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Corpo Forestale(ROME) --  As rescue workers searched among debris in the wake of a deadly earthquake in Italy early this morning, video from Italy’s State Forestry Corp shows one rescue worker in the rural Italian town of Capodacqua trying to calm a woman who was trapped under the rubble of her home.

The death toll has reached 159 after the 6.2-magnitude quake struck in the middle of the night while many residents were asleep in their homes.

Pope Francis replaced his weekly catechesis in St. Peter's Square with a heartfelt address.

"Hearing the mayor of Amatrice say that the town no longer exists, and learning there are children among the dead, I am deeply saddened," the pope said.

"I cannot fail but to express my heartfelt sorrow and spiritual closeness to all those in those zones afflicted," he added, offering "condolences to those who have lost love ones and my spiritual support to those who are anxious and afraid."

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US Navy(NEW YORK) -- The U.S. Navy destroyer USS Nitze was “harassed” by four Iranian Revolutionary Guard small craft on Tuesday, some of them coming as close as 300 yards to the ship as it was in the vicinity of the Strait of Hormuz, a Department of Defense official said Wednesday.

The official characterized the encounter as “unsafe and unprofessional” and said the four Iranian speed boats "came way too close for comfort."

“Four Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGCN) vessels harassed the guided missile destroyer USS Nitze (DDG 94) by conducting a high-speed intercept and closing within a short distance of Nitze despite repeated warnings as Nitze transited international waters in the vicinity of the Strait of Hormuz Aug. 23,” the defense official said.

The crew of the Nitze fired flares and sounded the ship's horn to warn the small craft, but they continued to approach the ship from the side, the official said.

In video of the encounter recorded aboard the Nitze, an unidentified voice can be heard narrating the Iranian boats' fast approach.

"Full visual contact on four Iranian Push WPB," said the narrator, who describes the approach in real time.

"Bridge to bridge comms were conducted, no response," the narrator continued as he described how the weapons aboard the Iranian craft had been "uncovered."

The warning flares fired from the ship are visible in the video and warnings from the ship's horn can be heard in the background.

Iranian harassment of American vessels in the Strait of Hormuz is nothing new. In mid-July, Iranian craft harassed the USS New Orleans as it played host to General Joseph Votel, who, as the commander of U.S. Central Command, is the top U.S. military commander in the Middle East.

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iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) --  The White House is condemning Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime for using chemical weapons against Syrians, after the United Nations and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons confirmed suspicion of chemical weapons use in Syria in 2014 and 2015.

Three years to the week since President Obama pulled back from striking Syria over its use of chemical weapons, the investigation found that the Syrian government was responsible for two chlorine gas attacks in April 2014 and September 2015 in Idlib in the north of the country.

“It is now impossible to deny that the Syrian regime has repeatedly used industrial chlorine as a weapon against its own people in violation of the Chemical Weapons Convention and U.N. Security Council Resolution 2118,” White House National Security Council spokesman Ned Price wrote in a statement Wednesday. “We condemn in the strongest possible terms the Asad regime's use of chlorine against its own people.”

The inquiry -- unanimously authorized by the U.N. Security Council -- would be the first time a perpetrator has been identified. The results are due to be discussed by the Security Council next week, after which the report will be made public.

The investigation was set up with the threat of imposing Chapter 7 sanctions against those responsible -- the part of the U.N. charter that deals with sanctions and authorization of military force. However, the U.N. Security Council would need a further vote to impose sanctions -- setting the stage for a fight with Russia and China, who may veto any future sanctions against the Syrian government.

Chlorine's use as a weapon is prohibited under the 1997 Chemical Weapons Convention, which Syria joined in 2013. In 2013, the Syrian regime agreed to remove and destroy its chemical weapons.

“The OPCW-UN report also confirmed that in August 2015, ISIL used mustard gas against civilians in Syria,” Price noted. “The U.S.-led Counter-ISIL coalition has placed a high priority on targeting ISIL’s chemical weapons capabilities, including by capturing one of its chemical weapons manufacturing leaders in March 2016 and using information gained from him to launch airstrikes to degrade ISIL’s ability to use such weapons. We continue to remove leaders from the battlefield with knowledge of these weapons and will target any related materials and attempts to manufacture such chemicals going forward.”

