7 of the Biggest Controlled Demolitions

There are plenty of ways buildings and infrastructure can get destroyed, from natural disasters to bombing. And while controlled demolition might have some smiliarites—like explosions and collapsing—it’s a far different beast. It is, after all, controlled. That doesn’t mean it’s any less spectacular though. Here are seven of the largest things humans have blown up (carefully and on purpose), from stadiums to dams to skyscrapers.

White House staff told to save Russia-related materials

The White House counsel’s office has instructed the president’s aides to preserve materials that could be connected to Russian interference in the 2016 election and related issues, three administration officials said Wednesday.

The memo, sent to White House staff on Tuesday, follows a request from Senate Democrats last week asking the White House — as well as law enforcement agencies — to keep all materials involving contacts that Trump’s administration, campaign and transition team — or anyone acting on their behalf — have had with Russian government officials or their associates. The Senate Intelligence Committee also made a similar request to the White House and agencies.

The three administration officials who confirmed that White House staffers were instructed to comply did so on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to disclose the counsel’s office memo publicly.

President Donald Trump has been dogged by questions about his advisers’ ties to Russia since the campaign. Federal investigators have been looking into possible contacts between Trump advisers and Russia, while congressional committees are investigating Russia’s role in political hacking during the campaign.

Congressional staffers have said they are not aware of any evidence that materials related to Russia are not being preserved. But Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer of New York said last week: “There is real concern that some in the administration may try to cover up its ties to Russia by deleting emails, texts and other records that could shine a light on those connections. These records are likely to be the subject of executive branch as well as congressional investigations and must be preserved.”

The intelligence community has assessed that Russia’s hacking of Democratic groups and operatives was carried out to help Trump defeat Democrat Hillary Clinton.

Trump has denied having any knowledge that aides were in touch with Russian intelligence agents during the election, as reported by The New York Times.

Earlier this year, the FBI interviewed Michael Flynn, then Trump’s national security adviser, about his contacts with Russia’s ambassador to the U.S. after the election. Flynn was fired after it was revealed that he misled Vice President Mike Pence and other White House officials about the nature of his discussions with the envoy.

General says Russia bombed site near US forces in Syria in ISIS fight

Russian air forces bombed a site close to U.S. troops in Syria on Tuesday, a near-miss in the fog of war against the Islamic State — though the strikes still hit U.S.-backed forces.  

U.S. Lt. Army Gen. Stephen Townsend said Wednesday the incident occurred after Russian pilots began bombing what they thought were ISIS fighters in a “bunch of villages” in northern Syria.

They ended up hitting forces with the U.S.-backed Syrian Arab Coalition. 

U.S. troops were several miles away, and the bombing stopped after U.S. officials made “quick calls … to deconfliction channels,” said Townsend, commander of Operation Inherent Resolve, the joint operation to stop ISIS in Iraq and Syria.

“It’s a very complicated battlefield situation,” Townsend told reporters in a teleconference from Baghdad. “Essentially three armies have all converged within same grid square. It’s very difficult and complicated.” 

An unspecified number of casualties occurred in the strike, outside the city of al-Bab, he said. 

Russia denied responsibility, saying in a written statement that it had adhered to U.S. guidance on avoiding friendly forces in that area.

The confusion played out on the same day President Trump was delivering his address to a joint session of Congress. In the address, Trump called anew for the eradication of ISIS.

Russia’s escalating involvement in Syria, though, has posed complications — while the U.S. and Russia both are fighting ISIS, Moscow has been at odds with Washington in its support of Bashar Assad. 

Giving a broader view of the U.S. effort, Townsend also said soldiers continue to make progress in the fight to destroy ISIS, but that officials have no plans to increase troop levels.

“I don’t foresee us bringing in large numbers of coalitions troops mainly because what we’re doing is in fact working,” he said. 

The general said 12,000-15,000 ISIS fighters are essentially split evenly between Iraq and Syria.

“I don’t foresee us bringing in large amounts of foreign forces,” he said. “I think if we showed up with a large number of coalition forces, uninvited, that would be a concern. It would cause a problem.”

Townsend also updated reporters on the effort to liberate the northern Iraq city of Mosul, where roughly 2,000 ISIS forces are positioned.

