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Trump asks Comey to drop Flynn probe, White House denies

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Washington, May 17, 2017: US President Donald Trump had asked former Federal Bureau of Investigation Director James Comey to end the probe into former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn’s ties with the Russian ambassador here, the media reported on Wednesday.

According to sources, the request was documented in a memo written by Comey that quoted Trump as saying: “I hope you can let this go.”

The White House has however rejected the new allegations. According to a White House official, a “conversation of that nature” did not happen.

“While the President has repeatedly expressed his view that Flynn is a decent man who served and protected our country, he has never asked Comey or anyone else to end any investigation, including any probe involving Flynn,” the official said in a White House statement.

“The President has the utmost respect for our law enforcement agencies, and all investigations. This is not a truthful or accurate portrayal of the conversation between the President and Comey.”

The revelation on Tuesday escalated the already raging political crises engulfing the White House triggered by the FBI’s probe into alleged cooperation between Trump aides and Moscow, and reports that the President shared classified information to top Russian officials, CNN reported.

The stunning new developments triggered immediate claims from Democrats that Trump was guilty of obstructing justice and extreme concern from the President’s Republican allies on Capitol Hill.

Adam Schiff, the highest ranked Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said this intervention by Trump, if correct, amounted to “interference or obstruction of the investigation”, the BBC reporterd.

Senator John MCain reportedly said at a dinner that the Trump scandals had now reached “Watergate size”.

Trump on May 9 fired Comey, who led the FBI investigation into the ties between Russian officials and Trump’s presidential campaign, an issue that Congress also addresses.

Flynn has been at the centre of that investigation shortly after Trump’s arrival to the White House.

Flynn advised Trump on foreign policy during the campaign and was later appointed NSA, a position he was forced to resign after lying about his contacts with the Russian Ambassador in Washington.

Sources said that Comey was so appalled by the request at an Oval Office meeting on February 14 that he wanted to document it to share his recollections of the encounter with senior FBI officials.

The report has put a new complexion on Trump’s firing of Comey, a move he later confided to NBC News was motivated by anger over the Russia probe.

A source said the encounter between Comey and Trump unfolded after the then FBI Director was in the Oval Office briefing Trump along with Vice President Mike Pence and Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

After the briefing, Trump “asked Sessions and Pence to leave”, the source told CNN.

According to Comey’s memo, the President said: “I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go. He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go.”

The President told Comey that Flynn, who was fired for lying to Pence about the content of his telephone conversations with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak before the inauguration, hadn’t done anything wrong.

Tuesday’s developments sent shockwaves up to the Capitol Hill, where there has been increasing disquiet among Republicans due to allegations that the President divulged classified information to Russian officials.

Republican Jason Chaffetz, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, sent a letter from the FBI asking for the handover of “all memoranda, notes, summaries and recordings referring or relating to any communications between Comey and the President”.

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Prince Charles out of self-isolation, in ‘good health’

His wife, the Duchess of Cornwall, 72, was also tested and did not have the virus, but also began self-isolating.

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London, March 30 : Prince Charles, who had tested positive for coronavirus earlier this month, is out of self-isolation, his aides said on Monday.

A official of Clarence House, the Prince of Wales’ official residence, said he was in good health and was following the government’s restrictions.

“Clarence House has confirmed today that, having consulted with his doctor, the Prince of Wales is now out of self-isolation,” the spokesman said, the BBC reported.

Charles, 71, spent seven days self-isolating at his home in the royal Balmoral estate in Scotland after testing positive and displaying mild symptoms.

His wife, the Duchess of Cornwall, 72, was also tested and did not have the virus, but also began self-isolating.

Buckingham Palace previously said the Queen Elizabeth II last saw her son, the heir to the throne, on March 12, and was “in good health”.

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20,000 ex-NHS staff return to fight virus: UK PM

Johnson’s announcement on Monday comes a day after England’s deputy chief medical officer Jenny Harries said on Sunday that it could be six months before life returns to “normal”, the BBC reported.

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London, March 30 : Some 20,000 former staff of the UK’s National Health Services (NHS) have returned to work to help the fight against the coronavirus pandemic, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has revealed in a video posted online on Monday.

Thanking the doctors, nurses and other former professionals who have returned to the NHS, as well as the 750,000 members of the public who have volunteered to help the country through the pandemic, Johnson said in the video posted on Twitter: “We are going to do it, we are going to do it together,” the BBC reported.

“One thing I think the coronavirus crisis has already proved is that there really is such a thing as society,” he said, while contradicting the view of late Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, that “there is no such thing as society”.

Johnson, who is self-isolating after testing positive for the virus last week, said the public appeared to be obeying the restrictions set out by government to slow the spread of the virus, adding that train use was down 95 per cent and bus use down 75 per cent.

In another development, a Downing Street source confirmed on Monday that Dominic Cummings, Johnson’s chief adviser, has developed symptoms of the virus and was self-isolating at home.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock has also tested positive for the disease.

Johnson’s announcement on Monday comes a day after England’s deputy chief medical officer Jenny Harries said on Sunday that it could be six months before life returns to “normal”, the BBC reported.

Harries said this did not mean the country would be in “complete lockdown” for half a year, but distancing measures would be reviewed every three weeks and reduced gradually over a period of around three to six months.

However, she said it was “plausible” restrictions could continue for longer.

As of Monday, the UK has reported 19,784 confirmed coronavirus cases, with 1,231 deaths.

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Trump extends US ‘social distancing’ guidelines to April 30

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President Donald Trump on Sunday extended the national social distancing guidelines to April 30 after suggesting that the coronavirus death rate would likely peak in two weeks.

“Nothing would be worse than declaring victory before the victory has been won,” Trump said at an evening press briefing. “Therefore we will be extending our guidelines to April 30.”

The president has previously said he wants to reopen the country for business by Easter, on April 12, despite warnings from public health experts that loosening restrictions would result in unnecessary death and economic damage.

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