Developments in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday include Attorney General Jeff Sessions testifying before the Senate Intelligence Committee, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein saying only he could fire special counsel Robert Mueller and he saw no reason to do so, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson announcing release of American student from North Korea, and Trump supporters turning on special counsel Mueller.
Sessions: Nothing Improper About 2016 Meetings With Russian Ambassador — U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said Tuesday he did nothing improper in meeting twice last year with Russia’s ambassador to Washington, and that any suggestion he colluded with Moscow officials in last year’s presidential election campaign is an “appalling and detestable lie.” Sessions, in opening remarks before the Senate Intelligence Committee investigating Russian interference in the election to help President Donald Trump win, said he decided to remove himself from oversight of the criminal investigation of the Russian interference because of rules at the Justice Department prohibiting his involvement because he was a key campaign adviser to Trump.
Sessions Faces Sharp Questioning in Senate — Now it’s Jeff Sessions’ turn to step into the spotlight. Less than a week after fired FBI Director James Comey delivered riveting testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee about a series of what he described as “awkward” and “inappropriate” interactions with President Donald Trump, Sessions, the attorney general, appears before the same panel Tuesday to offer his version of events and take issue with some of Comey’s statements.
Transcript: AG Sessions’ Prepared Remarks to Senate Committee
Things to Know About Jeff Sessions on Day of Senate Hearing — Attorney General Sessions steps back into a familiar arena Tuesday when he testifies before the Senate intelligence committee about his role in the firing of FBI Director Comey and the investigation into contacts between Trump campaign associates and Russia. A look at the man who has become a key figure in the probe.
US Deputy Attorney General Assures Congress of Special Counsel Independence — A top U.S. Justice Department official assured lawmakers Tuesday that without “good cause” he would ignore any attempt by President Donald Trump to fire a special counsel investigating possible illegal collusion between Trump’s aides and Russian officials in last year’s campaign. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who appointed Robert Mueller, a former director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, to lead the high-profile investigation of Russian meddling in the election aimed at helping Trump win, told a Senate panel he would not comply with any Trump order to fire Mueller absent a compelling reason. He added that no such reason currently exists.
US College Student Evacuated from North Korean Prison in Coma — An American college student held in North Korea for 17 months is finally on his way home but with a tragic twist as his parents say he has been in a coma for more than a year. U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson confirmed Tuesday that Otto Warmbier, 22, had been released from prison and would be reunited with his family. State Department officials refused to comment on Warmbier’s health, citing department guidelines, but said the last time the U.S. had any access to Warmbier, through the Swedish Embassy, was March of last year.
Dennis Rodman Hopes to ‘Make Something Happen’ During N. Korea Trip — There is a chance that former National Basketball Association (NBA) star Dennis Rodman’s surprise return to North Korea could help secure the release of an American being held in the repressive nation, but it also raises serious concerns, analysts say. Wearing sunglasses, a dark shirt and baseball cap, and with facial piercings, Rodman told reporters on Tuesday that “I’m just trying to open the door,” after he was spotted at the Beijing International Airport en route to Pyongyang.
Trump to Host South Korean Counterpart — President Donald Trump will host his newly elected South Korean counterpart Moon Jae-in in Washington later this month, the White House announced Tuesday.
Trump Supporters Turn on Special Counsel Mueller — High-profile supporters of Trump are turning on special counsel Mueller, the man charged with investigating Russian interference in the U.S. election and possible collusion with Trump’s campaign. As Mueller builds his legal team, Trump’s allies have begun raising questions about the former FBI director’s impartiality, suggesting he cannot be trusted to lead the probe.
US Senators Back Legislation Strengthening Russia Sanctions — A group of U.S. senators agreed Monday on legislation to strengthen sanctions against Russia, including a provision that would require congressional review if the White House relaxed, suspended or terminated sanctions already in place. The bipartisan agreement comes in the form of an amendment to legislation the Senate is already considering on sanctions for Iran. The bill is expected to have strong support when it goes before the full Senate, and would have to then pass in the House of Representatives and be signed by Trump.
Pentagon Chief: US ‘Not Winning’ in Afghanistan — U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told lawmakers Tuesday that the United States is not gaining in the fight to stabilize Afghanistan and vowed to present a strategy to Congress “by mid-July.” “We are not winning in Afghanistan right now, and we will correct this as soon possible,” Mattis told members of the Senate Armed Services Committee. Mattis acknowledged that the Trump administration was currently in a “strategy-free time” concerning Afghanistan, where American troops have fought for 16 years.
Tillerson Defends Proposed Cuts to Diplomacy, Foreign Aid Programs — Secretary of State Tillerson has defended Trump’s proposal to sharply cut spending on diplomacy and foreign aid while proposing large increases in military spending. The president’s 2018 proposed budget would cut spending at the State Department and U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) by 32 percent and boost Defense Department spending by about 10 percent.
