing of an alleged Hydrogen bomb, warning that Pyongyang had everything it needed to cause chaos in the US.
Concluding that a large part of America’s population was vulnerable to a surprise nuclear attack, Woolsey and Pry made several recommendations to protect them.
“The US must be prepared to preempt North Korea by any means necessary—including nuclear weapons,” they wrote, adding that the US electric grid and national missile defenses should also be hardened against EMP attacks.
Tensions have been running high between the US and North Korea for months now.
Last week, Pyongyang warned Washington that a preemptive strike was always a possibility, after the US and South Korean military forces simulated attacks on North Korean targets during joint military drills that involve 17,000 American troops and more than 300,000 South Koreans.
Washington has been sending sophisticated weapons to the South in order to prevent Seoul against what it calls the North’s “aggression.”

Seattle Mayor Ed Murray speaks at a news conference on March 29, 2017. (Photo by The Seattle Times)
The city of Seattle in the US state of Washington has filed a lawsuit against President Donald Trump's administration over its threat to withhold federal grants from “sanctuary cities” that refuse to cooperate with efforts to find and deport illegal immigrants.
Seattle Mayor Ed Murray announced the federal lawsuit on Wednesday, saying Trump’s executive order issued in January that punishes so-called sanctuary cities is unconstitutional and creates uncertainty around the city's budget.
"Apparently the Trump administration, their war on facts has now become a war on cities," Murray said during a news conference. "Let me be clear about the facts. We are not breaking any laws and we are prioritizing safety."
Under Trump’s order, Seattle could face about $10 million in cuts to public safety programs, he said.
The Trump administration's threat violates the US Constitution by trying to make the city’s law enforcement enforce federal immigration law, Murray said.
The lawsuit, filed at the US federal court in Seattle, asks a judge to declare that the city is in compliance with the law and that the executive order is unconstitutional under the 10th Amendment and the Spending Clause of the US Constitution.
"This administration has created an atmosphere of anxiety in cities across America and has created chaos in our politics," Murray said. "It is time for cities to stand up and ask the courts to put an end to the anxiety in our communities and the chaos in our system.”
The order also makes communities less safe by forcing people underground, Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes said at the same news conference.
Other local governments have sued Trump over the executive order.
The city of San Francisco and Santa Clara County in California filed lawsuits earlier this year. Two Massachusetts cities with large Hispanic populations - Chelsea and Lawrence - have also taken legal action.
On Monday, US Attorney General Jeff Sessions threatened to withhold grants by the Justice Department from cities that fail to assist federal immigration authorities, moving the Trump administration closer to a potential conflict with leaders of the largest urban centers in the US.
Sessions' statements were aimed at dozens of cities, including New York, Los Angeles and Chicago that have joined a growing "sanctuary" movement aimed at protecting undocumented immigrants from increasing deportation efforts.