Asked about these reports that Assad didn't turn over all the materials involved in chemical weapons production in Syria, Earnest reiterated the achievements years ago when Assad turned over and destroyed chemical weapons.

“What we were able to achieve a couple of years ago in getting the Assad regime to acknowledge that they had a significant quantity of chemical weapons, rounding up those chemicals and destroying them, made the world safer. It eliminated a significant proliferation risk,” he said. “We have a country that is overrun by extremists. Having large quantities of chemical weapons floating around is not a good idea and not a good combination. So we've been pleased that the Assad regime's declared chemical weapons stockpile was rounded up and destroyed, but the situation in Syria has been murky for quite some time.”

“We've also been -- expressed our previous, long running concerns about the gratuitous violence that's used by the Assad regime against innocent civilians, including the weaponization of otherwise common chemicals to try to exacerbate the violence in that country. And I'm referring to chlorine, a commonly available industrial chemical that, according to some reports at least, the Assad regime is using as a weapon,” he continued. “And that is something that's a deep concern to the international community and certainly to the United States.”

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power called on the international community to act “to hold accountable those who act in defiance of such fundamental international norms.”

“When anyone -- from any government or from any terrorist group -- so flagrantly violates the global ban on chemical weapons use without consequences, it sends the signal that impunity reigns and it gravely weakens the counter-proliferation regime from which all of us benefit,” Power stated.

“It is essential that the members of the Security Council come together to ensure consequences for those who have used chemical weapons in Syria. It is essential that all state and non-state actors immediately cease any chemical weapons use. We strongly urge all States to support strong and swift action by the Security Council,” she said.

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US Army(NEW YORK) --  An American soldier killed by a roadside bomb Tuesday in Afghanistan's Helmand Province has been identified as Staff Sgt. Matthew V. Thompson, 28, of Irvine, California.

Thompson served with the 3rd Battalion, 1st Special Forces Group, based at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington State.

On Tuesday, the Army Green Beret was on a foot patrol with other American troops advising Afghan special operations forces near Lashkar Gah in Helmand Province where the Taliban have engaged in heavy combat.

Thompson was killed by a bomb blast that left another American service member injured and six Afghan soldiers.

 In a statement, General Joseph Votel, commander of U.S. Central Command, expressed his condolences to Thompson's family.

"Our CENTCOM family is deeply affected by the death of Army Staff Sgt. Matthew V. Thompson in Helmand Province, Afghanistan, from injuries sustained when an improvised explosive device detonated during dismounted operations," said Votel.

"On behalf of the men and women of U.S. Central Command, I extend our sincere condolences to the family, friends and Sgt. Thompson's fellow service members, as well as gratitude for his selfless and honorable service to our Nation."

On Monday, Defense Secretary Ash Carter also extended his condolences and said the deadly attack "reminds us that Afghanistan remains a dangerous place, and there is difficult work ahead even as Afghan forces continue to make progress in securing their own country."

Thompson is the second U.S. combat death in Afghanistan this year. In January, fellow Army Green Beret Staff Sgt. Matthew McClintock, 30, died after an hours-long firefight near Marjah, also in Helmand province. He was assisting Afghan special operations troops as they defended against an intense Taliban assault.

A U.S. official said that Thompson was not one of the 100 U.S. troops recently sent to Lashkar Gah to train, advise and assist local Afghan police as they face a major summer offensive by the Taliban. That group includes trainers as well as a force to provide protection for them.

In Monday's briefing, Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook told reporters that the force would not be a permanent presence and that the troops would "return to their base at some point."

There are several hundred other U.S. personnel at the former Camp Bastion in Helmand Province that have been training the Afghan army.

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Giuseppe Bellini/Getty Images(ROME) -- Drone footage that captures the aftermath of a deadly earthquake in Italy Wednesday shows the contrast between the chaos in one hard hit town and the serenity of the sprawling countryside beside it.

