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DC Roundup: Congress Questions Kushner, Votes on Health Care, Russia Sanctions

  • VOA News

The U.S. Capitol in Washington, July 20, 2017.

Developments in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday include Jared Kushner, President Donald Trump's son-in-law, answering questions from the House Intelligence Committee, a Senate procedural vote on health care, a House vote on a package of sanctions for Russia, Iran and North Korea, and Trump meeting with the prime minister from Lebanon, and growing pressure from the president toward Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

White House adviser Jared Kushner, center, and his attorney Abbe Lowell, left, arrive on Capitol Hill in Washington to be interviewed behind closed doors by the House Intelligence Committee, July 25, 2017.
White House adviser Jared Kushner, center, and his attorney Abbe Lowell, left, arrive on Capitol Hill in Washington to be interviewed behind closed doors by the House Intelligence Committee, July 25, 2017.

Trump's Son-in-Law Answers More Questions on Russia Contacts -- Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, faces questions in a closed-door interview Tuesday with the House Intelligence Committee as part of its probe into Russian meddling in last year's election. He spoke Monday to the Senate Intelligence Committee in a similar closed-door session, while also publicly denying that he or anyone else with the Trump campaign had any improper contacts with Russia leading up to or after the November 2016 vote.

US Senate Votes to Open Health Care Debate -- The U.S. Senate on Tuesday approved a motion to open debate on a Republican initiative to overhaul the health care system put in place under former President Barack Obama. The motion passed 51-50, the tie-breaking vote cast by Vice President Mike Pence.

House OKs New Sanctions Against Iran as Tehran Flexes Military Muscle -- The U.S. House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly Tuesday in favor of imposing new sanctions on Iran, a move that most likely will further exacerbate tensions between Washington and Tehran. U.S. officials said further sanctions were warranted as a result of Tehran's destabilizing influence in the Middle East and support for terrorist groups, as well as the Iranian government's continuing missile development program, in defiance of the 2015 nuclear agreement with the United States and other major powers.

Scouts and their leaders listen to President Donald Trump at the 2017 National Boy Scout Jamboree at the Summit in Glen Jean, W.Va., July 24, 2017.
Scouts and their leaders listen to President Donald Trump at the 2017 National Boy Scout Jamboree at the Summit in Glen Jean, W.Va., July 24, 2017.

Boy Scouts Distance Themselves From Trump's Partisan Barbs -- The Boy Scouts of America is distancing itself from U.S. political disputes after Trump gave a controversial speech to thousands of scouts at their national encampment. “The Boy Scouts of America is wholly non-partisan and does not promote any one position, product, service, political candidate or philosophy,” the group said Tuesday. “The invitation for the U.S. President to visit the National Jamboree is a long-standing tradition and is in no way an endorsement of any political party or specific policies.”

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, right, and U.S. Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis participate in talks at Government House in Sydney for the 2017 Australia-United States Ministerial Consultations, June 5, 2017.
U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, right, and U.S. Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis participate in talks at Government House in Sydney for the 2017 Australia-United States Ministerial Consultations, June 5, 2017.

State Department Denies Rumors Tillerson Considering Resigning -- The U.S. State Department flatly denied Tuesday that Secretary Rex Tillerson might be considering leaving his job. The first question department spokeswoman Heather Nauert was asked at an on-camera news briefing was whether it was true that Tillerson was thinking about resigning or leaving the administration early. "That is false," Nauert said. "We have spoken with the secretary. The secretary has been very clear. He intends to stay here at the State Department."

What Could Happen If Jeff Sessions Is Pushed Out of Office? -- Trump's startlingly public criticism of Jeff Sessions over the last week suggests an effort to pressure the attorney general into resigning with a possible eye toward replacing him and ending the Justice Department investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election. A Sessions ouster would be seen as key to ultimately removing Robert Mueller, the special counsel and former FBI director investigating potential collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign. But Trump, infuriated by Session's own recusal from the probe, would need to find a new ally in the Justice Department willing to take that step — which may not be easy.

FILE - Attorney General Jeff Sessions waits to make a statement at the U.S. Customs and Border Protection office in Washington, March 6, 2017.
FILE - Attorney General Jeff Sessions waits to make a statement at the U.S. Customs and Border Protection office in Washington, March 6, 2017.

Republicans Come to Sessions' Defense as Trump Takes Another Jab -- After days of enduring pointed criticism from Trump and calls from Congressional Democrats to testify over his contacts with Russian officials, Attorney General Sessions' former colleagues in the Senate came to his defense on Tuesday.

When He Travels, Trump Favors States That Voted for Him -- As president, Trump has been drawn again and again to comfort zones, while largely avoiding states where voters chose his Democratic opponent, a review by The Associated Press found.

Trump Takes Victory Lap in Ohio After Health Care Debate Vote -- Straight off a slim but symbolic health care win in Washington, Trump arrived in Ohio for a victory lap on Tuesday night with the very voters who helped put him in office. "We're now one step closer to liberating our citizens from this Obamacare nightmare and delivering great health care for the American people," Trump told a crowd of several thousand in Youngstown, Ohio, hours after the Senate took one small step toward Republicans' years-long promise to repeal and replace former President Obama's health care law.

White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci speaks to members of the media outside the White House in Washington, Tuesday, July 25, 2017.
White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci speaks to members of the media outside the White House in Washington, Tuesday, July 25, 2017.

White House Hosts Media Day to Tout Trump's First 6 Months -- The White House is hosting a day's worth of live broadcasts to tout Trump's first six months in office. The "media day" event kicked off at 6 a.m. featuring 15 hours of live radio broadcasts from the Salem Media Group. Participating hosts include Hugh Hewitt and Joe Piscopo. Both are broadcasting from white tents set up on the White House driveway.

Top Senator: Trump Call for Clinton Investigation 'Highly Inappropriate' -- Trump's call for Attorney General Jeff Sessions to investigate former Democratic rival Hillary Clinton is "highly inappropriate" and threatens to erode the separation between law and politics, a leading Republican senator said on Tuesday.

Trump Pledges US Aid to Help Lebanon Against Islamic State -- Trump on Tuesday praised Lebanon's efforts to guard its borders to prevent Islamic State and other militant groups from gaining a foothold inside their country and promised continued American help. "America's assistance can help ensure that the Lebanese army is the only defender Lebanon needs," Trump said at a White House news conference after talks with Lebanon's Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri.

Trump Administration Cuts Short Anti-teen Pregnancy Grants -- Dozens of teen pregnancy prevention programs deemed ineffective by the Trump's administration will lose more than $200 million in funding following a surprise decision to end five-year grants after only three years. The administration's assessment is in sharp contrast with that of the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, which credited the program with contributing to an all-time low rate of teen pregnancies.

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, seen in this June 2, 2017 photo, looks back after speaking to the media during the daily briefing in the Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House in Washington. Records show Pruitt spent weekends in his home state durin
EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, seen in this June 2, 2017 photo, looks back after speaking to the media during the daily briefing in the Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House in Washington. Records show Pruitt spent weekends in his home state durin

Records: EPA Chief Jets Away for Weekends on Taxpayer's Dime -- Records show the head of the Environmental Protection Agency spent weekends in his home state during his first three months in office, frequently flying to and from Oklahoma at taxpayer's expense. EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt's expense reports from March, April and May were released following a Freedom of Information request filed by Environmental Integrity Project, a non-profit watchdog group.

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