David Friedman is sworn-in as the US ambassador to Israel during a ceremony in the Indian Treaty Room of the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, next to the White House, on March 29, 2017 in Washington, DC. (Photo by AFP)
David Friedman, a strong proponent of Israel’s illegal settlements in the occupied Palestinian land, has been sworn in as the new US ambassador to the Tel Aviv regime.
US Vice President Mike Pence administered the oath of office to Friedman on Wednesday, about a week after the Senate confirmed his nomination in a 52-46 vote.
"One of the clearest signs of the president's commitment to the state of Israel and to its people is in his choice of David Friedman as America's Ambassador to Israel," Pence said, haling Trump’s decision to nominate the anti-Palestinian Jewish American attorney for the crucial diplomatic post.
Friedman, who once served as Trump's bankruptcy lawyer, is critical of the two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and supports Israel’s illegal settlement activities on the occupied territories. The 58-year-old has also backed the idea of moving the US embassy from Tel Aviv to East Jerusalem al-Quds.
‘Trump is a lifelong friend of Israel’
US Vice President Mike Pence (L) administers the swearing-in ceremony for David Friedman (C) as the US ambassador to Israel in the Indian Treaty Room of the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, next to the White House, on March 29, 2017. (Photo by AFP)
“The president of the United States of America is a lifelong friend of Israel and the Jewish people and, under his leadership, if the world knows nothing else the world will know this: America stands with Israel,” Pence said.
"This is a critical time for our two nations and our peoples. The challenges we face are many, but our resolve to overcome them has never been stronger," he stated.
“Under President Trump's leadership, the United States will always be a faithful friend to the Jewish State of Israel,” the VP added.
On Sunday, Pence told the 2017 AIPAC policy conference in Washington, DC, Trump is “serious” about moving the US embassy in Israel to Jerusalem al-Quds.
Trump's rise has emboldened Israeli extremists to implement their illegal policies and further their occupational agenda by transferring the embassy, a move that Palestinian officials and prominent American politicians have warned against.
Emboldened by the Trump administration’s support, the regime in Tel Aviv has given the go-ahead to the construction of many new settlement units.
Over half a million Israelis live in over 230 settlements built illegally since the 1967 occupation of the Palestinian territories.
The presence and continued expansion of Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestine has created a major obstacle for the efforts to establish peace in the Middle East.
Pursuit of Palestinian state is ‘damaging anachronism’
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu laughs while chairing a cabinet meeting in Jerusalem al-Quds on March 26, 2017.
During the 2016 presidential campaign, Friedman was Trump’s adviser on US-Israel relations.
Friedman, a son of an Orthodox rabbi with no previous political experience, has previously argued that the pursuit of a Palestinian state is a “damaging anachronism.”
Some 600 American rabbis signed a letter last month against Friedman’s appointment as the US ambassador.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has welcomed Friedman's nomination. He tweeted that Friedman "will be warmly welcomed as President Trump's representative and as a close friend of Israel."

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer speaks during a daily briefing at the White House in Washington, DC, on March 28, 2017. (Photo by AFP)
White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer claims that US President Donald Trump cannot even eat “Russian salad dressing on his salad” without raising questions about alleged ties between his campaign and Moscow.
Spicer made the comments during a press conference at the White House on Tuesday, answering a question by a reporter with American Urban Radio Networks about how the Trump administration was seeking to improve its image amid multiple probes into Russian interference in the presidential election last year.
The press secretary interrupted the reporter as soon as she mentioned Russia, saying that there was "no connection" between Washington and Moscow.
“We don’t have that,” Spicer said after the reporter said the White House had "other things going on," including Russia.
“I get it, but I have said from the day that I got there until whenever that there is no connection. You’ve got Russia. If the president put Russian salad dressing on his salad tonight, somehow that’s a Russian connection,” Spicer said.
He accused the reporter of trying to advance her “agenda” as she tried to clarify her question and pointed to those who have said there is no proof of collusion between Russia and the Trump administration.
“I'm sorry that that disgusts you. You're shaking your head,” said Spicer, adding that, “You’re going to have to take no for an answer with respect to whether or not there was collusion.”
The White House press secretary did not take any more questions from reporters, concluding his remarks by saying, “It seems like you’re hell-bent on trying to make sure that whatever image you want to tell about this White House stays.”
US President Donald Trump (L) and Russian President Vladimir Putin
In a declassified report released in January, the US intelligence community concluded that Russian President Vladimir Putin helped Trump win the White House, an allegation dismissed both by Moscow and Trump.
Despite Russia’s alleged cyber attacks on mostly Democratic officials during the US presidential race, American intelligence officials have acknowledged there is no evidence that hackers altered the election itself.
During his presidential campaign and afterwards, Trump repeatedly praised Putin and called for closer ties between Washington and Moscow, despite the hacking allegations.