The video pans from the affected area -- where some roofs are caved in, some buildings are destroyed and other ones are still standing -- to the sprawling grass and trees beyond the town, and then to mountains in the distance. The video does not specify the town.

The central Italian towns of Accumoli and Amatrice were hard hit from the earthquake that struck in the middle of the night.

Tremors were felt as far away as the capital city of Rome, located more than 100 miles away from the quake's epicenter.

Rescue workers Wednesday are searching through the rubble.

At least 120 people have been killed, according to Italy's prime minister.

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iStock/Thinkstock(KABUL, Afghanistan) -- The American University of Afghanistan in Kabul came under attack Wednesday, as security forces exchanged gunfire with the attackers.

The gunfire that was reported in the vicinity of the school has now stopped, according to a source in the Kabul Police Force. The same source told ABC News that two people were killed and five were injured in the attack.

The victims have not been publicly identified.

The U.S. State Department Wednesday morning acknowledged reports of the attack on an official Twitter account.

"Reports of attack on American University in Kabul. Exercise caution, avoid unnecessary movement in the area & monitor news for updates," the agency said.

The attackers managed to enter Noor Hospital, adjacent to the school, according to eyewitnesses.

The American University of Afghanistan opened in 2006, and was a pet project of former first lady Laura Bush, who helped launch the institution on a 2005 visit to Kabul, the capital.

Much of its funding has come from the U.S. Agency for International Development, which administers civilian foreign aid, and today has more than 1,700 full- and part-time students. It has produced 29 Fulbright Scholars and maintains partnerships with many U.S. colleges, such as Stanford, Georgetown and the University of California network.

The school says on its webpage that it "embraces diversity and community" in Afghanistan.

But it has been no stranger to threats of violence since its creation.

Two professors at the university -- one American and one Australian -- were abducted at gun point outside the university campus earlier this month, underscoring the deteriorating security situation in the capital and across the country more generally.

Also, two people employed by the university were killed in 2014 when a suicide bomber set off an explosion inside of a Kabul restaurant that was popular with ex-pats.

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Mark Makela/Getty Images(ANKARA, Turkey) -- In a visit to Ankara, Turkey, Wednesday, Vice President Joe Biden sought to ease heightened tensions with Turkey as the country continues to recover from a failed coup attempt last month.

In a press conference alongside Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim, Biden offered a message of solidarity and understanding while pushing back against some in the Turkish government who have assigned complicity to the U.S. in the coup attempt.

At the same time, Biden said he understands the “intense feeling” against U.S.-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, who the Turkish government has accused of orchestrating the coup.

We have “no interest whatsoever in protecting anyone who has done harm to an ally,” Biden said. “But we need to meet legal standard requirement under our law,” adding that it would be an “impeachable offense” for President Obama to deliver Gulen without going through the U.S. justice system.

Yildirim said that while some Turkish people might feel Washington had supported the coup attempt, that is not the official position of his government.

A senior U.S. administration official previewing Biden's visit said the Turks have submitted four separate extradition requests for Gulen but that none were related to his direct involvement in the coup.

Still, the Department of Justice has more lawyers handling the requests than any recent extradition case, according to the official.

As for the Turkish crackdown on dissenters following the coup and concerns raised among human rights groups, Biden said he remembered the confusion in the U.S. following 9/11 and it was important to “give [the Turkish government] time” to recover.

Biden also commented on the ongoing Turkish military operation into Syria, telling Syrian Kurdish forces they “must move back across the Euphrates River” if they hope to continue to receive U.S. support. While the comments were received positively from Yildirim, they immediately stoked anger among U.S.-backed Kurdish allies in the region.

Biden started his day in Ankara with a tour of the Turkish Parliament building that was damaged by airstrikes during the failed coup attempt.

Turkish Speaker of Parliament Ismail Kahraman gave Biden the tour, surveying damage to the building’s exterior that, at parts, included the very foundation.

