DC Roundup: Trump Tweets, Contentious Press Briefings, Senate Hearings

Developments in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday include President Donald Trump criticizing congressional probes of alleged links between his campaign and Russia, as well as truncated White House press briefings, fired National Security Advisor Michael Flynn agreeing to turn over some documents to a Senate committee, and covfefe anyone?:

White House Truncates Media Briefing, Leaving Questions Unanswered — The White House spokesman, during a truncated, off-camera briefing Wednesday, brushed aside a question about a report that fired FBI Director James Comey plans to testify publicly that President Donald Trump pressured him to end an investigation into a top Trump aide’s ties to Russia.

Trump Assails Congressional Probes of His Campaign’s Links to Russia — U.S. President Donald Trump again assailed the congressional probes into his campaign’s links to Russia on Wednesday, claiming opposition Democrats were blocking the testimony of one of his former aides looking to clear his name. “Witch Hunt!” Trump declared in one comment on his Twitter account.

Flynn to Provide Senate Committee Documents in Russia Probe — U.S. President Donald Trump’s former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn has agreed to hand over documents to the Senate intelligence committee in connection with its investigation into Russia’s efforts to influence last year’s U.S. presidential election. Flynn had previously refused a subpoena from the committee, with his lawyers asserting the request was too broad in what it was seeking.

Trump Assails Congressional Probes of His Campaign’s Links to Russia — U.S. President Donald Trump again assailed the congressional probes into his campaign’s links to Russia on Wednesday, claiming opposition Democrats were blocking the testimony of one of his former aides looking to clear his name. “Witch Hunt!” Trump declared in one comment on his Twitter account.

Flynn to Provide Senate Committee Documents in Russia Probe — U.S. President Donald Trump’s former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn has agreed to hand over documents to the Senate intelligence committee in connection with its investigation into Russia’s efforts to influence last year’s U.S. presidential election. Flynn had previously refused a subpoena from the committee, with his lawyers asserting the request was too broad in what it was seeking.

CNN, Other Entities Drop Comedian Kathy Griffin Over Trump Photo — Hours after U.S. President Donald Trump admonished Kathy Griffin Wednesday for appearing in a photograph holding a reproduction of a severed, bloody head that resembled him, the comedian has lost a lucrative television job. Cable News Network (CNN) terminated an agreement with Griffin to co-host its New Year’s Eve coverage, after stating earlier in the day the image was disgusting and offensive.

House Committee Subpoenas Flynn, Cohen; Comey to Testify — The House intelligence committee said Wednesday it is issuing subpoenas for former national security adviser Michael Flynn and President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, as well as their businesses, as part of its investigation into Russian activities during last year’s election.

Social Media Rushes to Define Trump’s ‘Covfefe’ Tweet — A midnight tweet from President Donald Trump has social media trying to find a meaning in the mysterious term “covfefe.” Trump tweeted just after midnight on Wednesday: “Despite the constant negative press covfefe.” The tweet immediately went viral and became one of the president’s more popular posts before it was taken down after nearly six hours online. Trump poked fun at the typo, tweeting around 6 a.m., “Who can figure out the true meaning of “covfefe” ??? Enjoy!'”

Canada Urged to Scrap US Pact After Woman Dies Trying to Cross Border — Canadian politicians and refugee advocates urged the government on Wednesday to scrap a U.S. pact that has spurred asylum seekers to cross the border illegally after a woman trying to walk into Canada was found dead of possible hypothermia.

Trump’s Loss is Li’s Gain as Berlin Rolls Out Red Carpet for China’s PM — China’s Prime Minister Li Keqiang arrived in Berlin on Wednesday at the start of a European tour, poised to jump into the global climate change leadership gap left by U.S. President Donald Trump’s impending withdrawal from the Paris climate pact. China’s number two official was received with military honors at Chancellor Angela Merkel’s office, becoming the second leader of a rising Asian giant to visit in as many days after India’s Narendra Modi.

Trump Hails Signing of Deals Worth ‘Billions’ With Vietnam — U.S. President Donald Trump discussed trade with Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc during a White House visit on Wednesday and welcomed the signing of business deals worth billions of dollars and the jobs they would bring. General Electric said earlier it had signed deals with Vietnam worth about $5.58 billion for power generation, aircraft engines and services, its largest ever single combined sale with the country.

Gulf Arab Row Rattles Trump’s Anti-Iran Axis — Just 10 days after President Donald Trump called on Muslim countries to stand united against Iran, a public feud between Qatar and some of its Gulf Arab neighbors is jolting his attempt to tip the regional balance of power against Tehran. Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) are incensed by Qatar’s conciliatory line on Iran, their regional archrival, and its support for Islamist groups, in particular the Muslim Brotherhood, which they regard as a dangerous political enemy.

