DC Roundup: Comey Testimony, Trump’s ‘Unfiltered’ Tweets, US on Human Rights
Developments in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday include President Donald Trump sending out more tweets regarding a spat between Gulf Arab nations, saying Twitter is his way to get his “unfiltered message” to Americans, as well as Washington preparing for fired FBI Director James Comey’s upcoming testimony, and U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley warning the U.S. may pull out of the U.N.’s main human rights body.
Trump Wades Into Diplomatic Spat Among Gulf Arab Nations — The White House says President Donald Trump and Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud spoke by telephone, and the two stressed the need for Gulf unity following a decision by Arab states in the region to cut ties with Qatar. A statement issued late Tuesday said the two discussed the “critical goals of preventing the financing of terrorist organizations and eliminating the promotion of extremism by any nation in the region.”
Trump Defends His Twitter Musings, But Aides Worry — Trump is defending his frequent 140-character messages on Twitter, saying it’s his way of reaching the public without his words being filtered through traditional news outlets. Trump claimed Tuesday on Twitter, his favorite social media link to the world, that the mainstream media was trying to keep him from using the medium. He said Twitter is his way to get an “unfiltered message out” to the public.
Washington Braces for Comey Testimony — Lawmakers’ expectations varied as Capitol Hill braced for what promises to be a blockbuster event: Thursday’s testimony by former FBI director James Comey on the Russia probe and his interactions with Trump before he was fired last month. “This is an investigation into potential treason, potential espionage, potential obstruction of justice. It’s very, very serious that we get it right,” Democratic Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia said Tuesday.
NATO Chief: ‘Have to be Strong’ in Response to Russia But Dialogue Important — The head of NATO says members of the alliance are united in their stance toward Russia in a way they have not been for many years. Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said Monday in an interview with VOA’s Serbian Service that NATO is committed to stepping up its defense while at the same time continuing dialogue with Russia.
Does the UN Have an Anti-Israel Bias? — The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations put the organization’s Human Rights Council on notice Tuesday, saying it needs to reform or the U.S. will withdraw from it. Nikki Haley, who also is a member of President Trump’s cabinet, has been very vocal about what she says is the 47-member, Geneva-based council’s bias against Israel.
US Might Quit UN Rights Body if No Reforms — Haley has warned that the Trump administration might pull out of the Human Rights Council if the U.N. body does not undertake necessary reforms. In a tough “take no prisoners” speech at the opening of the council’s three-week session, Haley put the group on notice that it should mend its ways.
US Urged to Act Upon its Own Human Rights — A top civil liberties defender is urging the United States to “practice what it preaches” on human rights after Haley addressed the U.N.’s main human rights body.
Trump Urges Quick Supreme Court Ruling to Reinstate Travel Ban — Trump used Twitter late Monday to again call for a travel ban from what he called “dangerous countries” while criticizing what he sees as “politically correct” efforts to soften his original executive order to block entry to people from a group of majority-Muslim countries.
Tillerson: Trump Says Look Past Turmoil and Re-Engage Russia — Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Tuesday that Trump has asked him to rebuild the U.S. relationship with Russia and not allow the political turmoil over possible Russian ties to the Trump campaign to impede him.
US Homeland Chief Suggests Kushner Part of Russia Probe — Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly indicated on Tuesday that Trump’s son-in-law and top adviser Jared Kushner and his communications with Russia are part of a wide-ranging probe by the Justice Department’s special counsel.
Thai Junta Chief to Visit White House in July — The leader of Thailand’s military junta, Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, will visit the White House in July following an invitation from Trump, a spokesman for the Thai government said on Monday.
China Won’t Free Men Who Investigated Ivanka Trump Supplier — China’s government on Tuesday rejected a U.S. State Department call to release three activists detained while investigating a Chinese company that produced shoes for Ivanka Trump and other brands. It sought instead to enforce a cone of silence around the men, according to a lawyer and a family member who was interrogated and told not to speak to the foreign press.
California Governor Brown Says US Will Stay in Climate Fight — With Trump pulling the U.S. out of the Paris climate accord, China and California signed an agreement Tuesday to work together on reducing emissions, as the state’s governor warned that “disaster still looms” without urgent action. Gov. Jerry Brown told The Associated Press at an international clean energy conference in Beijing that Trump’s decision to pull the U.S. out of the Paris agreement will ultimately prove only a temporary setback.
US Army Base Goes Green With Renewable Energy Project — The U.S. military’s biggest base on American soil has begun drawing nearly half of its power from renewable energy, days after Trump’s decision to pull out of a global agreement to fight climate change. Fort Hood, Texas, has shifted away from fossil fuels to wind- and solar-generated energy in order to shield the base from its dependence on outside sources, a spokesman said.
Poll: Most Americans Want ‘Aggressive’ Action on Climate Change — Most Americans believe the United States should take “aggressive action” to fight climate change, but few see it as a priority issue when compared with the economy or security, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll released on Tuesday. The June 2-4 opinion poll found 68 percent of Americans want the United States to lead global efforts to slow climate change, and 72 percent agree “that given the amount of greenhouse gases that it produces, the United States should take aggressive action to slow global warming.”
Foreign Minister: Canada Seeks Larger World Role as US Retreats — Canada will seek to play a larger role on the world stage as the United States retreats, Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland said on Tuesday, in remarks underscoring strains between Washington and its closest allies.
Cities Push Back as Trump Aims to Cut Anti-Terrorism Funding — Cities are pushing back on the possibility of losing millions of dollars in U.S. anti-terrorism grants under Trump’s spending plan — the third straight White House that has moved to cut the funding. The proposed budget would cut cash for the program from $605 million to nearly $449 million for the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1 and require cities such as New York, Los Angeles and Las Vegas to pay 25 percent of the grants.
US Vice President’s Wife Installs Beehive at Official Residence — Karen Pence, wife of U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, has opened their government residence to more than a few new inhabitants: honeybees — at least 15,000 of them. She showed off the beehive Tuesday, partly to draw attention to a decline in managed bee colonies that she and other officials say could negatively affect U.S. agricultural production.
Report: International Tourism to US Stronger Than Expected — More international visitors came to the U.S. than expected in April 2017, according to a new report released Tuesday in Washington. The U.S. Travel Association’s Travel Trends Index shows that international travel to the U.S. grew by about 4 percent in April, compared with data for April 2016. The strong showing contradicted fears that tourism from abroad would slow in reaction to President Trump’s proposed travel bans, which have been blocked by court challenges.
Despite Vow to End Catch and Release, Trump Is Still Freeing Thousands of Migrants — Last fall, during the waning months of the Obama administration, hundreds of immigrants crossed the river on rafts near Roma, Texas, each day, many willingly handing themselves over to immigration authorities in hopes of being released into the United States to await court proceedings that would decide their fate. Now, would-be border violators know “they’ll be detained and then turned right back around,” said an agent.
US, Mexico Reach Sugar Pact Without Backing from US Producers — The U.S. and Mexican governments reached a new agreement to significantly shift their sugar trade mix, but U.S. sugar producers have failed to endorse the deal, leaving question marks over whether it could still sour broader trade relations. U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said the “agreement in principle” with Mexican Economy Minister Ildefonso Guajardo calls for Mexico to reduce the share of refined sugar in its exports to the United States, while increasing the share of raw sugar.