“This is devastating. Can you imagine if this happened at home?” Biden said to reporters. “Can you imagine what the American public would be saying or doing?"

He compared the damage to what might have happened on 9/11 if United Airlines Flight 93 had made it to the U.S. Capitol instead of crashing in Pennsylvania.

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USGS(ROME) — A magnitude 6.2 earthquake struck central Italy early Wednesday, with reports of fatalities and significant damage surfacing quickly in its aftermath.

Officials say the towns of Accumoli and Amatrice appear to be the hardest hit by the quake, which struck at 3:36 a.m. local time as most residents slept inside their homes.

At least 120 people have been killed, according to Italy's prime minister.


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Italian Premier Matteo Renzi announced plans Wednesday to travel to the affected area.

Renzi thanked rescue workers who continued searching through the rubble and vowed a sustained, national effort to find any survivors and assist the wounded and homeless.

"No family, no city, no hamlet will be left alone," he said.

Tremors were felt as far away as Rome, more than 100 miles away from the quake's epicenter.


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The mayor of Amatrice told ANSA that a large portion of that town had been destroyed and that residents had been buried under the rubble of collapsed homes and buildings.

The mayor of the nearby town of Accumoli reported one family of four found under debris with no apparent signs of life, as well as one other possible victim.

Fabio Curcio, head of Italy's Civil Protection Department, called it a “serious earthquake” that resulted in "wounded" and “serious damage,” ANSA reported.


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The Civil Protection Department labeled the earthquake as "severe," as reports of power and communications outages and ruptured gas lines added to the difficulties facing emergency responders.

This tweet from Italy's fire and rescue service shows an aerial view of the devastation in one of the hardest-hit areas. 

#terremoto reatino, #soccorso #vigilidelfuoco in atto, sezioni operative in arrivo tutte le regioni pic.twitter.com/vEc7EV8zIs

— Vigili del Fuoco (@emergenzavvf) August 24, 2016

The quake was felt across four regions of central Italy: Lazio, Umbria, Abruzzo and Marche.

The U.S. State Dept. urged Americans in the area to contact their loved ones. 

US citizens in #Italy if you're safe after the #earthquake please contact family/friends, check in on social media

— Travel - State Dept (@TravelGov) August 24, 2016

The United States Geological Survey (USGS) confirmed the quake's location and its magnitude.

USGS

The central Apennine region, a mountainous area of central Italy, has seen several significant temblors in the past, according to the USGS.

In April 2009, 6.3 magnitude quake near the town of L’Aquila killed at least 295, injured over 1,000 and left at least 55,000 homeless.

In Sept. 1997, a 6.0 magnitude earthquake in the area killed 11 and injured over 100, destroying approximately 80,000 homes in the Marche and Umbria regions.

On Jan. 13, 1915, a magnitude 6.7 earthquake near Avezzano killed approximately 32,000 people.


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Chris Jackson/Getty Images(LONDON) -- Prince William and Princess Kate shone a spotlight on mental health and suicide Wednesday morning, visiting mental health-focused charities in Bedfordshire, England, and spending time at a children’s hospice.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge chatted with young people -- some of whom are recovering from challenges like self mutilation, suicide, bullying and social exclusion. The charities are creating safe places for children struggling with mental health issues.

William and Kate's appearances Wednesday marked the first time in a month they have been seen publicly after taking a vacation with their children, Prince George and Princess Charlotte, in the South of France, near Biarritz.

William and Kate opened the new Youthscape Center in Bute Mills, Luton, about an hour from London, which specializes in projects to support vulnerable children with emotional needs. The charity has a drop-in center for kids which provides them with a safe outlet for expressing themselves and getting the support they need.

Youthscape has worked with selfharmUK, a U.K.-based charity dedicated to help teenagers and young adults understand and recover from self-mutilation.

Other children Kate and William visited Wednesday were dealing with grief from the loss of a parent. Kate encouraged one group of young women by telling them they were “courageous and strong.”

William told a young girl who lost her mother at age 14 and had been self-harming herself, "What happened should never have happened to you and you should never have gone through it. The fact you have gone through it and where you are now, you should be really proud.”