He said the effort is “showing promise,” citing troops closing off supply lines and killing ISIS leaders on the battlefield. But U.S. military officials still “expect a very tough fight,” Townsend said.

“This enemy has been preparing for battle for some time, has done extensive amount of work,” he said.

Townsend also said ISIS forces hiding among civilian populations remains a problem and that the situation won’t improve until U.S. forces get into the cities and more-populated areas.

Townsend said ISIS still has “freedom of movement” in the Euphrates River valley along the Syrian-Iraq border. 

‘We only have the ability to watch and strike when we see something that is definitely visible from the air to be enemy,” he said. “So until we get down there, the enemy can move back and forth across the border in that region at least fairly freely.”

Fox News’ Joseph Weber and Lucas Tomlinson contributed to this report. 

White House explores options, including use of military force, to counter North Korean threat

An internal White House review of strategy on North Korea includes the possibility of military force or regime change to blunt the country’s nuclear-weapons threat, people familiar with the process said, a prospect that has some U.S. allies in the region on edge.

While President Donald Trump has taken steps to reassure allies that he won’t abandon agreements that have underpinned decades of U.S. policy on Asia, his pledge that Pyongyang would be stopped from ever testing an intercontinental ballistic missile—coupled with the two-week-old strategy review—has some leaders bracing for a shift in American policy.

The U.S. review comes as recent events have strained regional stability. Last month, North Korea launched a ballistic missile into the Sea of Japan, and the estranged half brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un was assassinated in Malaysia.

Related stories…

Chinese and North Korean officials are holding talks in Beijing, the first known high-level meeting in nearly a year, and Beijing recently curtailed coal imports from North Korea.

U.S. officials have underscored the possible military dimensions of their emerging strategy in recent discussions with allies, according to people familiar with the talks.

During Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s two-day summit in February with Mr. Trump, U.S. officials on several occasions stated that all options were under consideration to deal with North Korea, according to a person familiar with the discussions.

It was clear to the Japanese side that those options encompassed a U.S. military strike on North Korea, possibly if Pyongyang appeared ready to test an ICBM, this person said. The Japanese side found that scenario “worrisome,” he said.

Read more from The Wall Street Journal.

Beau Biden’s widow having affair with his married brother, report says

The widow of Joe Biden‘s late son Beau Biden has started a romantic relationship with her former brother-in-law, Hunter Biden, the former Vice President’s younger son.

Hallie Biden, who was devastated when her husband Beau died after suffering from brain cancer in May 2015, is now officially a couple with Hunter, 47, who has separated from his wife Kathleen.

The astonishing family drama caps a difficult period for the Bidens following the death of Beau at age 46. The former Vice President cited the death of his eldest son as one of the reasons he didn’t feel ready to run for president against Donald Trump.

Hunter Biden, a lawyer who has three daughters with his estranged wife Kathleen, told Page Six in an exclusive statement, “Hallie and I are incredibly lucky to have found the love and support we have for each other in such a difficult time, and that’s been obvious to the people who love us most. We’ve been so lucky to have family and friends who have supported us every step of the way.”

Former Vice President Joe Biden added that he and his wife Dr. Jill Biden have given their blessing to the relationship. He said, “We are all lucky that Hunter and Hallie found each other as they were putting their lives together again after such sadness. They have mine and Jill’s full and complete support and we are happy for them.”

Beau, the former state attorney general of Delaware who served in Iraq as a major in the Delaware Army National Guard, and Hallie have two children, named Natalie and Hunter.

A source told us that Hunter and his wife Kathleen separated in October 2015, five months after the death of Beau. Kathleen, the chairwoman of the Eleanor Roosevelt Dialogue, didn’t comment.

This story originally appeared in The New York Post.

Trump huddles with GOP leaders after speech, plots how to turn agenda into action

President Trump shifted Wednesday from soaring rhetoric to an exercise he’s perhaps more comfortable with – negotiations – as he met with House and Senate Republican leaders to discuss how to implement the ambitious agenda he laid out in his first address to Congress.

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said Trump’s leadership lunch meeting was to focus on the initiatives from the president’s speech.

