North Korea conducts another rocket engine test for ICBM

By Lucas Tomlinson

North Korea conducted another rocket engine test Wednesday which could potentially be used on a future intercontinental ballistic missile or ICBM, two US officials tell Fox News.

It’s the first rocket engine test since the rogue communist regime conducted three in March, which, in addition to an ICBM could also be used for a future new rocket capable of putting a satellite into orbit, according to both officials who are concerned that the technology used for putting satellites into space are the same ones used for an ICBM capable of reaching the west coast of the United States.

The rocket test was conducted in the city of Yun Song, where previous rocket tests have taken place, according to one official.

The news of another rocket engine test out of North Korea comes as another U.S. official said Wednesday there are signs of increased activity at North Korea’s lone nuclear test site.

“There are more people and more cars but nobody knows what that means,” said the official.   

North Korea has conducted five nuclear tests since 2006, including two last year.

Since hosting China’s President Xi Jinping at his Mar-a-Lago Club in April, President Trump hoped China would help deescalate tensions in the region following a series of ballistic missile tests, including one that flew 1,000 miles higher than NASA’s international space station before reentering the Earth’s atmosphere before splashing down a mere 60 miles from Russia last month.

“While I greatly appreciate the efforts of President Xi & China to help with North Korea, it has not worked out. At least I know China tried!” said Trump in a tweet earlier this week.

At the State Department, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis hosted Chinese counterparts.

“China understands that the United States regards North Korea as our top security threat,” Tillerson told reporters Wednesday. “We reiterated to China that they have a diplomatic responsibility to exert much great economic and diplomatic pressure on the regime if they want to prevent further escalation in the region.”

Relations with North Korea deteriorated further after Otto Warmbier, the 22-year-old University of Virginia student and Ohio native was returned to the United States last week after being held for 17-months on charges of subversion after allegedly stealing a communist propaganda poster from his hotel. He died on Monday.

Krauthammer: Russia compares Trump Cuba plan to ‘Cold War’

Charles Krauthammer reacted to Russia accusing the U.S. of returning to ‘Cold War rhetoric” on “Special Report with Bret Baier” Monday saying “we’ve been in a new Cold War ever since Putin came into power, but it’s not exactly at the same level of risk as the old Cold War.”

Russia made the accusation on Sunday after President Trump’s decision to reinstate some sanctions on Cuba. “The Russians are very careful. They made a similar announcement after we did the tomahawk attack with the cruise missiles that we would cut off communications. It didn’t happen,” argued Krauthammer. “It sounds as if there is a lot of bark here coming out of the defense ministry from Moscow.”

Krauthammer also said the larger picture involves a “post-ISIS Syria” adding, “they both assume that ISIS is going to be wiped away fairly soon and the question is will Syria, will Assad be able to restore what the Russians and Iranians full control of the country including the part that is now ISIS or will that be a kind of semi-independent rebel territory and Assad regime will be kind of a mini state. That’s what this maneuvering is about. I don’t expect that we’re going to have a conflict with the Russians, but we are going to have a long tussle on the ground with the forces who support Assad and the forces who are against taking over in the absence of ISIS in a few months. "

US shoots down another Iranian drone in Syria

Lucas Tomlinson

A US jet shot down an Iranian drone flying in southern Syria near US-backed forces, a US defense official confirms to Fox News.

This marks the second time in less than a month the US has shot down an Iranian drone.  It also marks the 5th time since late May the US military has bombed pro-Syrian forces in southern Syria.

A US Air Force F-15 shot down the Iranian-made drone, according to the official.

US special operations forces have been training Syrian rebels at an outpost near al-Tanf Syria close to Syria’s border with Iraq and Jordan for the past few years.

Pentagon Press Statement:

Coalition shoots down armed UAV in Syria 

SOUTHWEST ASIA - A U.S. aircraft shot down an armed pro-Syrian regime Unmanned Aerial Vehicle advancing on Coalition forces in Southern Syria, June 20.

The armed pro-regime Shaheed-129 UAV was shot down by a U.S. F-15E Strike Eagle at approximately 12:30 a.m. after it displayed hostile intent and advanced on Coalition forces. 

The Coalition forces were manning an established combat outpost to the northeast of At Tanf where they are training and advising partner ground forces in the fight against ISIS. This is the same location where another pro-regime UAV dropped munitions near Coalition forces before it was shot down, June 8. 