The girl later told the Press Association she was grateful for Prince William’s words of support, saying, "I feel so thankful for what he said, especially because he lost his mum at a similar age.”

William and Kate's primary focus Wednesday was comforting those coping with suicidal thoughts and telling those who are struggling with mental health challenges that it's OK to ask for help.

Later Wednesday, the future king and queen of England will be driving to a hospice center which supports children and young adults at the end stages of life with medical care, complementary therapy, including art therapy, and emotional support.

Mental health is the primary focus of William’s, Kate’s and Prince Harry’s charitable agenda. The young royals, along with Prince Harry, started the Heads Together campaign to end the stigma surrounding mental illness so more young people and families feel comfortable opening up about what was once a taboo subject.

William, Kate and Harry have participated in several public service announcements for the Heads Together campaign using athletes, celebrities and various others in their campaign to make teens and young adults aware that mental health is an issue that people from all walks of life struggle with.

Bullying, cyber-bullying, social media, social exclusion and depression are all issues being addressed by the young royals. William, Kate and Harry have said they want people to understand there are safe places to reach out for help before people consider the worst, and that tackling these issues early in life by providing a safe environment for children will have an immeasurable impact on kids later in life.

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Chuck Fishman/Getty Images(VATICAN CITY) — Pope Francis replaced his weekly catechesis in St. Peter's Square with a heartfelt address on the unfolding tragedy after a severe earthquake struck central Italy early Wednesday.

"Hearing the mayor of Amatrice say that the town no longer exists, and learning there are children among the dead, I am deeply saddened," the Pope said.

Thanking "all volunteers and rescue personnel assisting these people," the Pope asked the people gathered in Rome to join him in a prayer for the "brokenhearted," who suffered loss in the wake of the 6.2 magnitude quake that struck at 3:36 a.m. as most residents slept inside their homes.

"With Jesus, let our hearts be moved with compassion," the Pope said.

"I cannot fail but to express my heartfelt sorrow and spiritual closeness to all those in those zones afflicted," he added, offering "condolences to those who have lost love ones and my spiritual support to those who are anxious and afraid."


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Courtesy Canadian Coast Guard(SARNIA, Ontario) — Canadian first responders had to provide “a significant amount of on-water emergency assistance” this weekend, when officials said about 1,500 U.S. citizens were blown into their northern neighbor’s territory.

The participants were taking part in the annual Port Huron Michigan Float Down on Saturday, which saw them -- many reportedly intoxicated -- accidentally float into foreign waters.

“A burst of rain and high winds prompted hundreds of event participants to seek shelter ashore in Sarnia, where they were assisted by Canada Border Services Agency, Sarnia Police and the Canadian Red Cross,” Carol Launderville, a spokeswoman for the Canadian Coast Guard, told ABC News in an emailed statement.

She said that several vessels were involved in fishing the American floaters out of the river.

Speaking to CBC News, Peter Garapick of the Canadian Coast Guard, said: “There were people in places you'd never think something would float, but there were Americans everywhere.”

"They were terrified of entering another country without documentation. No one carries their passport or any ID, and a lot were drinking alcohol," he added.

Under police escort, the U.S. citizens were bused back to the south side of the border, local police said on their Twitter feed, repeatedly referring to the individuals as “floaters.”


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Tracey Nearmy - Pool/Getty Images(ANKARA, Turkey) — Vice President Joe Biden is in Turkey Wednesday meeting with the country’s leadership, starting with a tour of the Turkish Parliament building that was damaged by airstrikes during last month’s failed coup attempt.

Turkish Speaker of Parliament Ismail Kahraman gave Biden the tour, surveying damage to the building’s exterior that, at parts, included the very foundation.

“This is devastating. Can you imagine if this happened at home?” Biden said to reporters. “Can you imagine what the American public would be saying or doing?"

He compared the damage to what might have happened on 9/11 if United Airlines Flight 93 had made it to the U.S. Capitol instead of crashing in Pennsylvania, saying, "imagine what that would have meant, the psychological impact on the American people."

