The Trump administration placed sanctions Monday on Venezuelan Vice President Tareck El Aissami for his suspected ties to drug smuggling and money laundering. El Aissami is now the highest-ranking official in the country to be sanctioned by the U.S., a move that generally means all his assets will be blocked and U.S. citizens are prohibited from doing business with him. El Aissami has denied the charges, although he has been the subject of multiple U.S. investigations for at least five years. Last week, in a letter to President Donald Trump, more than 30 members of Congress asked that El Aissami and other top Venezuelan officials receive immediate sanctions for ties to drug smugglers and stealing from state resources. El Aissami has risen quickly in Venezuelan politics, and a decade ago he was only a student leader in a rural region of the country. In 2005 he became a legislator in the National Assembly, then governor of Aragua state, and in January President Nicolas Maduro appointed him vice president. The opposition party calls El Aissami the “narco of Aragua,” and accuse him of using his political power to turn Venezuela into a trafficking hub for cocaine. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security was also investigating him for laundering money for groups in the Middle East, as well as providing passports to members of terrorist groups.
—A hole in an emergency spillway in the Oroville Dam prompted the evacuation of about 188,000 people in California. The threat from the dam has subsided, but it’s unclear when residents can return home. More here
—Michael Flynn is still President Trump’s national security adviser despite last week’s revelation that he discussed—despite previous denials—U.S. sanctions on Russia with Moscow’s envoy to the U.S. during the presidential transition—a highly unusual, and potentially illegal, action. More here
—Adele won Album of the Year at the Grammys last night, but appeared to suggest the award belonged to Beyoncé. More here
—We’re tracking the news stories of the day below. All updates are in Eastern Standard Time (GMT -5).
The Trump Administration Hits Venezuela's Vice President With Sanctions
What's Going On With Mike Flynn?
Updated on February 13 at 5:25 p.m. ET
Mike Flynn, President Trump’s national-security adviser, has reportedly apologized to Vice President Mike Pence and others over his statements about the nature of his conversations with the Russian ambassador to the U.S., USA Today is reporting. The newspaper’s source is an unnamed White House official who said Flynn spoke to Pence by telephone and told him that—despite his previous denials—he may have discussed U.S. sanctions on Russia with the Russian envoy. The issue has been controversial because Pence had previously defended Flynn against the allegations on TV. Earlier today it appeared Flynn’s fate was in the balance after Stephen Miller, Trump’s senior adviser, declined Sunday to say whether the president had confidence in Flynn: “That's the question that I think you should ask the president,” he said. Trump had been uncharacteristically quiet over the matter, though he did praise Miller’s performance on TV. At a joint news conference today with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Trump called on two reporters—one from a local Washington, D.C., station and the other from a conservative website—who did not ask him about Flynn’s fate. Later Monday afternoon, Kellyanne Conway, who serves as counselor to the president, told MSNBC that yes, “Flynn does enjoy the full confidence of the president.” But that seemed to be out of step with a later statement from the White House, which indicated Trump was evaluating the situation.
UPDATE: Trump is evaluating situation surrounding adviser Michael Flynn and speaking to Vice President Pence about it: White House spokesman— Reuters Top News (@Reuters) February 13, 2017
Judge Denies Request to Halt Work on Dakota Access Pipeline
A federal judge rejected a request by two Native American tribes to block work on the Dakota Access Pipeline, pointing out construction on the remaining section of the project hadn’t yet begun. Judge James Boasberg of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia said there was no harm at the moment to the two tribes—Cheyenne River and Standing Rock Sioux—that sued to block work on the project, which has been the subject of massive protests. Boasberg said he’d reconsider the request at a hearing February 27. Last week, as my colleague Matt Vasilogambros reported, the Army Corps of Engineers said it will approve the final permit needed to finish construction of pipeline. “The 1,200-mile pipeline will go under Missouri River reservoir that is a water source for the Standing Rock Sioux tribe,” Matt wrote. “That one-mile stretch of the pipeline in North Dakota was the last remaining unbuilt section of the pipeline.”
Russian Footage Shows New Destruction to Ancient Monuments in Palmyra
Video released Monday by a Russian military drone shows the extent of the destruction in Palmyra, which was recaptured by ISIS late last year. Russian drone footage showed new damage to the facade of the Roman-era amphitheater, as well as damage to the Tetrapylon, the set of four-columned monuments arranged in a square. Palmyra, a UNESCO world heritage site founded in 2000 B.C., is one of the greatest historical treasures in Syria. ISIS first captured the city in May 2015 and destroyed some of the monuments it deemed un-Islamic. The Syrian military, backed by Russia, recaptured the city in March 2016, but nine months ISIS seized Palmyra again.
An Explosion Kills 11 People During a Protest in Pakistan
A bomb exploded during a protest in Lahore, Pakistan, killing at least 11 people and injuring about 60. Hundreds of pharmacists had gathered to protest a new amendment to a law regulating drug sales when a motorcycle crashed into the crowd and set off an explosion. The attack was later claimed by a faction of the Pakistani Taliban called Jamaat-ul-Ahrar. Later a representative of the group told the Associated Press the the attack was revenge for recent Pakistani military operations against the militants. There were an estimated 400 people at the protest, as well as a heavy police presence. Two senior officers, including a former provincial counterterrorism chief, were among the dead. Jamaat-ul-Ahrar is a splinter group of the Pakistani Taliban that has carried out numerous attacks in the tribal region along Pakistan’s border with Afghanistan.
Australia Revokes ISIS Fighter's Citizenship Under Anti-Terrorism Law
An Australian man who travelled to Syria to join the Islamic State became the first person to have his citizenship stripped by the Australian government under the country’s 2015 anti-terrorism law. The man has been identified by local news reports as 35-year-old Khaled Sharrouf, a dual Australian-Lebanese national who gained notoriety in August 2014 when he posted to Twitter a photo of his son, who was seven years old at the time, holding the decapitated head of a Syrian soldier. Under amendments made in 2015 to Australia’s 2007 Citizenship Act, Australians with dual citizenship are prohibited from returning to the country if they are involved with a terrorist group or acts of terrorism overseas. Of the estimated 100 Australians believed to be involved with terrorist groups in Iraq and Syria, half of them are reportedly dual citizens.
'This Is Not a Drill': Nearly 200,000 Evacuated From Near California's Oroville Dam
The National Weather Service urged residents near the Oroville Dam in Northern California to evacuate Sunday with the words: “This is not a drill. Repeat this is not a drill.” About 188,000 people near the dam have been affected by a hole in the spillway that threatened to flood the surrounding area. Although that hazard has subsided, it’s unclear when residents will be able to return to their homes; storms are expected in the area this week and it’s unclear how they could further affect the damaged dam. The evacuation of the area clogged up roads late Sunday. Roads and highways in the region have been closed, which could affect the morning commute of those people traveling south from Chico, California.