VOA NEWS

May 20, 2017

From Washington, this is VOA news. I'm Steve Miller reporting.



The Washington Post is quoting unidentified sources that report the FBI investigation into possible ties between President Donald Trump's political organization and Russia has identified a current senior White House official as "a significant person of interest" in the case.

The senior official is now under scrutiny and is said to be someone close to the president, attributing its report to "people familiar with the matter." The senior official was not identified further.

FBI agents assigned to the investigation are said to remain "keenly interested" in Trump aides who were influential during the year's political campaign but either did not join the new administration or have already left the government. These include former campaign chairman Paul Manafort and former national security adviser Michael Flynn.

The New York Times reported earlier that U.S. President Donald Trump told Russian officials in the Oval Office earlier this month that had just fired FBI director James Comey. The Times quoted a document read to The Times by a U.S. official. The document quoted Trump as saying "I just fired the head of the FBI. He was crazy, a real nut job."

According to the document, Trump ??? "I faced great pressure because of Russia. That's taken off."

The White House responded by saying Comey's grandstanding and politicizing of the Russia probe hurt diplomatic efforts with Moscow.

The Senate Intelligence Committee says Comey has agreed to testify in open session.



A Reuters/Ipsos poll says public approval of U.S. President Trump has dropped to its lowest level since he was inaugurated.

The poll indicates only 38 percent of U.S. adults now approve of the president, while 56 percent say they disapprove of his performance.



This is VOA news.



Pro-Syrian government forces hit by U.S.-led coalition airstrikes in an established deconfliction zone inside Syria were directed by Iran, U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis said on Friday.

"That was, again, as the chairman pointed out, self-defense of our forces. It was necessitated, sir, by offensive movement with offensive capability of what we believe were Iranian-directed -- I don't know there were Iranians on the ground, but by Iranian-directed forces inside an established and agreed-upon deconfliction zone."

Syria has condemned the U.S.-led coalition attack that officials say killed several people and caused material damage.

Russia - a close ally of the Syrian government - called the airstrikes against the government military position "unacceptable."

U.S. Central Command spokesman Major Josh Jacques said in an interview with the Voice of America on Thursday that pro-Syrian government forces set up a convoy northwest of al-Tanf army base, where U.S.-led coalition forces are training Syrian militias fighting Islamic State.



The WannaCry ransomware attack last week affected some 300,000 computer systems in at least 150 countries around the globe. As VOA's Robert Raffaele reports, since no one has claimed responsibility, it is unclear who to blame.

It was the biggest hack in history and it's a scary preview of things to come. But one thing is a lot less clear whether North Korea had anything to do with it.

Despite bits and pieces of evidence that suggest a possible North Korea link, experts warn there is nothing conclusive. A question the experts ask is why would Pyongyang carry out a big hack that hurt China and Russia and for what appears to be a small amount of money. As of Friday, less than 100,000 dollars paid in ransom.

North Korea's Deputy U.N. Ambassador Kim In Ryong dismissed allegations that Pyongyang was behind the cyberattacks.

But identifying hackers behind sophisticated attacks is a notoriously difficult task. Proving they are acting under the explicit orders of a nation state is even trickier.

Robert Raffaele, VOA news, Washington.



Swedish prosecutors say they have dropped a seven-year rape investigation against Julian Assange, the Australian whistle-blower who founded WikiLeaks.

Since 2012, Assange has been living inside the Ecuadorean embassy in London to avoid arrest and extradition.

The United States Justice Department has been investigating Assange since [last] at least 2010 when WikiLeaks published thousands of stolen U.S. security files.



In Washington, I'm Steve Miller.

That's the latest world news from VOA.