Biden’s visit comes amid increased tensions with the United States, as the Turkish leaders continue to call for the extradition of U.S.-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, whom they blame for inspiring the attempted coup.

A senior U.S. administration official had previewed Biden's visit, saying the Turks have submitted four separate extradition requests for Gulen but that none are related to his direct involvement in inspiring the coup.

Still, the Department of Justice has more lawyers handling the requests than any recent extradition case, according to the official.

Biden will hold a news conference with Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim later Wednesday before meeting with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.


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Stockbyte/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — One lucky seal narrowly avoided feeding time for a pod of orca whales by jumping aboard a boat off the coast of British Columbia.

Kirk Fraser was out whale watching with family when he captured an incredible moment on camera, a seal scrambling onto his boat to escape killer whales.

The seal jumped onto the boat and squeezed its way between the engines to avoid the jaws on the killer whales.

 

Watch incredible footage as seal escapes hunting orcas by hopping onto a boat https://t.co/AoRmlLlKwh pic.twitter.com/Xo4t9Z8MbT

— ABC7 Eyewitness News (@ABC7) August 23, 2016

 

Fraser says they saw the seal's head pop up above the water and initially thought it was injured. "All of a sudden it is between the engines with whales all around under the boat. Then the seal jumped on the boat. It was madness," he said.

The seal fell off two times, but scrambled back on. Fraser said he was concerned the whales would nudge the boat.

The orcas circled the boat for about 30 minutes, leaving everyone on board soaked from the spray coming off of their blowholes. Once they gave up and left the area, the seal hopped off back in the water, but kept "hanging around the boat just in case," Fraser said.


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iStock/Thinkstock(PYONGYANG, North Korea) -- U.S. officials confirmed South Korea's claims Tuesday that North Korea submarine-launched a missile.

U.S. Strategic Command said it was "likely a KN-11 ballistic missile" that was launched off the coast of Sinpo, flying about 300 miles into the Sea of Japan.

The missile launch was determined to not pose a threat to North America, according to the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD).

"The men and women of USSTRATCOM, NORAD and U.S. Northern Command, and U.S. Pacific Command remain vigilant in the face of North Korean provocations and are fully committed to working closely with our Republic of Korea and Japanese allies to maintain security," U.S. Strategic Command said in a statement.

The missile launch comes two days after the U.S. and South Korea began the allies' annual joint military exercises.

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PETRAS MALUKAS/AFP/Getty Images(RIGA, Latvia) -- While meeting with Baltic leaders in Latvia Tuesday, Vice President Joe Biden told them not to take some of Donald Trump’s comments about the North Atlantic Treaty Organization seriously, saying he doesn’t believe the Republican presidential nominee fully understands the organization’s mission.

“The fact that you occasionally hear something from a presidential candidate in the other party, it’s nothing that should be taken seriously because I don’t think he understands what Article 5 is,” he said, referring to NATO’s founding principle of collective defense.

The alliance was chartered in 1949 to provide Western Europe and the United States with a bulwark against the Soviet Union.

In a July interview with The New York Times, Trump said he would make the United States’ commitment to the defense of other NATO allies contingent on those allies making adequate contributions to the alliance.

“We’re talking about countries that are doing very well. Then yes, I would be absolutely prepared to tell those countries, ‘Congratulations, you will be defending yourself,’” he told the Times.

In a March appearance on ABC News' This Week, Trump suggested the organization was “obsolete” because it was focused on Russia, not terrorism.

"I think NATO's obsolete. NATO was done at a time you had the Soviet Union, which was obviously larger, much larger than Russia is today. I'm not saying Russia's not a threat. But we have other threats. We have the threat of terrorism and NATO doesn’t discuss terrorism, NATO's not meant for terrorism,” he said.

Trump walked back that comment in August, saying NATO had since formed “a new division focused on terror threats,” but the nonpartisan website PolitiFact said he had actually been referring to a relatively minor intelligence-sharing policy change, and that there was “no evidence” that his comments had spurred the shift.

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