Clouds pass over the US Capitol on March 7, 2017 in Washington, DC. (Photo by AFP)
US lawmakers have voted to roll back rules that could prevent internet service provider (ISP) companies from selling users' data to third parties without their consent.
The lawmakers at the US House of Representatives voted 215-205 on Tuesday to overturn the Federal Communications Commission (FFC) rule and sent the legislation to President Donald Trump for signing, following a heated debate over digital privacy protections.
The Republican-led Senate had voted 50 to 48 last week to reverse the privacy rules passed last October under the US Freedom Act during the administration of former President Barack Obama. The White House had earlier said that the new US president strongly supported the repeal of the rules. 
The Tuesday measure followed a fierce debate over the rule that would have required service providers to get permission before selling customer data to third parties. Privacy campaigners say repealing the previous laws without a new legislative framework in place could create an enforcement vacuum.
US House Minority leader Nancy Pelosi speaks to the press on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, on March 24, 2017. (Photo by AFP)
Republicans claim the FCC’s rules confuse customers because they only cover Internet providers and not companies like Google and Facebook.
Earlier this month, two dozen Republican senators filed a joint resolution to cancel the new privacy rules imposed on Internet service providers and to prevent the FCC from taking similar action in the future.
Democratic House leader Nancy Pelosi opposed the Tuesday bill, saying "Americans shouldn't have to give up every shred of privacy when they go online."
During a floor debate, she said that, "Republicans want this (private) information to be sold without your permission."
Violation of online privacy especially by the CIA and the NSA (National Security Agency) has been the subject of lingering debate in the US as the two spy agencies have already been accused of using social networking sites to gather personal information of people worldwide.

US soldiers are seen next to their armored vehicles near an Iraqi army base on the outskirts of Mosul, on November 23, 2016. (Photo by AFP)
US President Donald Trump has praised American troops for doing “very well” in Iraq, maintaining his silence on an airstrike in Mosul that killed scores of civilians earlier this month.
Speaking to a group of senators gathered at the White House on Tuesday, Trump said "our soldiers are fighting like never before" in Iraq and the Arab country was on a positive trajectory in pushing back terrorist groups.
“The results are very, very good,” Trump said, fresh off a phone conversation with Secretary of Defense James Mattis. “I just wanted to let everyone know.”
The rare remarks, which appeared to be unscripted, were in contrast with Washington’s claims that its more than 5,000 troops stationed in Iraq do not partake in the battle against terrorist groups and only provide logistic support to Iraqi forces.
The US combat mission in Iraq ended in 2010, when former president Barack Obama ordered almost all US troops to withdraw from the Arab state.
Despite Trump’s silence, the Pentagon has admitted that one of its airstrikes in Mosul on March 17 may have led to the death of at least 237 civilians.
Relatives react near the bodies of civilians killed in an airstrike in Mosul, Iraq March 17, 2017. (Photos by
Lieutenant General Stephen Townsend, who currently commands the Combined Joint Task Force in Iraq, said Tuesday that the US “probably had a role in those casualties.”
However, he said the level of damage and the extent of casualties showed that the deadly strike was not entirely Washington’s fault.
“The enemy had a hand in this,” he explained, stressing that “It sure looks like” the civilians has been forced to gather in the building by the terrorists. “What I don’t know is why they [the civilians] gathered there by the enemy?"
On Monday, the Pentagon announced that it was analyzing over 700 video feeds from airstrikes on west Mosul following the increasing number of reports of civilian causalities.
The Mosul raid was the Trump administration’s second unsuccessful attempt in tackling terrorism. Days after taking office in January, he authorized a raid in Yemen, which ended up killing several civilians, including women and children, as well as an American Navy SEAL. 

