March 21, 2017
From Washington, this is VOA news. I'm Tommie McNeil reporting.
The director of the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation testified before a congressional panel, saying the agency is investigating Russian interference in last year's presidential election.
"I have been authorized by the Department of Justice to confirm that the FBI as part of our counterintelligence mission is investigating the Russian government's efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election. And that includes investigating the nature of any links between individuals associated with the Trump campaign and the Russian government, and whether there was any coordination between the campaign and Russia's efforts. As with any counterintelligence investigation, this will also include an assessment of whether any crimes were committed."
James Comey also said he has no information to support President Trump's accusations that former President Barack Obama wiretapped his New York residence.
The U.S. Senate holds its first confirmation hearing for Neil Gorsuch, the judge President Trump has picked to fill long vacancy on the U.S. Supreme Court. The court has been one short of its nine justices since Antonin Scalia died in February of last year. VOA's Michael Bowman reports.
Gorsuch told lawmakers that judges must not legislate from the bench.
"It's for this body, the people's representatives, to make new laws. If judges were just secret legislators, declaring not what the law is but what they would like it to be, the very idea of a government by the people and for the people would be at risk."
The committee's chairman, Republican Chuck Grassley, loaded Gorsuch's conservative judicial philosophy.
Former President Barack Obama's nominee to fill the vacancy, Judge Merrick Garland, never got confirmation hearing by the Republican-led Senate.
This is VOA news.
U.S. President Donald Trump welcomed Iraq's Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi and a large Iraqi delegation to the White House Monday for talks aimed at further coordinating efforts to defeat Islamic State extremists in northern Iraq.
Mr. Trump lamented the 2011 withdrawal of U.S. forces from Mosul and the rest of Iraq - a decision made in 2008 and later implemented by President Obama.
"We just spent a few minutes speaking in the Oval Office and learning and giving each other ideas. One of the things I did ask is why did President Obama sign that agreement with Iran, because nobody has been able to figure that one out. But maybe someday we'll be able to figure it out."
Mr. Trump also raised the issue of Iran and its nuclear ambitions, questioning why his predecessor in the Obama administration signed that agreement.
Syrian forces Monday counter-attacked rebels in the capital, Damascus, a day after the opposition fighters staged a surprise assault on government-held neighborhoods in the northeastern part of the city.
The rebels' gains over the past year have been in northwestern Syria along the border with Turkey where opposition fighters backed by Turkey have pushed out Islamic State militants.
Iraqi troops have entered an area around Mosul's symbolic mosque.
Iraqi officials say the government troops have made gains in Mosul. Militants are ruthless in the fight for survival. Zlatica Hoke reports for VOA.
Retaking the Old City of Mosul is riddled with challenges.
"It is one of the toughest areas, and in fact it is difficult, chaotic and very tight, but our forces managed to get out of their vehicles and enter the Old City."
Militants are believed to be using suicide bombers to block the advance of government troops. Military officials say fighting in the densely populated Old City is extremely difficult.
"The challenges are, firstly, how to avoid hitting civilians because they are using them as human shields. And secondly, the area is difficult because it is in an ancient neighborhood and we use less heavy weapons."
Civilians are streaming out of western Mosul with meager possessions and people wounded by landmines or booby traps.
A plane carrying more than 40 people crashed in South Sudan Monday while attempting to land in bad weather.
An aircraft engineer at the airport said the plane burst into flames after the crash and that only 20 people appeared to have survived initially.
Britain announced Monday it will trigger Article 50, formally signaling the country's intention to leave the European Union, on March 29.
Article 50 of the EU's treaty covers how a member can withdraw.
I'm Tommie McNeil in Washington.
That's the latest world news from VOA.