The Russian diplomats ordered to leave the United States by President Obama over the country’s alleged interference in the U.S. presidential election have left the country, Russian news agency TASS reports. The plane carrying 35 intelligence operatives and their families left for Moscow Sunday from a Washington, D.C. airport. They were given 72 hours to leave the U.S. after the Obama administration announced sanctions against Russian intelligence agencies last week. The sanctions came after U.S. intelligence agencies said Russia’s military intelligence unit ordered hackers to breach emails from the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton’s campaign in an attempt to influence the election. Russia’s foreign minister urged President Vladimir Putin to expel American diplomats working in Russia in kind, but Putin said he would not retaliate against the sanctions.
—Turkish authorities are searching for the suspect in a shooting at a nightclub in Istanbul during New Year’s celebrations that left at least 39 dead and 70 wounded. More here.
—President-elect Donald Trump told reporters Saturday night that he knew “things that other people don’t know” about Russian hacking interference in the presidential election, which U.S. intelligence agencies say was ordered by Russia’s military intelligence unit. Catch up on the news with stories my colleague David Graham, here and here.
—We’re live-blogging the news stories of the day below. All updates are in Eastern Standard Time (GMT -5).
Russian Diplomats Expelled From U.S. by Obama Leave the Country
Prankster Changes Iconic Hollywood Sign to Read 'Hollyweed'
A prankster in Los Angeles got a head start on April Fool’s Day this year by hanging tarpaulins over the city’s iconic Hollywood sign so it read “Hollyweed” on New Year’s Day. Security-camera footage from the early hours of Sunday morning showed a man climb up the mountain, scale the sign’s ladders, and drape fabric over the O’s, the Los Angeles Times reports, citing local police. One tarpaulin bore a peace sign, and the other a heart. The man, who has not been found, wore “black, tactical-style gear.” The sign was not damaged. The Times points out this isn’t the first time someone has edited the sign in the name of pot. “On New Year’s Day of 1976, the sign became “HOLLYWeeD” for the first time—the work of Cal State Northridge student Daniel Finegood, who scaled Mount Lee with $50 worth of curtains,” writes Laura J. Nelson. “The modification was his project for an art class assignment on working with scale. He earned an A.” Californians voted in November to legalize recreational use of marijuana in the state.
Hundreds of Migrants Storm Border Between Morocco and Spanish Territory
About 1,100 African migrants in Morocco tried Sunday to break through a border fence to enter Ceuta, a city of Spain located in North Africa, the AP reports. Fifty Moroccan and five Spanish border guards were injured when the migrants swarmed the barrier, according to Spanish officials. About 100 migrants climbed the fence, which is six meters, or 20 feet, tall, but officials sent them back to Morocco. Migrants seek to enter Ceuta so that they may receive temporary residency in Spain and then apply for asylum. In early December, about 400 African migrants stormed the border between Morocco and Ceuta, and dozens made it onto Spanish soil without being found.
At Least 39 Dead in Istanbul Nightclub Attack
Turkish authorities searched Sunday for the suspect in a mass shooting at an Istanbul nightclub during New Year’s celebrations that left at least 39 people dead and another 70 people wounded. The assailant, acting alone, killed a police officer and a civilian outside the Reina club at about 1:15 a.m. Sunday before entering the building and opening fire on partygoers inside with a long-barreled weapon, the AP reports. He has not been identified and remains at large. Video footage from cameras nearby showed the gunman wore a Santa Claus hat. Vasip Sahin, the governor of Istanbul, said the gunman “rained bullets in a very cruel and merciless way on innocent people who were there to celebrate New Year’s and have fun.” As many as 600 people were inside the club at the time of the attack, The New York Times reports. No one has claimed responsibility for the assault.