A US Air Force F-22 Raptor fighter aircraft lands at the Air Base of the Lithuanian Armed Forces in Siauliai, April 27, 2016. (file photo)
The US Senate has overwhelmingly voted to back the expansion of NATO by approving Montenegro’s admission to join the military alliance, in what many lawmakers viewed as a message to Russia.
The ratification was approved by a vote of 97-2, well above the two-thirds majority needed in the 100-member chamber.
Only Republican Senators Rand Paul of Kentucky and Mike Lee of Utah voted against Montenegro's membership.
Sen. Paul argued that joining NATO would bring the tiny Balkan nation under the United States’ security blanket with little in return.
"Montenegro in NATO will antagonize Russia while doing nothing to advance US national security," he said. "Most Americans can't find Montenegro on a map. Are you willing to send your kids there to fight?"
Montenegro will officially become the 29th member of NATO if the Netherlands and Spain approve the accession later this year.
Those senators who voted in favor of NATO expansion said that Montenegro has already contributed much to the alliance.
"Montenegro actively supported the NATO-led operation in Afghanistan," said Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker, the Republican chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. "Montenegro has taken these steps despite Russia's best efforts to undermine their progress every step of the way."
Senator John McCain accused Paul of “working” for Russian President Vladimir Putin.
"This is more than the accession or non-accession of a small, 650,000-person nation. It is a test in this contest we are now engaged in with Vladimir Putin," the Arizona Republican said on the Senate floor.
US Senator John McCain (R-AZ) takes his seat before hearing testimony to the Senate Select Intelligence Committee, February 28, 2017. (Photo by Reuters)
South Carolina Republican Lindsey Graham also said that "Montenegro is trying to do everything that Putin hates. Alliances of democracy are his worst nightmare."
The Kremlin has opposed Montenegro joining NATO, calling it a "provocation" that would reinforce the alliance's presence in the Balkans.
There was no immediate confirmation of whether President Donald Trump would sign the ratification and complete the US process.
Trump has frequently suggested that US defense of a NATO member would depend on its contributions to the alliance.
However, his administration has backed NATO membership for Montenegro, one of Europe's smallest nations.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson wrote to Senate leaders earlier this month, saying the accession was "strongly in the interests of the US."

US President Donald Trump speaks before signing the Energy Independence Executive Order at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Headquarters in Washington, DC, March 28, 2017, with Vice President Mike Pence. (Photo by AFP)
US President Donald Trump has asked Congress to cut nearly $18 billion from vital domestic programs to help pay for his proposed border wall along the Mexico border.
The request for the current fiscal year, which ends on September 30, could spark a major spending showdown just a month before a deadline to keep the government funded.
The proposal targets programs like education, healthcare and housing, as well as international food aid.
The $17.94 billion cut would help the government partially offset its budget deficit by paying for Trump’s military supplemental request, which was sent to Congress earlier this month. About $2 billion would also go towards the construction of the southern wall.
Trump has asked for $33 billion in new military and border spending.
Congress should enact the spending legislation to fund federal agencies by April 28 to prevent a government shutdown.
Senate Democrats have threatened to block the stopgap bill, if money for the border wall is included.
Republicans are also skeptical that a bill containing funding for Trump’s wall would pass.
“They will not pass together,” Missouri Republican Sen. Roy Blunt told the AP. “That’s just my view.”
“There is no path to put a supplemental (wall) as currently described on that package,” added Blunt, a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee.
During the 2016 presidential campaign, Trump vowed that Mexico would pay for the wall designed to keep illegal immigrants from entering the United States. The Mexican government has strongly rejected the claim. 
The wall could end up costing as much as $21.6 billion, far more than the administration’s estimate of $12 billion, according to reports.