The meeting did not include Democrats despite Trump’s call Tuesday night for all sides to “join forces,” but Spicer noted Trump has “shown a desire to reach across the aisle.” He met first with Republicans, Spicer said, because “the people who set the agenda and timetable to enact the agenda are Republicans.”

Trump essentially hit reset on his young presidency with his address Tuesday night. It was generally well-received, with House Speaker Paul Ryan calling it a “home run” and even some of his critics giving him positive marks.

The president, though, faces a tall task in turning the latest version of his agenda into action. Republicans are sharply divided over how to overhaul the Affordable Care Act as well as Trump’s call to cut many federal agencies’ budgets while boosting military spending, without tackling entitlements.

His appeals to Congress on Tuesday included:

  • A call for legislation that yields a $1 trillion public-private investment in infrastructure.
  • A call to repeal and replace ObamaCare with reforms that expand choice and access while lowering costs. Trump also spoke out against the individual mandate, leaving unclear how an eventual ObamaCare replacement would prevent insurance plans from being overwhelmed by unhealthy customers, in turn raising costs further.  
  • A call to make childcare more accessible and affordable.
  • A call for a new school choice bill.
  • A call to reform the tax code.

The positive response to Trump’s speech, though, could signal at least a fleeting opportunity for the president to reclaim momentum for his agenda.   

“THANK YOU!” Trump tweeted Wednesday morning, while mostly staying out of the public eye in the aftermath of the address.

Trump for the most part traded the contentious and punchy tone of the last few weeks for loftier – some might say more presidential – rhetoric Tuesday night. Declaring “the time for small thinking is over,” Trump appealed to the country to “believe, once more, in America.”

“A new chapter of American greatness is now beginning. A new national pride is sweeping across our nation,” he said. “And a new surge of optimism is placing impossible dreams firmly within our grasp.”

And as he did during the presidential campaign, he pushed a nationalist message, making big promises for what will happen when America puts its citizens first: “Dying industries will come roaring back to life. … Crumbling infrastructure will be replaced with new roads, bridges, tunnels, airports and railways gleaming across our very, very beautiful land. … Above all else, we will keep our promises to the American people.” 

He said his job is to represent the United States, not the world. 

He also defended his stepped-up deportations and other border security plans, casting his immigration agenda as part of the broader economic plan. By enforcing immigration laws, he said, “we will raise wages, help the unemployed, save billions and billions of dollars, and make our communities safer for everyone.”

General says Russia nearly bombed US forces in Syria in ISIS fight

Russian air forces came close to mistakenly bombing U.S. troops Tuesday in Syria in the fight against the Islamic State terror group, according to the Army general in charge of U.S. military operation in the region.

Lt. Army Gen. Stephen Townsend said Wednesday that Russian aircraft were bombing a “bunch of little villages” in the region thought to be held by ISIS forces and that U.S. officials had to make “quick calls … to deconfliction channels” to stop the strikes.

Townsend, commander of the joint effort known as Operation Inherent Resolve, said U.S. troops were about three miles away from the strikes and that Russia immediately stopped upon receiving notice. The general described the region in which the incident occurred as a “very complicated battlefield situation.”

“Essentially three armies have all converged within same grid square,” Townsend told reporters in a teleconference from Baghdad. “It’s very difficult and complicated.”

Townsend acknowledged casualties but did not provide numbers. 

Fox News’ Joseph Weber and Lucas Tomlinson contributed to this report. 

Former Clinton volunteer in hot water after swipe at widow of fallen SEAL

A former Hillary Clinton volunteer drew swift condemnation — including from President Trump’s eldest son — after mocking the widow of a fallen Navy SEAL who was honored by the president during his congressional address Tuesday night.

Dan Grilo, who said in his Twitter profile that he was a former volunteer for both Hillary Clinton and President Barack Obama, made the remarks after Trump paid tribute to Carryn Owens. She is the widow of U.S. Navy SEAL William “Ryan” Owens, who was killed in a counterterrorism raid in Yemen last month.

“Our veterans have delivered for this nation—and now we must deliver for them,” Trump said, eliciting an extended standing ovation from the entire chamber for a visibly emotional Owens.

“Ryan died as he lived: a warrior, and a hero – battling against terrorism and securing our nation,” Trump said.

