Rex Tillerson did not talk to Donald Trump before he was fired Tuesday and apparently found out from the president’s tweet about it this morning, according to the State Department. A report from The Washington Post—which broke the news of Tillerson’s firing—claimed Trump asked the outgoing secretary of State to step aside last Friday, days before his strongly critical comments against Russia on Monday. However, a statement from Undersecretary of State Steve Goldstein, tweeted by ABC News’ Conor Finnegan, said: “The Secretary had every intention of staying because of the critical progress made in national security. He will miss his colleagues at the Department of State and the foreign ministers he has worked with throughout the world. The Secretary did not speak to the President and is unaware of the reason, but he is grateful for the opportunity to serve, and still believes strongly that public service is a noble calling. We wish Secretary Designate Pompeo well.”
*Britain gives Putin until midnight to explain nerve attack on former spy:
Britain gave President Vladimir Putin until midnight on Tuesday to explain how a nerve agent developed by the Soviet Union was used to strike down a former Russian double agent who passed secrets to British intelligence. Sergei Skripal, 66, and his daughter Yulia, 33, have been in hospital in a critical condition since March 4 when they were found unconscious on a bench outside a shopping center in the English cathedral city of Salisbury. Prime Minister Theresa May said it was “highly likely” that Russia was to blame after Britain identified the substance as part of the highly-lethal Novichok group of nerve agents developed by the Soviet military in the 1970s and 1980s.
*Trump: It ‘Sounds Like’ Russia Poisoned Former Spy
Donald Trump has finally broken his silence on the attempted murder of a Russian former spy on British soil, saying it “sounds to me” like Russia carried out the attack against Sergei Skripal. Trump has been silent on the attempted murder using a deadly nerve agent in England last week, but speaking shortly after he fired Rex Tillerson as secretary of State—who himself pointed the finger at Russia the night before his firing—Trump said he will condemn Russia once he learns the facts from the British prime minister, who he’ll speak to today. “It sounds to me—I’m speaking to [British Prime Minister] Theresa May today—it sounds to me like it would be Russia, based on all of the evidence they have,” said Trump, when asked who he thought was responsible for the attack. The president went on: “It sounds to me like [the British] believe it would be Russia and I would certainly take that finding as fact. As soon as we get the facts straight, if we agree with them, we will condemn Russia or whoever it may be.”
*Gina Haspel is first woman to lead the CIA:
President Trump appointed the first woman as CIA director Tuesday following another shakeup in his Cabinet. Gina Haspel, 61, will take the helm at the agency, replacing Mike Pompeo, who was named the new secretary of state after Rex Tillerson was ousted. Haspel is a seasoned spymaster who ran a CIA prison in Thailand where terror suspects were subjected to harsh interrogation techniques that Trump has supported. She helped carry out an order to destroy waterboarding videos – which prompted a Department of Justice probe that ended without charges. The prison housed accused terrorists Abu Zubayadah and Abd al Rahim al-Nashiri, who were waterboarded in 2002, sources told the Associated Press.
*Not Budging – Russia Demands Samples of Poison Used to Attack Spy in U.K.
Russia’s foreign minister has insisted his country is “not to blame” for the attempted murder of a former spy on British soil, and has demanded access to samples of the nerve agent used in the attack before cooperating with the investigation. On Monday, U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May declared it “highly likely” that Russia was behind the attempted murder of Sergei Skripal and his daughter, and gave the Kremlin until the end of the day to respond to a demand for “full and complete disclosure” on the nerve-agent program British authorities believe created the poison. Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov confirmed Tuesday that the British ambassador in Russia has been summoned to the foreign ministry, and has insisted that Russia inspect samples of the nerve agent before helping with Britain’s investigation. Meanwhile, the EU expressed its solidarity with the U.K., despite the fraught relations between the two. “We are very much concerned with the situation, also the findings the U.K. has so far,” European Commission Vice President Valdis Dombrovskis told reporters Tuesday when asked if the EU might back action against Russia. “Of course the U.K. can count on EU solidarity in this regard.”
*Heating Up – Russia Threatens Action Against the U.S. if it Strikes Syria
Russia has vowed to hit back against any U.S. strike on Syria, raising the prospect of a military clash between the countries and escalating the already high tensions between Russia and the West. Nikki Haley, U.S. ambassador to the U.N., said Monday that the U.S. was “prepared to act” in Syria if the U.N. failed to implement a month-long ceasefire in the besieged Eastern Ghouta enclave. On Tuesday, the head of Russia’s general staff, Valery Gerasimov, said Russia would be prepared to retaliate for any U.S. strikes in Syria that threatened Russian servicemen. “In case the lives of our soldiers are under threat, the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation will take retaliatory measures both against missiles and against the delivery vehicles used,” Ria Novosti quoted him as saying.
*AGAIN – New England Braces for Third Nor’easter in Less Than Two Weeks
New England residents have been warned to brace for yet another brutal winter storm, less than two weeks after a previous one downed trees and left hundreds of thousands without power. Winter weather advisories or warnings were in effect late Monday for much of the Northeast, including New York City, Boston, and Portland, Maine. Some areas in Massachusetts and Rhode Island were warned to expect up to 18 inches of snow, while Connecticut was on track to get between 8 and 12 inches. Forecasters said the storm could turn into a “bomb cyclone” with heavy snow and powerful winds. More than 1,000 flights scheduled for Tuesday have already been canceled in preparation for the storm, most of them in Boston.
*KEEP SMILING – READ LBN: Now you can invite your family, and associates to receive LBN. Simply tell them to go towww.LBNElert.com and sign up to receive (if they’ve got the guts).