Tillerson Signals Tough Trump Administration Stance on Cuba — U.S. Secretary of State Tillerson on Tuesday said Cuba “must begin to address human rights challenges” if it wants Washington to preserve a move toward more normal relations started under former President Barack Obama. Tillerson, speaking to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee days before Trump is expected to announce a change in U.S. policy on Cuba, said the opening to the Communist-run island has led to an increase in U.S. visitors and U.S. business ties to the country.
Ankara Backs Qatar in Saudi-led Showdown — Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has placed himself at the forefront of the defense of Qatar, in the face of Saudi Arabia-led economic and diplomatic sanctions.
Trump Attacks Latest Court Ruling Against Travel Ban — Trump is assailing the latest federal appellate court decision blocking his executive order restricting travel from six majority-Muslim countries where terrorist attacks have occurred. “Well, as predicted, the 9th Circuit did it again – Ruled against the TRAVEL BAN at such a dangerous time in the history of our country,” Trump posted on his Twitter account Tuesday, adding, “S.C.” in an apparent reference to the government’s appeal to the Supreme Court. The appellate court said the president overstepped his authority when he issued the March 6 executive order.
Trump Eyes Supreme Court After Appeals Court Rejects Travel Ban — Trump on Tuesday criticized a federal appeals court one day after it handed him another legal setback by refusing to revive his U.S. travel ban on people from six Muslim-majority nations, and appeared poised for the nation’s top court to weigh in.
Canada’s Detention of Mexicans Surges After Visa Lift — Detention of Mexican citizens in Canada has spiked since December, when the government lifted its visa requirement for visitors from Mexico, figures obtained by Reuters show, even as Canada burnishes its image as more welcoming than the United States. Detentions in the first five months of 2017 were more than twice the previous two years combined, according to Canada Border Services Agency statistics provided last week in response to a Reuters request.
Cuba Hard-liners, US Defenders Battle Over New Trump Policy — Cuba’s best friends in the U.S. used to be a smattering of Washington policy wonks and leftists who sent donated school buses and computers to the communist-led island. Five months into the Trump administration, Cuba has a new set of American defenders: a coalition of high-tech firms, farming interests, travel companies and young Cuban-Americans thrown into action by the looming announcement of a new Cuba policy. On the opposite side, hard-line members of Miami’s Cuban exile community who suddenly have a direct line into the White House through Cuban-American Republican members of Congress and the administration.
House ‘Covfefe’ Bill Would Save Presidential Tweets — A Democratic congressman from Illinois has introduced a bill named for Trump’s infamous “covfefe” tweet with the goal of ensuring presidential social media posts are archived.
2 US Senate Democrats Seek Probes of Administration’s Secret Messaging — Two U.S. Senate Democrats on Tuesday called for government-wide investigations into the Trump administration’s use of secretive messaging phone applications and whether officials are ignoring or delaying responses to some congressional oversight requests.
Trump to Tout Apprenticeships as Way to Fill Jobs Gap — Trump says apprenticeships could match workers with millions of open jobs, but he’s reluctant to devote more taxpayer money to the effort. Instead, Trump and Labor Secretary Alex Acosta say the administration is focused on getting universities and private companies to pair up and pay the cost of such learn-to-earn arrangements.
Ivanka Trump Urged to Speak Up After Arrest of Chinese Labor Investigators — The case of three labor rights activists detained in China for trying to investigate a factory that makes Ivanka Trump brand shoes highlights the pervasive problem of labor abuses and lax enforcement by authorities. But rights activists said President Donald Trump’s daughter, who is also his assistant, could help make a difference if she speaks out about the case.
Trump Clings to Coal as Worldwide Demand Plummets — Market demand for the dirtiest of fossil fuels is plummeting worldwide, according to industry data published Tuesday, even as Trump has made reviving the long-struggling U.S. coal mines the bedrock of his administration’s energy policy. The BP Statistical Review of World Energy shows global coal production fell by more than 6 percent last year. That’s the largest decline in the history of BP’s survey, which the British energy company has issued annually for more than six decades.
Apple Issues $1B Green Bond After Trump’s Paris Climate Exit — Apple Inc. offered a $1 billion bond dedicated to financing clean energy and environmental projects on Tuesday, the first corporate green bond offered since Trump withdrew the United States from the Paris climate agreement. The offering comes over a year after Apple issued its first green bond of $1.5 billion — the largest issued by a U.S. corporation — as a response to the 2015 Paris agreement.
Trump Administration Looks to Curb CFPB Powers, Change Bank Rules — The Trump administration is proposing to curb the authority of the consumer finance watchdog created following the economic crisis as it drives toward easing restrictions on banks and financial institutions. The Treasury Department issued Monday the first part of a review that was ordered by Trump in one of his earliest acts as president.
Michigan Vietnam Vet Is Trump’s 1st Medal of Honor Recipient — Members of Army medic James McCloughan’s unit in Vietnam called him “Doc.” Now, those soldiers, several of whom McCloughan saved during the ferocious, dayslong Battle of Nui Yon Hill in 1969, will have a new name for him: Medal of Honor recipient. Army spokeswoman Valerie L. Mongello said Tuesday that the 71-year-old from South Haven, Michigan, will become the first person to be awarded the nation’s highest military honor by Trump.