While widely regarded as the most powerful moment of the night, Grilo was not impressed. Responding to a tweet from L.A. Times reporter Matt Pearce, who noted that Owens was crying and overwhelmed, Grilo tweeted:

“Sorry, Owens’ wife, you’re not helping yourself or your husband’s memory by standing there and clapping like an idiot. Trump just used you.”

The tweet quickly zipped around social media as commentators on both sides of the aisle were outraged by the swipe. Donald Trump Jr. called the tweet an example of “hatred from the other side.”

Grilo followed up, apologizing for what we called a “poorly worded tweet.”

Grilo’s account soon went private, and was then deleted entirely. But the tweets were saved and archived by other Twitter users.

Grilo’s LinkedIn page says he works as a principal for the Chicago-based Liberty Advisor Group. But as of Wednesday morning, Grilo’s profile page on the site had been deleted.

Liberty Advisor Group did not respond to multiple requests for comments on Grilo’s status from Fox News.

Adam Shaw is a Politics Reporter and occasional Opinion writer for FoxNews.com. He can be reached here or on Twitter: @AdamShawNY.

Europe’s pro-Trump outpost: Populist Hungary buoyed by US shift on refugees, Russia

While countless European politicians have grumbled at the change in tone under the Trump White House, particularly on the Syrian refugee crisis, at least one populist leader across the Atlantic sees his government’s policies being vindicated and bolstered by the new American president.

In the central European nation of Hungary, situated on a key route for refugees fleeing the Middle East for Europe, the government in 2015 raised a barbed-wire border fence and has taken a hard-line stance ever since — going so far as to deploy troops to the Serbian border to intercept migrants. Populist Prime Minister Viktor Orbán last month said he would, instead, accept European “true refugees” who have “lost” their homelands.

Hungary was widely criticized by many European leaders for a position that stands in stark contrast to the open-arms policies of nations like France and Germany. But now, with President Trump in the White House moving to clamp down on refugee admissions — and pushing a nationalist agenda, one he underscored in his speech to Congress Tuesday night — Hungary’s ruling Fidesz party is feeling emboldened.

“[Before Trump] if you articulated that you see your country as first, your country’s interests as first, the security of your people as first, you were immediately considered fascist, extremist, nationalistic, whatever — all kinds of bad words,” Hungarian Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó told Fox News in a recent interview at the United Nations in New York.

“Now we have the right and the braveness, in every country, to say for the leadership of that given country, that that country is the first. It has enabled us to name the challenges as they are,” he said. “… With Donald Trump winning, the era of hypocrisy and political correctness should be over.”

Hungary is now hoping for a relationship significantly warmer than the ice-cold connection the country had with Obama’s administration.

“Under the Democratic administration, we had an extremely bad political relationship, actually it was frozen — very cold — that was the deepest point in history regarding the political relationship in modern history between two countries since the conclusion of the Cold War.”

Szijjártó says the Obama administration attempted to interfere in their internal politics and issued a list of things Hungary needed to do to enhance the relationship — which Hungary condemned as an interference in its internal politics.

But with Trump in the White House, Orbán’s government is reflecting new confidence by doubling down on existing policies. The government announced this week that it has started building a second border fence, with heat sensors and cameras installed, in anticipation of a fresh wave of migrants from the Middle East in 2017.

“With Donald Trump winning it is easier as the international pressure on us is tangibly lower,” Szijjártó said.

In line with Trump’s calls for lower taxes, the Hungarian government also has slashed its corporation taxes to 9 percent, and has a flat tax of 15 percent as a way of incentivizing investment.

Trump’s softer stance toward Russia, meanwhile, has met with approval from Orban’s government even as it causes some angst within the Republican Party in the U.S. Szijjártó says Central European countries are always the loser when East and West fight, and so they are hoping for a positive outcome from renewed discussions.

“All we can do is cross our fingers that the two come together and build a pragmatic relationship than the current one, and as Donald Trump says, make a deal,” he said.

Adam Shaw is a Politics Reporter and occasional Opinion writer for FoxNews.com. He can be reached here or on Twitter: @AdamShawNY.

Trump basks in afterglow of ‘home run’ address to Congress – will it last?

President Trump, after a rocky few weeks marked by scuffles with the media and staffing turmoil, emerged from his lofty address to a joint session of Congress winning praise from both sides of the aisle – signaling what could be a fleeting opportunity for the president to reclaim momentum for his agenda.   