The F-15E intercepted the armed UAV after it was observed advancing on the Coalition position. When the armed UAV continued to advance on the Coalition position without diverting its course it was shot down. 

The Coalition has made it clear to all parties publically and through the de-confliction line with Russian forces that the demonstrated hostile intent and actions of pro-regime forces toward Coalition and partner forces in Syria conducting legitimate counter-ISIS operations will not be tolerated.  

There is a de-confliction mechanism in place with Russian forces to reduce uncertainty in this highly contested space and mitigate the chances of strategic miscalculation.  Given recent events, the Coalition will not allow pro-regime aircraft to threaten or approach in close proximity to Coalition and partnered forces.  

The Coalition presence in Syria addresses the imminent threat ISIS in Syria poses globally. The Coalition does not seek to fight Syrian regime, Russian, or pro-regime forces partnered with them, but will not hesitate to defend Coalition or partner forces from any threat.  

The Coalition calls on all parties to focus their efforts on the defeat of ISIS, which is our common enemy and the greatest threat to regional and worldwide peace and security. 

 

Sean Spicer Promoted at White House

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer will soon be taking on a new role at the White House.  

In his new role, Spicer will oversee all White House communications operations, including the Press Office.

Spicer’s new role is considered a promotion to a position that is at the level of a Deputy Chief Of Staff and while his actual title has yet to be determined "Deputy Chief of Staff for White House Communications" has been kicked around. 

With this change, Spicer will assume a supervisory role over both the Press Office and the Communications office.

Traditionally, in the White House organizational chart, there are separate roles and independent staffs for the Press Secretary and Communications Director. In the early days of the Administration, Spicer was filling both roles. Michael Dubke was hired as Communications Director, but since his departure last month, Spicer has again been filling both roles.

Also not determined yet is who will take over as Press Secretary, though President Trump is confident in the abilities of Sarah Huckabee Sanders and seems to be pleased with having her at the podium.  

While the President would still like Spicer to do briefings from time to time (perhaps once a week), Spicer's preference is to work solely behind the scenes.  It's no secret he does not enjoy the press briefings.  In his time at the RNC and in Congress, he was always the behind-the-scenes strategy guy as the daily spotlight does not appeal to him.

The discussion to make changes came right after President Trump’s firing of then FBI Director James Comey.  The President felt the communications and press shops dropped the ball (even though he only gave them about an hour to get a plan in place) and that a new organizational structure needed to be put in place.

No set time for a hard transition to the new structure has been determined and it's likely we may see a "soft roll" to the new organizational chart over the next few weeks. 

What should be noted is that this is a dramatic departure from the way things have been done at the White House for decades.  It is an indication that in the Trump administration, the old flow chart had no hope of keeping up with the pace of information, and the flow of often times competing narratives.

Iranian Naval Vessel Trains Laser on Helicopter in the Strait of Hormuz

Jennifer Griffin, Fox News

According to a senior US defense official, an Iranian missile boat pointed a laser at a US Marine helicopter while two Navy warships and a cargo ship were transiting out of the Persian Gulf through the Strait of Hormuz. The laser triggered a response and the US helicopter automatically fired off flares toward the offending vessel.

The Iranian vessel came within 800 yards of the US warships.

This incident comes just days after the US F15 shot down an Iranian drone in southern Syria after it fired on US backed forces at a training camp near Al Tanf near the border with Jordan.

Here is a statement from the US Navy's 5th fleet:

The following is on the on the record by name, Cmdr. Bill Urban as a U.S.

Fifth Fleet spokesman.

"Three U.S. Naval ships and a U.S. Marine Corps helicopter had an unsafe and unprofessional interaction with an Iranian Navy vessel while transiting the international waters of the Strait of Hormuz, June 13.

The amphibious assault ship USS Bataan (LHD 5), guided-missile destroyer USS Cole (DDG 67) and dry cargo ship USNS Washington Chambers (T-AKE-11) were transiting the strait when the Iranian vessel paralleled the U.S. formation, shining a spotlight on Cole. Shortly thereafter, the Iranian vessel trained a laser on a CH-53E helicopter that accompanied the formation. The Iranian vessel then proceeded to turn its spotlight on Bataan, scanning the ship from bow to stern and stern to bow before heading outbound from the formation.

During the interaction, the Iranian vessel came within 800 yards of Bataan.

