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Flurry Of Diplomatic Contacts Fuel Iran Nuclear Deal Speculation

Flurry Of Diplomatic Contacts Fuel Iran Nuclear Deal Speculation
Flurry Of Diplomatic Contacts Fuel Iran Nuclear Deal Speculation


WASHINGTON (AP) — A flurry of diplomatic contacts and reports of major progress suggest that indirect talks between the U.S. and Iran may be nearing an agreement. That’s despite efforts by U.S. officials to play down chances of an imminent deal that would bring Washington and Tehran back into compliance with the 2015 nuclear deal.

With the negotiations in Vienna on hiatus, the U.S. and Britain denied Iranian reports that any agreement was at hand with Iran for a swap of American and British prisoners. Such an exchange could be a confidence-building measure to revive the nuclear deal.

A U.S. return to the deal would be the biggest and most controversial foreign policy initiative in the early months of Joe Biden’s presidency. It would revive a deal that top Biden aides put together during their years in the Obama administration, only to see President Donald Trump pull out and try to prevent the U.S. from ever returning. Rejoining it — and making the concessions required to do so — would enrage Republicans and likely unsettle Israel and Gulf Arab allies.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani speaks during a meeting on talks in Vienna and nuclear deal in Tehran, Iran on April 20, 202



Iranian President Hassan Rouhani speaks during a meeting on talks in Vienna and nuclear deal in Tehran, Iran on April 20, 2021. (Photo by Iranian Presidency/Handout/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Even as Secretary of State Antony Blinken and British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab rejected the prisoner swap reports at a news conference Monday in London, senior American diplomats were in the Middle East meeting Gulf Arab leaders. And two of the nuclear deal’s biggest proponents in Congress — Democratic Sens. Chris Coons and Chris Murphy — were touring the region.

Those discussions follow a week of top-level meetings in Washington between Biden; his national security adviser, Jake Sullivan; Blinken; his deputy, Wendy Sherman; special Iran envoy Rob Malley; and others with the head of Israel’s spy agency and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s top national security aide.

The Israelis are adamantly opposed to any U.S. rapprochement with Iran, which they regard as an existential threat to the Jewish state. At least three separate meetings were held with the Israelis last week, including one Friday with Mossad chief Yossi Cohen at which Biden made an appearance. White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Cohen was briefed on the Vienna discussions “and the progress being made there.”

Later Friday, and on Saturday, reports emerged from Iran and Iran-linked media outlets that an agreement had been struck on what the U.S. would provide in return for Iran returning to compliance with the 2015 deal, which had given billions of dollars in sanctions relief in exchange for curbs on its nuclear program. On Sunday reports of the prisoner swap deal emerged.

U.S. officials were quick to bat those reports down as premature and inaccurate, although the broad contours of potential sanctions relief are well-known and Washington has made no secret of its eagerness to free Americans held in Iran.

Administration officials have allowed that limited progress has been made at the talks in Vienna, where Malley is heading the U.S. delegation. Malley was a key figure in the Obama administration’s negotiation of the original nuclear deal in 2015, as were Sherman and Sullivan, who respectively led those talks and took part in secret meetings that paved the way for the agreement.

The Biden administration reacted sharply to the Iranian reports. The State Department said “we are not at the cusp of any breakthrough” and dismissed the prisoner swap claim as false. “Unfortunately, that report is untrue,” White House chief of staff Ron Klain said Sunday.

Sullivan himself has been cautious in public comments about the talks, stressing that things stand at a “unclear place in Vienna.” At a virtual meeting of the Aspen Security Forum on Friday, he underscored that the talks were a “real negotiation” while acknowledging the indirect nature of the discussions have made the undertaking somewhat “inefficient.”

“I guess good faith is always in the eye of the beholder and we believe the Iranians have come in a serious way to have serious discussions about details and the teams are working through those details now,” he said.

Thus, the surge in diplomatic activity as negotiators prepare for a fourth round of talks in Vienna has given supporters of the deal that Trump withdrew from in 2018 reason for hope. And it has caused deal opponents great angst.

Complicating any potential resolution either in the short- or medium-term is the significant array of opponents lined up to try to frustrate a deal. In addition to the Gulf Arabs and Israel, there is strong opposition from Republican members of Congress who are already trying to pass legislation to block it. In Iran, elements of the hard-line Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps appear to be using the Vienna talks to thwart a candidacy of Foreign Minister Mohamed Javad Zarif in presidential elections this year.

Deal critics have taken issue with the negotiating tactics of Malley and his colleagues, alleging that they are giving away the leverage on Iran that Trump created when he pulled out of the deal and imposed sweeping new sanctions. In fact, any U.S. return to the deal would require the easing of many of those sanctions, including possibly ones that were imposed for non-nuclear reasons, such as terrorism, ballistic missile activity and human rights abuses.

