Convicted murderer Kenneth Williams is scheduled to be put to death Thursday at 7 p.m. CT in what would be Arkansas' fourth execution of the month, BuzzFeed News reports. Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) had originally announced eight executions for April, but so far only three have been carried out while four others have been put on hold by different courts. The state is hurrying to carry out capital punishment before the supply of one of its three execution drugs expires at the end of the month.
To date, the state Supreme Court has denied two of Williams' requests for a stay; his lawyers filed a new lawsuit Thursday.
Former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn was directly told in 2014 not to take money from foreign governments without explicit permission, documents released Thursday reveal. Flynn, who resigned from the Trump administration in February, took $34,000 in December 2015 for a speaking gala concerning Russian TV and more than $500,000 for lobbying on behalf of Turkish interests ahead of the November election. A defense intelligence official said Thursday that no record of Flynn asking for permission or approval "for the receipt of money from a foreign source" could be found, NBC News reports.
Cummings to the White House over not handing over Mike Flynn info: “Come on, man” (one of Obama's favorite lines) pic.twitter.com/DbNWi1bbz1
— Bradd Jaffy (@BraddJaffy) April 27, 2017
Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) and Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) — the ranking member and chairman of the House Oversight Committee, respectively — jointly criticized the White House for denying their request for documents related to Flynn. "I don't understand why the White House is covering up for Michael Flynn," Cummings said.
Facing accusations that Flynn's vetting process by the Trump team was insufficient, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer noted Thursday that the Obama administration was responsible for giving Flynn his security clearance years prior. Of course, it was still the Trump team that named Flynn as the administration's national security adviser, a role he filled for just 24 days. Jeva Lange
Asked about Mike Flynn’s vetting by the Trump team, Spicer blames the Obama admin. for renewing Flynn’s security clearance years before pic.twitter.com/iPkuxA7uCu
— Bradd Jaffy (@BraddJaffy) April 27, 2017
Two American soldiers were killed overnight in the eastern Afghanistan province of Nangarhar in an operation against an Islamic State affiliate, Pentagon spokesman Capt. Jeff Davis said Thursday.
The operation targeted the Afghanistan wing of the terrorist group, known as ISIS-K. An additional Special Operations Forces soldier was wounded in combat, but is expected to live, CNN reports.
The Nangarhar region is a hotbed for ISIS, and has been the site of many U.S.-Afghan joint counterterrorism operations. It is also near where the U.S. dropped the so-called "mother of all bombs" earlier this month. Jeva Lange
White House Director of Legislative Affairs Marc Short has refused the House Oversight Committee's request for documents regarding ousted National Security Adviser Michael Flynn. The House committee is investigating whether Flynn, who registered as a foreign agent after he was forced to resign from Trump's administration over his dealings with Russia, fully disclosed his work for foreign governments on his security clearance application.
In a letter, Short said some of the requested documents were in the custody of the Department of Defense, not the White House. In the case of other documents, Short wrote that the White House was "unable to accommodate" the requests. Short's response arrived as the committee convened Tuesday to review its first set of documents on Flynn, provided by the Pentagon.
Previous documents released by the White House at the beginning of April revealed Flynn had not disclosed income he'd received from three Russia-linked firms. Flynn's lobbying company has also been found to have worked for a firm linked to the Turkish government while Flynn was serving as a top adviser to Trump's presidential campaign.
Flynn is one of the major players from the Trump administration being looked at in FBI, House, and Senate investigations into the Trump team's ties to Russia's election meddling. Becca Stanek
U.S. imposes sanctions on 271 employees of Syrian Scientific Studies and Research Center after deadly chemical attack
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin announced at Monday's White House press briefing that the U.S. has issued new economic sanctions against Syria in response to the deadly chemical attack there earlier this month. The sanctions will be imposed on 271 individuals who work for the Syrian Scientific Studies and Research Center, the Syrian government agency that is believed to be responsible for developing chemical weapons.
Many of the individuals facing sanctions are "experts in chemistry and related fields" or people who have worked "in support of the center's 'chemical weapons program' since at least 2012, or both," Reuters reported. "We intend to hold the Assad regime accountable for its unacceptable behavior," Mnuchin said, noting the new sanctions send a "strong message."
The April 4 attack, which the Trump administration has blamed on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, killed nearly 100 people, including children. The U.S. responded days later with a missile strike. Becca Stanek
The State Department has named former Fox News Channel anchor Heather Nauert as its spokeswoman, filling a position that had been left vacant for nearly 100 days, The Associated Press reports. Mark Toner, the department's deputy spokesman under former President Barack Obama, had previously filled the role on an acting basis.
The State Department stopped its sporadic on-camera press briefings in late March, with officials saying Secretary of State Rex Tillerson would resume the briefings once the department hired a permanent spokesperson. It is unclear when Nauert, a Fox & Friends alumna, will restart briefings. The State Department has been criticized since President Trump took office for its inaccessibility. Jeva Lange
Early projections put centrist Emmanuel Macron and far-right nationalist Marine Le Pen in position to advance to the second round of voting in France's runoff presidential election. Per numbers from The Guardian, Macron has a slight lead with about 23.7 percent of the vote and Le Pen follows with about 22 percent.
The other two (of 11 total) candidates thought to have a shot at advancing, center-right François Fillon and far-left populist Jean-Luc Mélenchon, are each projected to take around 19.5 percent. The second vote is May 7. Bonnie Kristian
The Trump administration has denied ExxonMobil's request for a waiver from U.S. sanctions to work with Russia, The Wall Street Journal reports. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who formerly served as Exxon's CEO, recused himself from the deliberations; the announcement was made by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.
The Wall Street Journal noted earlier this week that it is not clear whether Exxon applied for the waiver before or after Tillerson was confirmed as President Trump's secretary of state. Tillerson struck a deal with Russian oil company Rosneft in 2012 to drill in Russia's portion of the Black Sea, but the agreement was hampered by sanctions slapped on Russia in 2014 in response to the annexation of Crimea. Exxon is reportedly worried that if it isn't proactive, it "could get boxed out of the Black Sea," which may hold billions of barrels of oil. Jeva Lange