DC Roundup: Trump Tweets, Travel Ban, Comey Testimony, Rift Over Qatar
Developments in Washington, D.C., on Monday include President Donald Trump sending out a series of tweets regarding his Muslim travel ban and his desire for a quick ruling on it by the U.S. Supreme Court, the White House saying Trump won't prevent fired FBI Director James Comey from testifying before Congress on Thursday, his proposal for privatizing the air traffic control system, U.S.-Asia discussions, and Tuesday's Afghan peace conference.
Trump Tweets Again Overshadow Intended Agenda � The White House is intending this to be "Infrastructure Week," focusing on its trillion-dollar plan to improve America's outdated transportation system. But that itinerary seemed to be quickly derailed, just hours into the new week, as President Donald Trump himself detoured from the plan with a series of fresh provocative tweets. In a three-hour period on Monday morning, the president took aim at the Democrats for not approving his nominees; criticized U.S. courts for suspending his travel ban, and denounced the mayor of London, mischaracterizing Sadiq Khan's "no reason to be alarmed" quote in the wake of the London attacks.
Trump Renews Calls for Travel Ban � U.S. President Donald Trump said Monday he wants a quick Supreme Court ruling to reinstate his ban on travel to the United States from six majority-Muslim countries where terrorist attacks have occurred. In a string of comments on his Twitter account, Trump attacked his own Justice Department for submitting a "watered down, politically correct" version of the ban to the Supreme Court review that would affect travel from Iran, Syria, Libya, Sudan, Yemen and Somalia. He said the agency should have stayed with an appeal of an earlier ban that also included Iraq.
Trump Won't Block Former FBI Chief's Testimony, White House Says � U.S. President Donald Trump has no intention of blocking former FBI Director James Comey from testifying to Congress later this week about key conversations they had earlier this year before Trump fired him, the White House said Monday. Trump had been considering whether to invoke executive privilege on his White House conversations with Comey and keep him from testifying Thursday before the Senate Intelligence Committee. But White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said that in order to facilitate a swift and thorough examination of facts, Trump would not try to halt the Comey testimony.
Trump Announces US Air Traffic Control Upgrade � Trump on Monday proposed privatizing the nation's air traffic control system, saying reforms are needed to cut air travel times and fuel costs and curb annoying delays for travelers.
Trump Administration Considers Use of Air Blasting in Atlantic in Search for Oil, Gas � The Trump administration is considering letting companies use seismic air guns to look for oil and gas deposits below the Atlantic Ocean, outraging environmentalists and coastal towns and resorts. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) says it has gotten five separate requests to carry out the operations. The air guns use incredibly powerful blasts of air to look for oil and gas deep under the ocean floor.
6 Countries, Including Saudi Arabia, Egypt, UAE Cut Diplomatic Ties With Qatar� Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Yemen and Maldives cut diplomatic ties Monday with Qatar, accusing it of supporting terrorism. Qatar's Foreign Affairs Ministry said the measures are "unjustified and are based on baseless and unfounded allegations." U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said he does not expect Monday's actions to have an impact on the fight against terrorism in the region or globally. He urged all of the parties to address their disagreements.
Japan Pushed World Leaders to Warn China Over Maritime Expansion � On paper, all of the world's seven richest nations warned last month against militarization of the contested South China Sea, where Beijing is building up small islets for combat aircraft and radar systems. But analysts believe it was Japan that pushed the Group of Seven nations for the warning as it vies with China for political influence around Asia.
Southeast Asia Faces Climate Change Cooperation Challenges � Southeast Asia faces far reaching challenges in ensuring regional cooperation in dealing with climate change after the decision by the United States to withdraw from the 2015 Paris Agreement. The move, announced last week by Trump, is seen as a further step away from a higher profile U.S. role in the region after Washington backed away from the 12 nation Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) regional trade pact earlier this year.
Afghan Peace Conference Comes Amid Rising Terror, Political Tensions � Afghanistan's beleaguered president, Ashraf Ghani, will host an international conference Tuesday in a fresh bid to develop wider consensus on how to end an increasingly deadly conflict in the country and collectively fight cross-border terrorism. The government has named its new regional peace initiative the Kabul Process" conference but the first meeting is taking place amid worsening national security and deepening political tensions.
AP FACT CHECK: London Attack Draws Visceral Trump Tweets, Not Facts � Trump can't be counted on to give accurate information to Americans when violent acts are unfolding abroad. A look at some of his weekend tweets about the London attack and rhetoric that came from the president and his aides about climate change and more last week.
State Elections See Infusion of First-time Female Candidates � New Jersey is one of two states holding general legislative elections this year; the other is Virginia. Political analysts will be watching closely to see if there's a shift in the red-blue balance, but the newfound enthusiasm for politics among women is also drawing attention. A number of them say they were inspired by former President Barack Obama's suggestion, in his farewell speech, to "grab a clipboard" and collect signatures to run for office themselves, if they were disappointed with their elected officials.
Haiti Fears Deportations Will Mean Surge of Child Servants � The Trump administration is weighing an end to a humanitarian program that has protected nearly 60,000 Haitians from deportation since that earthquake - a temporary protected status based on the assumption their homeland could not absorb them following the disaster. If the program known as TPS is not extended, people could be sent back to Haiti starting in January. Such mass deportation would cut off remittances that keep many Haitian families fed in a country where deep poverty is the primary force behind the restavek practice � a term used to describe children whose poor parents hand them over to others in hopes they'll have opportunities to escape a dead-end life or at least get more food. It's a practice deeply ingrained in Haiti, where families frequently have numerous kids despite crushing poverty.
US Productivity Flat in First Quarter, While Labor Costs Up � The productivity of American workers was flat in the first three months of this year, while labor costs rose at the fastest pace since the second quarter of last year. Productivity growth was zero in the January-March quarter after rising at a 1.8 percent annual rate in the fourth quarter, the Labor Department reported Monday. It was the weakest performance since productivity had fallen at a 0.1 percent rate in the second quarter of last year but an improvement from an initial reading of a 0.6 percent decline.
US Ambassador Has Message for 'Corrupt' UN Rights Body � Weeks after becoming Trump's ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley described the U.N.'s Human Rights Council as "so corrupt.'' Expect some sparks to fly, then, when she addresses that body for the first time. En route to the Middle East, Haley drops in Tuesday at the meeting in Geneva to deliver a speech and take part in a "side event" focusing on rights in Venezuela.
Source: Voice of America