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5 things for Thursday, April 6: Syria attack, Chinese president, Susan Rice
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The deadly chemical attack on civilians in Syria has brought that country's horrendous civil war back to the forefront. President Trump said it "crossed a lot of lines" for him and changed the way he views Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Many wonder if it will change his mind about Vladimir Putin, too, since it's the Russian leader's support for Syria's regime that's given Assad an upper hand. Survivors of the attack described chemical bombs dropped from planes -- contradicting Syrian and Russian government accounts. One man said he lost 25 relatives in the attack. The President didn't say how US strategy on Syria might change but said he now has "responsibility" when it comes to the conflict.
It may be the most important meeting of Donald Trump's young presidency. Chinese President Xi Jinping and Trump meet for the first time today. This one should be fascinating. The two men couldn't be more different in experience, temperament and how they see the world. Trump gleefully bashed China during his campaign, so it'll be interesting to see if the public tough talk continues in these private meetings. Trump and Xi will be at Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort, but they probably won't spend much time on the golf course.
Without offering evidence, President Trump suggested Susan Rice committed a crime when the ex-national security adviser asked to unmask names of Trump associates mentioned in intel reports. It's all tied to Trump's claims that the Obama White House spied on him. Rice has said she was just doing her job and didn't leak names to the press. Some conservatives see Rice as something of an uber-villain (think Benghazi and Bowe Bergdahl). Ex-Obama adviser David Axelrod stood up for her, saying Trump should provide any evidence he has and slamming the allegation as beneath the dignity of the President's office.
Steve Bannon has been tossed off the National Security Council, but what does that tell us about Bannon's place in Trump's universe? Some White House insiders said this was no big deal, and that the President's chief strategist was only on the council to "babysit" ex-national security adviser Michael Flynn. And since Flynn -- who was only in his role for about a hot minute -- is no longer with the Trump White House, it's OK for Bannon to exit the council. Hogwash, others say. This was a straight-up demotion for Bannon (and a big win for ex-Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, Trump's current national security adviser) and a clear sign that Bannon's influence with the President has waned somewhat.
Things have gone from bad to worse for Alabama's governor. A state commission says Gov. Robert Bentley may have violated state ethics and campaign finance laws. The case has been sent to a district attorney. If he's charged and convicted, Bentley could face jail time and fines. Bentley's been accused of using state resources to carry on an affair with a former staffer who resigned amid the controversy. Explicit audio from 2014 allegedly reveals Bentley talking dirty with her. In 2016, Bentley's wife divorced him and lawmakers considered impeaching him. This new ethics report may rekindle the effort to drive him from office.
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Meanwhile, this teen from New Jersey wrote #BlackLivesMatter 100 times in his application to Stanford -- and it worked.
It's full steam ahead on Norway's plans to build the world's first ship tunnel, a mile-long passage big enough for huge cruise and freight ships.
One is the loneliest number
Wow, Shia LaBeouf's not the box office draw he used to be. His latest movie opened in the UK and sold exactly one ticket over the weekend.
Number of Uber and Lyft drivers banned from driving in Massachusetts after they failed the state's new, tougher background checks.
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