The US Secret Service placed the White House on lockdown Tuesday due to a suspicious package.
The US Secret Service has placed the White House on lockdown after they found a suspicious package at the complex, reports say.
The Secret Service arrested a male suspect carrying the package and making "suspicious comments" near the White House at around 10:15 am on Tuesday.
The man was separated from the package and detained in a police vehicle, said an official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Roads around the White House were closed off and staff and media people were barred from entering the building. 
".@SecretService investigating suspicious package near @WhiteHouse grounds. Road closures in effect," the agency tweeted.
The Secret Service said that it had established a "security perimeter" and was moving reporters and the public to a safe distance.
A Secret Service officer patrols the north lawn at the White House in Washington, DC, on March 28, 2017. (Getty Images) 
The lockdown comes after a series of security breaches. This is the second time alarms have been raised at the White House this month.
On March 10, an intruder reportedly spent more than 15 minutes on the White House grounds before eventually being captured.
It was not the first time that a person entered the White House grounds. In one instance in September 2014, an Army veteran carrying a knife, climbed the fence and made it through the north portico doors, while the first family was not at the White House.

Demonstrators rally during a protest against President Donald Trump's proposed travel ban and suspension of the country's refugee program, New York City, March 16, 2017. (Photo by AFP)
Led by Texas, 13 US states have formed a coalition to defend President Donald Trump’s controversial travel ban against people from several Muslim countries.
The ban, which was introduced in late January and was revised earlier this month after facing legal issues, barred citizens of Iran, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Yemen and Libya from obtaining US visas in an attempt to keep what Trump called “radical Islamic terrorists” out of America.
Both the original and the revised versions of Trump’s directive were brought to a halt upon legal action by states like Washington, which took the matter to the 9th Circuit Court and convinced the judges that the ban discriminated against Muslims based on their religion.
This prompted Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, along with 11 other state attorneys general and the governor of Mississippi, to file a court brief with the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia, on Monday in support of the ban.
Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Kansas, Louisiana, Montana, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, and West Virginia were the other states supporting the bid.
US President Donald Trump speaks during a rally in Nashville, Tennessee, March 15, 2017. (Photo by AFP)
In the court brief, the 13 states argued that they had a “significant interest in protecting their residents' safety.”
“Congress delegated to the Executive Branch significant authority to prohibit aliens' entry into the country, and the challenged Executive Order is a lawful exercise of that authority,” the brief stated. “Plaintiffs' lawsuit presents no basis to enjoin the order.”
In a separate statement, Paxton said Trump’s new ban had addressed the court’s concerns and was “a vital step in securing our borders.”
“It is imperative we find a way to better screen refugee applicants to maintain national security. The president is fulfilling his solemn duty to protect Texans and all Americans,” his statement read.
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Iraq was also included in the original order. However, the Trump administration dropped the Arab country’s name in the new measure, arguing that Baghdad was playing a key role in eliminating terrorism.
The new measure hoped to address the shortcomings of the preceding one by removing an indefinite entry ban against Syrian refugees and excluding legal permanent residents, or green card holders.
Trump has promised to challenge the travel ban block at the Supreme Court.

US President Donald Trump looks on after signing a bill increasing funding for NASA in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, DC, March 21, 2017. (Photo by AFP)
US President Donald Trump has backed away from designating the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organization, fearing that the decision would backfire due to the movement’s complex structure and its influence across the Muslim world.
Trump shelved his plan after the State Department advised him against the move in an internal memo, The Washington Times reported Monday, citing unnamed officials.
Warning Trump about the movement’s loose-knit structure and far-flung political ties across the Middle East, the memo “explained that there’s not one monolithic Muslim Brotherhood,” according to the report.
The Times noted that Jordan, one of the many countries where the Brotherhood is considered legitimate, has pressured Trump to change his mind. The movement currently holds 16 Jordanian parliament seats in Jordan’s capital of Amman.
Morocco, Tunisia and Egypt are some of the other Muslim-majority nations where the Brotherhood has a strong impact.
In Egypt, the Brotherhood made history after its presidential candidate, Mohamed Morsi, became the country’s first ever democratically-elected leader in 2012 before being ousted in a military coup a year later.
The Egyptian government has been cracking down on the Muslim Brotherhood since the coup, which saw then army chief Abdel Fattah el-Sisi succeed Morsi.
The Brotherhood’s designation as a terrorist organization remains a hot topic in Washington today, with Trump officials criticizing former President Barack Obama for his inaction with regards to the group.
Trump and his team accuse the movement of spreading racialism in the Middle East and believe that Obama could stop the trend had he taken the necessary steps.
There is also a Republican push in Congress aimed at designating the Muslim Brotherhood and Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) as terror groups.
Senator Ted Cruz, who reintroduced the Muslim Brotherhood portion of the legislation last month, has called on the State Department to either designate the movement and the IRGC, as terrorist organizations or justify why they are not classified as such.
“If you’re talking about just broadly listing the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organization, you’re going to run quickly into a serious definitional problem,” P.J. Crowley, who served as an assistant secretary of state for public affairs under Obama, told the Times.

