VOA NEWS

May 12, 2017

From VOA news in Washington.



President Donald Trump acknowledged on Thursday that he had asked the head of the nation's top law enforcement agency whether he was being investigated.

FBI Director James Comey was fired by Trump on Tuesday, creating a political firestorm and raising questions in some circles about a constitutional crisis.

In an interview with NBC News, Trump said he asked the then-FBI director, Comey, "if it's possible, would you let me know, am I under investigation? He said, 'You are not under investigation.'"

In the television interview, President Trump repeated "I am not under investigation" when asked about Comey's sworn testimony that there is an ongoing investigation into his 2016 presidential campaign and possible collusion with the Russian government.

Trump said in Thursday's interview he would have fired Comey even if top Justice Department officials had not recommended it. He called former President Barack Obama's appointee "a showboat. He's a grandstander."

Comey was directing investigations into connections between the Trump campaign and Russian officials, along with possible meddling by Moscow in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

The White House on Thursday continued to defend its dismissal of the FBI chief and denied it tried to put the responsibility on a deputy attorney general's memo for the abrupt removal.

Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House principal deputy press secretary said, "I don't think there was ever an attempt to pin the decision on the deputy attorney general." However, she had earlier asserted that Trump's firing decision was based on the memo.



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U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces have defeated Islamic State fighters in the city of Tabqa and have seized Tabqa Dam, a key objective for the militias before a planned attack on the terror group's de-facto capital, Raqqa.

The SDF, a multi-ethnic group which includes Kurdish fighters and Syrian Arab Coalition fighters, had been battling Islamic State for weeks in Tabqa, about 40 kilometers west of Raqqa, with the help of coalition airstrikes and U.S. special forces advisers.

U.S. Colonel John Dorrian said in a Central Command statement released Thursday "This is yet another victory by the SAC and the SDF, one of our most committed and capable ground force partners in the fight against ISIS."

U.S. Central Command, which oversees U.S. military operations in the Middle East, said approximately 70 Islamic State fighters had conceded to the SDF's terms, which included dismantling bombs surrounding the dam, surrendering their heavy weapons and withdrawing all remaining fighters from Tabqa.

Central Command said the SDF accepted the IS surrender in order "to protect innocent civilians" and to preserve the Tabqa Dam infrastructure, which hundreds of thousands of Syrians rely on for water, agriculture, and electricity.



An American-born al-Qaeda member turned informant will be freed from federal prison after providing valuable information to American authorities.

A federal judge in New York sentenced Bryant Neal Vinas Thursday to the time he has already served more than eight years. The 34-year-old native New Yorker will be on probation for the rest of his life.

The information Vinas provided about al-Qaeda in Pakistan and Afghanistan helped identify suspected terrorists, their hideouts and disrupted plots.

He was in the U.S. Army in 2002 for a few weeks, two years before he converted to Islam. He traveled to a lawless part of Pakistan in 2007 and signed on with militant groups since he had become "increasingly angered by what he perceived to be the persecution of Muslims by Western countries," his lawyers wrote in court papers quoted by The Associated Press.



U.S. immigration authorities said Thursday a six-week-long nationwide crackdown has ended with nearly 1,100 arrests of members of some of the country's most dangerous gangs.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement says the suspects include 445 foreign nationals from 21 countries, including those in Latin America, Asia, Africa and Europe.

Large amounts of drugs and guns and nearly half a million dollars in cash were also seized during raids in a number of large U.S. cities.

A total of 1,378 suspects were arrested, with 1,095 confirmed gang members.



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