European Commission Chief Upbraids Trump on Climate Stance — The European Commission president on Wednesday said that it was the “duty of Europe” to stand up to the U.S. if President Donald Trump decided to pull his country out of the Paris climate change accord. Jean-Claude Juncker said that “the Americans can’t just get out of the agreement,” adding that “it takes three to four years” to pull out.

Trump Nears Decision on Whether to Pull Out of Paris Climate Accord — President Donald Trump is close to a decision on whether to pull the United States out of the landmark 2015 Paris Climate Accord. At his only appearance of the day, a photo session with visiting Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc, Trump deflected questions about his decision, saying only, You are going to find out very soon. He said he had been hearing from a lot of people both ways as he considers his options.

World Risks 4-year Legal Gray Zone if Trump Quits Climate Pact — The United States could influence or even disrupt work by other nations to combat climate change until late 2020 even if President Donald Trump quits a global agreement, legal scholars said on Wednesday. Trump will honor a campaign pledge to pull out of the 195-nation Paris Agreement, a source briefed on the decision told Reuters on Tuesday. Trump tweeted he would announce his formal decision over the next few days.

A Guide to Global Warming, Paris Pact and the US Role — If President Donald Trump pulls the United States out of the international agreement to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, what could that mean for the Earth? Here’s a guide to what’s in the Paris agreement, what’s going on with global warming, and what might happen if the rest of the world keeps fighting man-made climate change and the U.S. stays partially or completely on the sidelines.

AP Explains: Kushner and the Back Story of Back Channels — Jared Kushner’s reported attempt to establish a “back-channel” line of communication between Russia and Donald Trump’s presidential transition team is proving divisive, even if such talks aren’t unusual. A look at what constitutes back-channel diplomacy, some examples from history and the risks and benefits of such informal communications.

Trump’s Cellphone Diplomacy Raises Security Concerns — President Donald Trump has been handing out his cellphone number to world leaders and urging them to call him directly, an unusual invitation that breaks diplomatic protocol and is raising concerns about the security and secrecy of the U.S. commander in chief’s communications.

Clinton: False Stories on Facebook Helped Trump Win Election — Hillary Clinton on Wednesday said hoaxes and false news stories on Facebook contributed to her loss in last year’s U.S. presidential election, adding to a list of factors she blames for her defeat. The former Democratic candidate said earlier this month that interference by Russian hackers and then-FBI director James Comey helped tip the election to Republican President Donald Trump.

Trump Frustrated by ‘Fake News’ That Overlooks His Accomplishments — White House spokesman Sean Spicer abruptly walked out of his press briefing Tuesday as journalists shouted questions after him, highlighting the increasingly adversarial relationship between the Trump administration and the reporters who cover it. After a testy 20-minute question-and-answer session, Spicer told the jam-packed White House briefing room that President Donald Trump was frustrated with the number of “fake news” stories being reported, while news about his accomplishments during his just-completed foreign tour was downplayed.

Mexico to Review Rules of Origin to Help NAFTA Renegotiation — Mexico’s foreign minister says the country is “inevitably” set to review rules of origin when renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement, giving a boost to President Donald Trump’s manufacturing push. The rules dictate how much U.S. content a product assembled in Mexico must have in order to escape tariffs when being imported into the United States. Currently set at 62.5 percent for the auto industry, that number could increase.

Snowden Says Democracy Under Threat by Attacks on ‘Fake News’ — Democracy and political legitimacy are increasingly under threat from attacks by politicians like U.S. President Donald Trump on fake news and free speech, former U.S. National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden told a conference on Tuesday.

Haley Represents Another Side of ‘America First’ Policy — Nikki Haley crouched low in the trailer of an 18-wheeler, taping up a box of lentils and wheat for besieged Syrians, her hands-on diplomacy a world apart from the gleaming new NATO headquarters where President Trump was debuting his “America First” doctrine overseas.

US Starts Providing Weapons to Syrian Kurds — The United States said Tuesday that it had begun distributing arms to Syrian Kurdish militia members battling to help retake Raqqa from Islamic State, moving ahead with a war plan that has angered NATO ally Turkey. Pentagon spokesman Major Adrian Rankine-Galloway said the Kurdish fighters received small arms and vehicles from the U.S. military. He said he thought the arms were distributed earlier Tuesday.

Source: Voice of America

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