*LBN-BUSINESS INSIDER: President Trump on Mondayblocked Broadcom’s $117 billion bid for the chip maker Qualcomm, citing national security concerns and sending a clear signal that he was willing to take extraordinary measures to promote his administration’s increasingly protectionist stance. In a presidential order, Mr. Trump said “credible evidence” had led him to believe that if Singapore-based Broadcom were to acquire control of Qualcomm, it “might take action that threatens to impair the national security of the United States.” The acquisition, if it had gone through, would have been the largest technology deal in history. Mr. Trump’s decision to prohibit the blockbuster deal underscored the lengths that he is willing to go to shelter American companies from foreign competition. In recent weeks, the president has turned to an arsenal of tools — including tariffs and an obscure government review panel — to ward off foreign control in American industries and, in particular, thwart the rise of China.
*LBN-NOTICED: ***Supremes singer Mary Wilson and author Mark Bego at Pip’s on La Brea in LA celebrating her birthday and his book, “Eat Like a Rock Star” ***Neil Patrick Harris at Benjamin Steakhouse Prime in NYC. ***Oprah Winfrey at the Milling Room on the Upper West Side in NYC after “A Wrinkle in Time” screening. ***Clive Davis and Butch Elias at Primola in NYC.
*THINK FREELY – READ LBN: Be Independent. Think Independent. Read LBN (if you’ve got the guts).
*LBN-R.I.P.: ***Oskar Gröning, an unassuming onetime corporal in Hitler’s Waffen SS who became known as the bookkeeper of Auschwitz, one of the very last Germans to face war-crime charges arising from the Holocaust, has died. He was 96. Hans Holtermann, a lawyer for Mr. Gröning, told the German public broadcaster NDR on Monday that his client died late last week, giving no further details. Mr. Holtermann also sent a letter to the public prosecutor’s office in Hannover, said a spokesman, Thomas Klinge. Mr. Gröning was convicted nearby in Lüneburg in 2015.
THE CREATION OF A BEST-SELLING BOOK – Without Notes with Dr. Srini Pillay – Episode 3: Unlocking Power of the Unfocused Mind — https://youtu.be/LQeEleHOqyA
*LBN-SITE OF THE DAY:
Develop fully functional Android apps for smartphones and tablets. Great website for newcomers to computer programming.
*LBN-COMMENTARY by Marco Rubio (Senator from Florida): After World War II, the United States helped build an international economic order on the assumption that free and fair trade benefits all partners. During the postwar years, the American economy was unmatched by any other country. The postwar boom was fueled not just by thriving domestic demand but also by trade, which opened a flow of wealth from the world’s consumers to American workers. Trade made America and our partners more prosperous and secure. This basic case for trade still stands. When we exchange goods with other nations on equal terms, both countries benefit. Maintaining the conditions that make this possible is the purpose of the international economic order that we took great care to nurture. We need to take violations of this economic order seriously. We must enforce the rules. China, in pursuit of its goals of economic and regional dominance, has been among the most egregious rule breakers. When China acceded to the World Trade Organization in 2001, the United States supported that decision for two reasons: We hoped to promote better access to China’s consumer markets for American companies immediately and, eventually, political liberalization within China. Neither has materialized. While the Chinese people have pushed for a somewhat more open society, the Chinese government is becoming even more autocratic. And since peaking in 2003, imports of manufactured goods into China as a share of gross domestic product have steadily declined.
*LBN-VIDEO LINK: Chris Rock…Stop Telling Your Kids They are SPECIAL!!! – https://youtu.be/CrabeOMyXAc
*LBN-COMMENTARY by David Brooks: The solutions to the nation’s problems already exist somewhere out in the country; we just do a terrible job of circulating them. For example, if you want to learn how to improve city schools, look how Washington, New Orleans and Chicago are already doing it. Since 2011 the graduation rate at Chicago public schools has increased at nearly four times the national average, to 77.5 percent from 56.9 percent. The percentage of Chicago students going to two- or four-year colleges directly after graduation increased to 63 percent in 2015 from 50 percent in 2006. Sean Reardon of Stanford compared changes in national test scores between third and eighth grade. He found that Chicago students were improving faster than students in any other major school district in the country. Chicago schools are cramming six years’ worth of education into five years of actual schooling. These improvements are proof that demography is not destiny, that bad things happening in a neighborhood do not have to determine student outcomes.
*LBN-VIDEO LINK: Bruno Mars performance at Aloha Bowl 1990 — https://youtu.be/uS9jCtO0qyA
*LBN-A DIFFERENT VIEW:….
*LBN-OVERHEARD: Joy Behar of “The View” is apologizing for comments she made for equating people’s claims that Jesus Christ talks to them to mental illness. Her apology on “The View” Tuesday came after Vice President Mike Pence said that Behar had called him to personally apologize, and he urged her to do it publicly as well. The comments had Behar saying “it’s one thing to talk to Jesus. It’s another thing when Jesus talks to you. That’s called mental illness, if I’m not correct — hearing voices.” They were made during a discussion of Pence on the daytime talk show last month. ***Richard Simmons was ordered to pay nearly $130,000 to the National Enquirer and Radar Online after the exercise guru sued the two media outlets for running a series of articles alleging he was transitioning to become a woman. Simmons, 69, was ordered by Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Gregory Keosian Friday to pay the media outlets’ attorneys’ fees and American Media, their publisher, the Los Angeles Times reported.
LBN E-Lert Edited By Dan Gaylord