US President Donald Trump
US President Donald Trump has skipped the annual conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) in Washington, DC, amid reports of some differences between Washington and Tel Aviv on policy matters, a report says.
Trump dispatched US Vice President Mike Pence and UN Ambassador Nikki Haley to speak to the powerful pro-Israel lobbying group in his place, The New York Times reported on Monday.
The Trump administration, the newspaper reported, is pressing the regime of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for a so-called peace deal with Palestinians that would halt the construction of illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank, but Netanyahu is refusing to stop the settlement activity.
In addition, Netanyahu also wants to discuss with Trump ways and means of dealing with Iran, but the new US administration is still formulating its policy on the Islamic Republic, according to the report.
    Netanyahu meanwhile spoke via satellite on Monday to the crowd gathered by AIPAC. He avoided any reference to the issue of illegal settlements, which Trump raised before their first meeting last month. The US president then said the rapid growth of settlements was an obstacle in reaching an agreement between Israelis and Palestinians.
    Netanyahu also thanked Trump over a recent US budget request that “leaves military aid to Israel fully funded.”
    ‘Days of Israel bashing are over’
    US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley arrives to address the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) policy conference in Washington, DC, on March 27, 2017. (Photo by AFP)
    In her address to AIPAC, Ambassador Haley promised that she would not allow a repeat of a resolution like the one passed by the UN Security Council in December last year when the Obama administration chose not to exercise the US veto power.
    “The days of Israel bashing are over,” Haley vowed. "We have a lot of things to talk about, there are a lot of threats to peace and security, but you're not going to take our number one democratic friend in the Middle East and beat up on them.”
    “And I think what you're seeing is, they're all backing up a little bit. The Israel-bashing is not as loud,” she claimed.
    The Security Council voted 14-0 in December to pass Resolution 2334, which demanded an immediate end to Israel’s “illegal” settlement activities in occupied Palestinian territories.
    The unanimous vote was made possible after the US broke away from its tradition of vetoing anti-Israeli measures and allowed the resolution to pass by abstaining from the vote.
    A picture taken on January 5, 2017 shows part of the illegal Israeli settlement of Maale Adumim, east of Jerusalem al-Quds in the occupied West Bank. (Photo by AFP)
    About 600,000 Israelis live in over 230 illegal settlements built since the 1967 Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories of the West Bank and East Jerusalem al-Quds.
    The continued expansion of Israeli settlements in occupied Palestine has created a major obstacle to the efforts to establish peace in the Middle East.
    The Palestinian Authority wants the West Bank as part of a future independent Palestinian state, with East Jerusalem al-Quds as its capital.