Naval Forces Central Command assesses this interaction as unsafe and unprofessional due to the Iranian vessel shining a laser on one of the formation's helicopters. Illuminating helicopters with lasers at night is dangerous as it creates a navigational hazard that can impair vision and can be disorienting to pilots using night vision goggles."

CDR Bill Urban, Public Affairs Officer

Sen. Thune says on Russia investigation, “let’s not drag this thing out forever.”

Senator John Thune (R-South Dakota) said Tuesday on “Special Report” the current FBI and congressional probes into Russian interference in the 2016 elections needs to proceed, but should could continue indefinitely.  Thune, who is the Senate Republican Conference chairman—the majority’s third-ranking position in the Senate—told Bret Baier that Tuesday’s testimony by Attorney General Sessions made clear, “There haven’t been any conversations that suggest there’s any evidence anywhere, that there was collusion with the Russians by the Trump campaign.

Thune said, “ I’m one who believes the special counsel  ought to be able to do his thing, investigate this, but there ought to be some amount of time in which they can conduct that, and make sure they stay in their lanes, and this gets done in a way that brings us to a conclusion one way or another.  But let’s don’t drag this thing out forever.”   

Krauthammer: Trump’s tweet teasing the media

Charles Krauthammer said on “Special Report with Bret Baier” Monday that many of Trump’s tweets are “a tease” for the country and particularly members of the media adding “it’s all smoke.”

“I think he particularly enjoys keeping the country, particularly the media, hanging on his every word,” said Krauthammer. “I have nothing against Ivanka Trump. I think she's done a splendid job in a pretty difficult situation, but it’s a little rich when the Trump family is complaining about the viciousness considering what her dad called ‘Little Marco,’ ‘Lyin’ Ted’ and ‘Crooked Hillary’ as sort of three random characterizations from the campaign. So, I mean he's pretty good at the street fight and what he's getting is a street fight back.”

Although Krauthammer also claimed a large part of the problem included democrats who do not accept the legitimacy of Trump’s presidency arguing “[Trump] is the president. He deserves at least a chance to govern.” 

Krauthammer says U.S. missile defense test “a big deal”

Charles Krauthammer said on “Special Report with Bret Baier” Tuesday that the Pentagon’s successful test of its missile defense program by destroying a mock warhead over the Pacific Ocean with an interceptor that is key to protecting U.S. territory from a North Korean attack is “a big deal and it’s just in time.”

“We really are reaching important history where we are going to be susceptible to a rouge state meaning North Korea could be Iran later hitting the homeland with a nuclear weapon and we need a way to shoot it down,” said Krauthammer. “As of a few years ago, we have no way to do it. Americans didn’t understand that is a missile was launched at us there is no way to stop it. It’s going to hit.”

“What we need to do now is to mass produce these to put them up in Alaska and in California because the North Koreans have announced they will start to mass produce their rockets and they have shown tremendous advance in their rockets even in the last couple of months so this is a race between offense and defense and thank god our defense appears to be working.”

Krauthammer on Trump-Russia collusion: “I don’t trust the story”

Charles Krathammer said on “Special Report with Bret Baier” Monday that he is skeptical about the Trump-Russia ‘collusion’ conspiracy theory.

I don’t trust the story,” Krauthammer said. “The Russians are leaking it clearly on a channel we know we’re going to pick up. The Russians are masters of disinformation and they already have Washington with its knickers in a twist over the Russia conspiracy.”

Krauthammer also mentioned these kinds of negotiations with foreign countries happen all the time adding, “I don’t quite understand. Where is the crime other than it’s another piece that has Russia in the headline, Trump people in the headline and thus it’s supposed to be scandalous. Show me.”

Mara Liasson: Trump NATO summit comments were “a public scolding”

Mara Liasson of National Public Radio told viewers Thursday on “Special Report with Bret Baier” that comments made by President Trump earlier at the NATO summit in Brussels were “a public scolding.”

While NATO members are supposed to contribute two percent of their country’s GDP to fund the group’s cooperative defense, only 5 of the 28 countries in the alliance – the United States being one of them – actually does so.

President Trump told the leaders today that, “This is not fair to the people and taxpayers of the United States. And many of these nations owe massive amounts of money from past years and not paying in those past years.”

“They didn’t like it. I think that’s fair to say. He scolded them,” Liasson said.

Liasson added that past leaders such as President Obama have also made similar criticisms in the past. 

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