Deal supporters, on the other hand, have lashed out at that criticism, accusing the other side of rejecting diplomacy and cheerleading for war. They argue that sanctions relief is the only way to bring Iran back into compliance with the agreement and shut down its pathways to a nuclear weapon.

Associated Press writer Aamer Madhani in Chicago contributed to this report.



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GOP Rep. Lauren Boebert Gets Blistering Reminders After Sycophantic Tweet About Trump

GOP Rep. Lauren Boebert Gets Blistering Reminders After Sycophantic Tweet About Trump
GOP Rep. Lauren Boebert Gets Blistering Reminders After Sycophantic Tweet About Trump




The conspiracy theory-endorsing Colorado Republican tweeted about the “correct” ex-president.



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Ex-Defense Secretary Delivers Damning Takedown Of GOP Spin On U.S. Capitol Riot

Ex-Defense Secretary Delivers Damning Takedown Of GOP Spin On U.S. Capitol Riot
Ex-Defense Secretary Delivers Damning Takedown Of GOP Spin On U.S. Capitol Riot



Bill Clinton-era Defense Secretary William Cohen on Friday tore into elected Republicans who are desperately trying to spin the narrative on the deadly U.S. Capitol riot.

“Those members who are trying to say, ‘No big deal on Jan. 6,’ they’re trying to perform a frontal lobotomy on the American people, a side effect which is mental dullness,” Cohen, a Republican former senator for Maine, told CNN’s Anderson Cooper.

GOP lawmakers on Wednesday tried to depict the riot, in which five people died, as “a normal tour visit” involving “peaceful patriots.” That’s despite the existence of thousands of hours of video footage proving the violence incited by ex-President Donald Trump and his enablers was anything but.

“Everyone who watched what took place that day cannot begin to even think this was just a normal day with a bunch of citizens parading through the halls of Congress,” said Cohen, calling it “an assault upon democracy.”

“When you abandon the rule of law … when the government becomes a lawbreaker, it breeds contempt for the rule of law, it invites anarchy, and what we saw on Jan. 6 was anarchy,” he added. And for those members now to say, ‘Oh, it’s just a day in the life of members of Congress,’ is absurd, it’s insulting.”

Watch the interview here:





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Kid Reporter Damon Weaver Who Interviewed Obama Is Dead At 23

Kid Reporter Damon Weaver Who Interviewed Obama Is Dead At 23
Kid Reporter Damon Weaver Who Interviewed Obama Is Dead At 23



The student reporter who managed to score a sit-down interview at the age of 11 with then-President Barack Obama in 2009 has died at 23, his family announced.

Damon Weaver won America’s heart when the young journalist fired off several questions for Obama during his 10-minute interview in the White House Diplomatic Room. Weaver asked Obama if he got “bullied a lot.” Obama said he just tries to good job and that “keeps me going.”

Weaver also asked if Obama would be willing to play Miami Heat hoops star Dwayne Wade one-on-one. Obama said he’d be willing, even though Wade is a “little bit better at basketball than I am.”

He thanked the president for “making my dream come true.” Weaver asked Obama to become his “homeboy.”

Weaver, a native of Pahokee, Florida, became the youngest person to interview a sitting president.

Weaver died May 1 of natural causes, his sister Candace Hardy told The Palm Beach Post. He was studying communications at Georgia’s Albany State University to fulfill his dream of becoming a sports journalist, and was looking forward to returning to school in the fall, according to Hardy.

She called her brother’s interview with Obama “life-changing for him,” adding that it was a “once-in-a-lifetime experience.”

She said her brother was an inspiration for other children.

“A lot of people looked up to him,” she told the Post. “With him being so young, he made a way for more students to engage in journalism.”

She described her brother as “just a nice person, genuine, very intelligent.” He was a “ball of light with so much energy. He was always a joy to be around. He left an impact on a lot of people,” Hardy said.

On an earlier trip to Washington, D.C., Weaver also interviewed Oprah Winfrey, Samuel L. Jackson, Chris Tucker and LL Cool J.

“I got to interview a lot of famous people, and also I got to be on the red carpet,” he said. “I thought that was cool.”



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Don Lemon Teases ‘End Of An Era’ At CNN But It’s ‘Not What You Think’

Don Lemon Teases ‘End Of An Era’ At CNN But It’s ‘Not What You Think’
Don Lemon Teases ‘End Of An Era’ At CNN But It’s ‘Not What You Think’



Don Lemon teased changes to his role at CNN and promptly sent Twitter users into overdrive.

“I appreciate all the years of ‘CNN Tonight With Don Lemon’ but changes are coming and I will fill you in,” Lemon concluded his prime-time show on Friday.

With social media rife with speculation about Lemon’s future at the network, he later tweeted a video clarifying his comments. It was “not what you think,” he wrote.