    Roger Stone, a longtime political adviser and friend to President Donald Trump, signs copies of his book "The Making of the President 2016" at the Boca Raton Marriott on March 21, 2017 in Boca Raton, Florida. (Photo by AFP)
    Transparency group WikiLeaks has denied opening a back-channel for longtime Donald Trump associate Roger Stone.
    “No communications, no channel,” the spokesperson wrote to CNN on Monday.
    The representative further suggested that Stone is fooling Democrats and aims at drawing attention by claiming to have had contact with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.
    “Stone is playing slovenly Democrat-aligned journalists like a fiddle, brilliantly inserting himself, as is his habit to raise his profile and market his books. He is entirely delighted with inviting scrutiny because of course, he is no one who knows nothing about anything and was pushed out of the Trump team a long time ago for just this type of opportunism,” wrote the spokesperson.
    The transparency group further asserted in a tweet that it has never contacted Stone, complaining about CNN’s exclusion of the fact.
    “Roger Stone continues to troll media into increasing his profile by feeding false claims of contact with WikiLeaks,” it said in another tweet.
    In the run-up to the 2016 vote, transparency organization WikiLeaks kept releasing batches of emails from the Clinton campaign as well as the Democratic National Committee in favor of then-Republican nominee Donald Trump.
    Democrats pointed the finger at Russia, an allegation later confirmed by the US intelligence community, and dismissed by Moscow and Trump ever since.
    Stone argued that the dismissal of his claims by WikiLeaks proves that he was unaware of the hackings, including those against Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta.
    “Since I never communicated with WikiLeaks, I guess I must be innocent of charges I knew about the hacking of Podesta's email (speculation and conjecture) and the timing or scope of their subsequent disclosures. So I am clairvoyant or just a good guesser because the limited things I did predict (Oct disclosures) all came true,” Stone said.

    The United States says it will boycott the United Nations negotiations aimed at creating a nuclear weapons ban treaty, as some 120 countries are participating in the talks on the subject.  
    US Ambassador Nikki Haley told reporters at UN headquarters in New York City on Monday that a worldwide nuclear ban was simply not "realistic."
    "There is nothing I want more for my family than a world with no nuclear weapons. But we have to be realistic. Is there anyone that believes that North Korea would agree to a ban on nuclear weapons?" Haley said.
    The four-day meeting is aimed at creating a consensus on a nuclear weapons ban treaty. Over the next four days, countries which are opposed to nuclear proliferation will be discussing the purpose, content and format of the treaty.
    Flanked by French Deputy Representative to the United Nations Alexis Lamek (L) and British Representative to the United Nations Matthew Rycroft (R), US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley speaks to reporters at the UN headquarters, March 27, 2017, in New York City. (Photo by AFP)
    Haley said that Britain and France were also among about 40 countries that would not join the talks starting at the UN General Assembly in New York on Monday.  
    "You are going to see almost 40 countries that are not in the General Assembly today," she said.
    "In this day and time we can't honestly that say we can protect our people by allowing the bad actors to have them and those of us that are good trying to keep peace and safety, not to have them,” she added.
    Many nations, including Japan which suffered atomic attacks by the US in 1945, will join the conference. More than 120 others endorsed a plan for “a legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons, leading towards their total elimination" and encouraged others to participate.
    Haley said that the countries not joining the negotiations are instead committed to the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), whose objective is to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and weapons technology.
    A view of the United Nations headquarters in New York (file photo)
    In addition, British Representative to the United Nations Matthew Rycroft said that his country was also “not attending the negotiations on a treaty to prohibit nuclear weapons because we do not believe that those negotiations will lead to effective progress on global nuclear disarmament."
    Meanwhile, French Deputy Representative to the United Nations Alexis Lamek said the security conditions were not appropriate for a legally binding nuclear ban.
    "In the current perilous context, considering in particular the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery, our countries continue to rely on nuclear deterrence for security and stability," Lamek said.