“THANK YOU!” he tweeted Wednesday morning, no doubt seeing the generally positive coverage of his address. The White House will now let lawmakers and voters digest a speech that was markedly more optimistic than his at-times gloomy inaugural, even pushing off a planned signing of Trump’s revised executive order on immigration until later in the week.

“I thought that was a bold, positive speech,” said Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, a fierce Trump rival in the 2016 GOP primary. “My number one priority in the Senate has always been jobs and economic growth. That’s why I was so energized by President Trump’s speech.”

The sentiment was echoed by top GOP lawmakers. House Speaker Paul Ryan, another leader occasionally at odds with the president during the campaign, called it a “home run.”

The positive response already was being reflected in the markets. The Dow Jones Industrial Average crossed the 21,000 milestone at the opening bell Wednesday morning in what was the fastest 1,000-point advance in the blue-chip index’s history. This was after Trump called again for repealing ObamaCare, overhauling the tax code and advancing a $1 trillion infrastructure plan.

As with his campaign promises, the ambitious agenda laid out in Tuesday’s speech will soon meet with the challenging realities of legislating. While Republicans have control of Congress, lawmakers have yet to advance legislation on top goals including tax reform and ObamaCare repeal.

But Trump set markers for Congress in his speech last night, without necessarily explaining how to get there. He urged Congress to replace ObamaCare “with reforms that expand choice, increase access, lower costs, and at the same time, provide better health care.”

He outlined “principles” to guide negotiations, including a call for Americans with pre-existing coverage to keep access to care, for states to have “flexibility” with Medicaid, and for Americans to be able to buy insurance across state lines. 

‘A new chapter of American greatness is now beginning’

– President Trump

He also said his team is developing “historic tax reform that will reduce the tax rate on our companies so they can compete and thrive anywhere and with anyone.” He vowed a “big, big cut” including “massive tax relief for the middle class.”

Trump called, too, for a “national rebuilding,” urging Congress to pass legislation that produces a $1 trillion public-private investment in infrastructure.

Twitter reported that a record 3 million tweets were sent about Trump’s speech.

The top tweeted moment was the Republican’s call to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. That was followed by Trump’s salute to Carryn Owens, the widow of Senior Chief William “Ryan” Owens, who was killed last month in Yemen.

The Twitter numbers make it the most tweeted speech by a president to Congress in the relatively short history of the platform. The previous mark was 2.6 million tweets for President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address in 2015. That speech had included a highly-tweetable moment, when Obama chided Republicans, who applauded the fact that he had no more political campaigns to run. Obama reminded them that he won both of his presidential runs.

Trump for the most part traded the contentious and punchy tone of the last few weeks for loftier – some might say more presidential – rhetoric Tuesday night. Declaring “the time for small thinking is over,” Trump appealed to the country to “believe, once more, in America.”

“A new chapter of American greatness is now beginning. A new national pride is sweeping across our nation,” he said. “And a new surge of optimism is placing impossible dreams firmly within our grasp.”

And as he did during the presidential campaign, he pushed a nationalist message, making big promises for what will happen when America puts its citizens first: “Dying industries will come roaring back to life. … Crumbling infrastructure will be replaced with new roads, bridges, tunnels, airports and railways gleaming across our very, very beautiful land. … Above all else, we will keep our promises to the American people.” 

He said his job is to represent the United States, not the world. 

He also defended his stepped-up deportations and other border security plans, casting his immigration agenda as part of the broader economic plan. By enforcing immigration laws, he said, “we will raise wages, help the unemployed, save billions and billions of dollars, and make our communities safer for everyone.” He joined GOP lawmakers seeking reforms to legal immigration – and potentially reopened the broader debate in Congress by saying immigration reform is possible. 

Trump’s first official status report to Congress came amid a fast-paced opening volley of activity at the start of his term: a slew of executive actions, a forthcoming budget proposal and various side-deals with American companies aimed at creating jobs. Trump was eager to highlight those accomplishments, but also faces early challenges: an order suspending refugee and other admissions on hold by the courts, questions about his team’s contacts with Russia and a Congress that has not yet moved legislation on key priorities.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.