“So, I got back down to my office after the show. Everybody calm down. I didn’t say I was leaving CNN,” the anchor said in the clip.

“I just said it was the end of an era for ‘CNN Tonight With Don Lemon.’ I’m not leaving CNN,” Lemon explained. “So, you will have to tune in Monday at 10 o’clock to see. That’s it. So relax.”

It means the announcement will come during the handover from Chris Cuomo’s earlier “Cuomo Prime Time” show.

“I’m not leaving,” Lemon added, laughing. “I’m not leaving.”

Should a shake-up of the network’s evening schedule be in the works, it would follow last month’s revamp of its daytime shows that saw Brianna Keilar moving from her early afternoon slot to co-host “New Day.”

Watch Lemon’s comments here:





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Joe Biden Cancels Donald Trump’s Planned ‘National Garden of American Heroes’

Joe Biden Cancels Donald Trump’s Planned ‘National Garden of American Heroes’
Joe Biden Cancels Donald Trump’s Planned ‘National Garden of American Heroes’



WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden on Friday put the kibosh on his predecessor’s planned “National Garden of American Heroes” and revoked former President Donald Trump’s executive orders aimed at social media companies’ moderation policies and branding American foreign aid.

In an executive order of his own, Biden abolished the Trump-formed task force to create the new monument, which the former president proposed last year.

It was to have featured sculptures of dozens of American historical figures, including presidents, athletes and pop culture icons, envisioned by Trump as “a vast outdoor park that will feature the statues of the greatest Americans to ever live.”

Trump himself curated the list of who was to be included — Davy Crockett, Billy Graham, Whitney Houston, Harriet Tubman and Antonin Scalia, among others — but no site was selected and the garden was never funded by Congress.

Biden’s order also revoked Trump’s May 2020 order calling for the Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission to investigate social media companies for labeling or removing posts or entire accounts in what Trump claimed was a restriction on free speech. That order came before Trump himself was removed from platforms like Twitter and Facebook after the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol.

The president also ended Trump’s December 2020 order to brand all U.S. foreign aid with a single “logo that embodies the values and generosity of the American people.”

Also revoked was Trump’s June 2020 order that called for the federal government to “prosecute to the fullest extent permitted under Federal law” acts of vandalism and destruction to statues on federal property. That order came in response to the defacement of statues — particularly those honoring the Confederacy — during nationwide protests over racial injustice following the killing of George Floyd while in police custody.

Biden also took aim at a Trump proclamation that required immigrants to prove they would be covered by certain health insurance plans within 30 days of entering the U.S. or prove they could cover medical costs.

“My Administration is committed to expanding access to quality, affordable healthcare,” Biden said in revoking that proclamation. “We can achieve that objective, however, without barring the entry of noncitizens who seek to immigrate lawfully to this country but who lack significant financial means or have not purchased health insurance coverage from a restrictive list of qualifying plans.”



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DACA Recipients Were ‘Candid’ With Biden About ‘High Stakes’ Of Immigration Reform

DACA Recipients Were ‘Candid’ With Biden About ‘High Stakes’ Of Immigration Reform
DACA Recipients Were ‘Candid’ With Biden About ‘High Stakes’ Of Immigration Reform



President Joe Biden met with six recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program at the White House, where the young people expressed the urgent need for permanent protections for all undocumented immigrants

DACA recipient Maria Praeli said in a statement after the meeting that she was “enormously grateful” that Biden listened to their stories of how their families have “struggled with the broken immigration system.”

“We were able to be candid with the president,” Praeli said of herself and the other DACA recipients, often referred to as “Dreamers,” who were brought to the U.S. as children.

They detailed how “painful” it is to have one’s immigration status “in limbo,” Praeli said, adding that the meeting with Biden “made even clearer the incredibly high stakes of permanently protecting immigrants from deportation.” 

The White House said that the president “reiterated his support for Dreamers” and other “essential” immigrant workers and discussed the need for broader immigration reform. 

Biden has been pushing several immigration bills in Congress: one to provide permanent resident status to Dreamers and others to provide a path to citizenship for farmworkers and other undocumented immigrants.  

However, immigration reform efforts passed by the Democratic-led House face tough odds in the closely divided Senate. 

After former President Donald Trump tried to end the Barack Obama-era DACA program, Dreamers were left unsure of their protections from deportation until the Supreme Court ruled that the program was wrongly ended, reinstating it.

DACA recipients have long been pushing for permanent protections not just for themselves and others brought to the U.S. as children but for all 11 million or so undocumented immigrants living in the country.

“It’s extremely painful to feel so American yet know that my future in this country is not secure,” Praeli, who is a government manager at the immigrant rights group Fwd.us, told MSNBC before the meeting. 





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