    Senator Bernie Sanders speaks during a rally in front of the Capitol March 22, 2017 in Washington, DC. (Photo by AFP)
    Key Democratic figure Senator Bernie Sanders lambasts US President Donald Trump’s proposed budget in part for depriving nearly one million children from early education.
    The Vermont senator outlined some of the reasons that would make the budget “one of the cruelest in American history” in a barrage of tweets on Monday.
    He made the remarks in regard to Trump’s first federal budget blueprint, unveiled earlier this month.
    “Far from compassionate, Trump's budget — if enacted — would be one of the cruelest in American history. It must be defeated,” said the Democratic candidate for the 2016 presidential election, referencing earlier comments by Mick Mulvaney, the director of the Office of Management, (pictured below) about the document’s “compassion.”
    The 75-year-old challenged the idea by exemplifying a single mother from Detroit and how she could suffer under the “draconian cuts in Trump's budget.”
    “’Compassion’ from Trump for this single mother means $6.2 billion in cuts to affordable housing, which could force her out of her apartment,” he said. “If an eviction notice arrives, she won't have a lawyer because this ‘compassionate’ budget would eliminate the Legal Services Corporation.”
    He further argued that the proposed budget would harm education, especially for children.
    “The budget could cut as much as $1 billion from Head Start, meaning some 95,000 children will be thrown out of early education & child care,” he wrote, adding that, if enacted, it would eliminate “the 21st Century Community Learning Centers Program—leaving 1.1 million kids in the streets or home alone after school.”
    Apart from that, he argued that it would cut $6.2 billion in affordable housing and 31 percent of the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) budget.
    It would also put college “more out of reach,” he said.
    Trump’s director of the Office of Management said during an NBC interview on March 19 that Trump's supporters would like the budget.
    “The president knows who his voters are,” Mulvaney said. "His voters are folks who pay taxes as well.”
    The former GOP representative from South Carolina further stated that “For the first time in a long time, you have an administration that is looking at the compassion of both sides of the equation.”
    In a message from the president at the start of the proposed plan, Trump asserts that the cuts are “sensible and rational” while aimed at eliminating “wasteful spending.”

    US Vice President Mike Pence speaks to reporters during a swearing-in ceremony for National Security Director Dan Coats at the US Capitol in Washington, DC, March 16, 2017. (Photo by AFP)
    US President Donald trump is “serious” about moving the American embassy in Israel to Jerusalem al-Quds, says Vice President Mike Pence.
    “After decades of talking about it, the President is giving serious consideration to moving the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem,” Pence told the 2017 AIPAC policy conference in Washington, DC, on Sunday.
    Trump's rise has emboldened Israeli extremists to implement their illegal policies and further their occupational agenda by transferring the embassy, a move that Palestinian officials and prominent American politicians have warned against.
    During the campaign run, Trump promised Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that he would recognize Jerusalem al-Quds as Israel’s undivided capital.
    In early December, then US President Barack Obama renewed a presidential waiver ordering the US embassy in Israel to remain in Tel Aviv, despite facing pressure by Congress and Israel.
    US President Donald Trump (R) and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hold a joint press conference in the East Room of the White House in Washington, DC, February 15, 2017. (Photo by AFP)
    In his AIPAC speech on Sunday, Pence reaffirmed Washington’s commitment to the Tel Aviv regime, saying that the alliance would only become stronger under Trump.
    “Under President Donald Trump, the world will know this: America stands with Israel! President Trump stands with Israel because her cause is our cause. Her values are our values. And her fight is our fight,” Pence said.
    “And I say with confidence: President Trump and I stand without apology for Israel and we always will!” he added.
    The former Indiana governor also hailed the appointment of David Friedman as the new US ambassador to Israel, saying that it was his “high honor” to administer the oath of office to the hardliner Zionist.
    Doubling down on Trump’s commitment to finding a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Pence said the president would never risk Israel’s safety.
    Trump would also do his best to defeat the Daesh (ISIL) terror group “so it can no longer threaten our people, our allies or our most cherished ally, Israel,” the vice president said.
    Palestinians are seeking to create an independent state in the territories of the West Bank, East Jerusalem al-Quds and the Gaza Strip, with East al-Quds as the capital.
    The Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) has warned the US against the relocation of the embassy, saying doing so would fuel extremism in the region and kill all chances for a solution to the conflict.

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