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Washington Roundup: Comey to Testify, 'Nut Job' Comment, Russia Probe

  • VOA News

President Donald Trump, speaking in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, denounced the appointment of a special counsel to investigate his campaign's ties with Russia Thursday, calling it an unprecedented 'witch hunt' that 'hurts our country

Developments Friday concerning President Donald Trump include his plans to meet dozens of Muslim leaders on first trip abroad as president; The New York Times reported Trump told Russian officials earlier this month former FBI Director James Comey was a "nut job'; Comey later Friday said he would publicly testify at a Senate hearing on the Russia investigation; and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein testified to the U.S. House:

Map of countries President Donald Trump will visit during his first overseas trip
Map of countries President Donald Trump will visit during his first overseas trip

Trump to Meet Dozens of Muslim Leaders During Saudi Visit -- Saudi Arabia is an unprecedented destination for an initial overseas trip by any U.S. president. But Donald Trump is making it his first stop on his first presidential foreign journey. It is all the more surprising in wake of his "America First" rhetoric and campaign statements calling for a “Muslim ban” backed by subsequent orders attempting to limit travel from six Muslim-majority countries.

Fired FBI Head Comey Agrees to Testify Publicly Before Senate -- The U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee says former FBI Director James Comey has agree to testify publicly about Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. The heads of the Senate Intelligence Committee announced in a statement Friday that Comey would testify before the panel after May 29.

The White House is framed with the fence on the North side of the White House in Washington, Sept. 20, 2014.
The White House is framed with the fence on the North side of the White House in Washington, Sept. 20, 2014.

Senior White House Official Said to Figure in FBI Probe -- The Washington Post is quoting unidentified sources that report the FBI investigation into possible ties between Trump's political organization and Russia has identified a current senior White House official as “a significant person of interest” in the case. The senior official now under scrutiny is said to be someone close to the president, the newspaper said, attributing its report to “people familiar with the matter.” The senior official was not identified further, but the Post said the FBI probe was expected to intensify in the coming weeks.

Rosenstein Stands by Memo Recommending Comey Be Replaced -- Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein is sticking by his memo that preceded President Donald Trump’s firing of FBI Director Comey. “I wrote it. I believe it. I stand by it,” Rosenstein said Friday during his closed-door session with lawmakers at the House of Representatives.

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein arrives on Capitol Hill in Washington for a closed-door meeting with Senators a day after appointing former FBI Director Robert Mueller to oversee the investigation into possible ties between Russia and President Don
Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein arrives on Capitol Hill in Washington for a closed-door meeting with Senators a day after appointing former FBI Director Robert Mueller to oversee the investigation into possible ties between Russia and President Don

Israel, Palestinians Gear Up for Trump Visit -- President Trump is wasting no time trying to succeed where his predecessors have failed. He will visit Israel and the Palestinian territories on Monday and Tuesday of next week, hoping to revive peace talks that collapsed three years ago. His goal is what he calls “the ultimate deal” that would bring an elusive peace to the Holy Land.

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis speaks at the Pentagon, May 19, 2017.
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis speaks at the Pentagon, May 19, 2017.

Mattis: Trump Ordered Acceleration in Fight Against IS -- Trump has ordered an "accelerated operation" against Islamic State jihadists in Syria, Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis said Friday. Mattis called it a "tactical shift," saying the military would move away from operations designed to shove IS fighters out of seized locations, and instead focus on "surrounding the enemy in its stronghold."

Trump Approval Numbers Drop to New Low -- A new poll says public approval of President Trump has dropped to its lowest level since he was inaugurated, with the drop in confidence centered among Republican voters. A Reuters/Ipsos poll released Friday indicates only 38 percent of U.S. adults now approve of the president, while 56 percent said they disapprove of his performance. The remaining 6 percent said they had "mixed feelings" about the president.

President Donald Trump, accompanied by first lady Melania Trump, waves as they board Air Force One at Andrews Air Force Base, Maryland, May 19, 2017, prior to his departure on his first overseas trip.
President Donald Trump, accompanied by first lady Melania Trump, waves as they board Air Force One at Andrews Air Force Base, Maryland, May 19, 2017, prior to his departure on his first overseas trip.

Trump Takes First International Trip as President -- Trump begins his maiden international trip as U.S. president Friday, leaving the White House awash in a slew of controversies that has some politicians invoking comparisons to the Watergate scandal that brought down the presidency of Richard Nixon.

To Trump Supporters, Real Story Is About Leaks and Sabotage -- To the White House and its supporters, the big story in Washington isn't the investigation into possible Trump campaign ties to Russia. It's about leakers working to undermine the president.

U.S. President Donald Trump meets with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, second left, at the White House in Washington, May 10, 2017. (Russian Foreign Ministry photo via AP)
U.S. President Donald Trump meets with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, second left, at the White House in Washington, May 10, 2017. (Russian Foreign Ministry photo via AP)

Russian FM Mocks US Media over Intelligence-sharing Reports -- Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Thursday mocked U.S. news reports suggesting President Trump inappropriately shared sensitive intelligence with him about terror threats involving laptops on airplanes. He joked that some U.S. media were acting like communist newspapers in the former Soviet Union and not offering real news.

Trump Faces Diplomatic Hurdles During Visit to Holy Land -- U.S. presidential trips are an opportunity to project power and burnish statesmanship. But they come with diplomatic dangers and potential pitfalls, too. For Trump, several of those await in Jerusalem and Bethlehem next week.

Vice President Mike Pence pauses while speaking at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce during their "Invest in America!" Summit, Thursday, May 18, 2017, in Washington.
Vice President Mike Pence pauses while speaking at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce during their "Invest in America!" Summit, Thursday, May 18, 2017, in Washington.

Vice President Pence Avoids Political Fray Surrounding Him -- Vice President Mike Pence has stepped gingerly through the chaos engulfing the White House -- offering loyalty to his boss, while trying to avoid the spreading stain of scandal. It hasn't been easy, and it's getting harder by the day.

Worldwide Effort Set to Keep Trump Happy on 1st Trip Abroad -- When President Trump sits down for dinner in Saudi Arabia, caterers have ensured that his favorite meal - steak with a side of ketchup - will be offered alongside the traditional local cuisine. It's all part of a worldwide effort to accommodate America's homebody president on a voyage with increasingly raised stakes given the ballooning controversy involving his campaign's possible ties to Russia.

Ivanka Trump to Take Part in Presidential Trip -- Ivanka Trump will travel with the president to Saudi Arabia, Israel and Italy on his upcoming foreign trip, a White House official said. A senior adviser to President Trump, Ivanka Trump will be present for six days of the nine-day trip, which begins Friday, the official said. She'll join her father for some events, but will also hold some of her own, the official said.

Blake Hurst, a corn and soybean farmer and president of the Missouri Farm Bureau, walks to the tractor shed on his farm in Westboro, Mo., April 4, 2017. U.S. President Donald Trump has vowed to redo the North American Free Trade Agreement, but NAFTA has
Blake Hurst, a corn and soybean farmer and president of the Missouri Farm Bureau, walks to the tractor shed on his farm in Westboro, Mo., April 4, 2017. U.S. President Donald Trump has vowed to redo the North American Free Trade Agreement, but NAFTA has

Why Trump's Combative Trade Stance Makes US Farmers Nervous -- A sizable majority of rural Americans backed Trump's presidential bid, drawn to his calls to slash environmental rules, strengthen law enforcement and replace the federal health care law. But last month, many of them struck a sour note after White House aides signaled that Trump would deliver on another signature vow by edging toward abandoning the North American Free Trade Agreement. Farm Country suddenly went on red alert.

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