Here's our look at the Trump administration and the rest of Washington:
The top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Burbank), says he’s not sure that President Trump’s son-in-law and advisor, Jared Kushner, should retain his security clearance.
The California Democrat, who has been a sharp critic of Trump, also said in an interview aired Sunday that national security advisor H.R. McMaster, a highly respected military officer, had been tarnished by his association with the White House.
Schiff’s comments, on ABC’s “This Week,” came amid growing questions about Kushner’s contacts with Russian officials before Trump took office. Trump has denounced the latest round of news reports, saying that some of them could be based on fabricated sources.
Top Trump aides, including John F. Kelly, the secretary of Homeland Security, pushed back Sunday against the suggestion that there was anything untoward about establishing “back channel” communications with the Russians during the presidential transition.
Schiff said he regretted that McMaster had done so as well, saying he believed the White House “used” the solid reputations of people like him to back up dubious actions.
“Sadly, I think this is an administration that takes in people with good credibility and chews them out and spits out their credibility at the same time,” said Schiff, who acknowledged that what McMaster said about back channel communications was “true in the abstract.”
“I think anyone within the Trump orbit is at risk of being used,” he said.
Kelly, in separate talk-show appearances on Sunday, said there was nothing untoward about an incoming administration establishing communications with a foreign power in order to lay the groundwork for better relations.
Schiff declined to discuss the substance of the allegations regarding Kushner’s contact with Russian officials during the transition and whether Kushner had been forthcoming about them, but said enough questions had been raised that his access to top-secret intelligence should be scrutinized.
“I think we need to get to the bottom of these allegations,” Schiff said. “But I do think there ought to be a review of his security clearance to find out whether he was truthful, whether he was candid. If not, then there’s no way he can maintain that kind of a clearance.”
Schiff was also critical of continuing involvement in aspects of the Russia probe by fellow Californian Devin Nunes (R-Tulare), the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, who stepped aside from the probe earlier this year after the House Ethics Committee began investigating whether he had improperly revealed classified information.
Nunes remains involved in decision-making about the issuance of subpoenas, Schiff said, adding: “I don’t think that he should, given that he has stepped aside or recused himself.”
The committee is investigating Russian entanglements by figures in Trump’s circle, including fired national security advisor Michael Flynn, who has been the target of multiple subpoenas.
With President Trump set to make a decision this week about whether the U.S. should remain part of the landmark Paris climate accord, Defense Secretary James Mattis said Trump remains “wide open” on the issue.
During a visit to Europe that ended Saturday, Trump dismayed European allies by refusing to commit to remaining in the 2015 accord during talks with European Union officials in Brussels and at the Group of Seven gathering in Sicily. The president said in a tweet that he will make a decision this week.
Mattis, who was present at some of the Brussels talks, said that Trump is still making up his mind, and that he has been inquisitive about other leaders’ opinions.
“The president was open – he was curious about why others were in the position they were in, his counterparts in other nations,” the Defense secretary said in an interview aired Sunday on CBS’ “Face the Nation.”
“And I’m quite certain the president is wide open on this issue as he takes in the pros and cons of that accord.”
During his European trip, Trump met privately at the Vatican with Pope Francis, who presented him with a copy of his papal encyclical on environment and climate change. French President Emmanuel Macron, who met with Trump in Brussels, also said he had pressed the issue with the U.S. president, though the White House did not mention that appeal in a summary of their meeting.
There is nothing inherently wrong with an incoming presidential administration establishing “back channel” communications with a foreign power such as Russia, Secretary of Homeland Security John F. Kelly said Sunday.
Appearing on “Fox News Sunday,” Kelly was asked about reports by the Washington Post and other outlets that President Trump’s son-in-law and close advisor, Jared Kushner, sought to set up secret lines of communication with Russian officials prior to Trump being sworn in.
The retired general did not confirm the reports, but said the principle of establishing secretive contacts during a presidential transition “doesn't bother me” and is a legitimate means of building relationships.
“I think that any channel of communication, back or otherwise, with a country like Russia is a good thing,” he said.
Kelly did not address a central element of the reports — that Kushner discussed the possibility of using Russian communications channels from a Russia diplomatic outpost to shield from U.S. intelligence surveillance whatever discussions Trump transition officials wanted to have with Moscow.
The FBI, a special counsel and multiple congressional committees are probing Russian interference in the presidential campaign and whether the Trump camp colluded in it. The U.S. intelligence community says Russian cyberattacks were meant to boost Trump and harm his opponent, Hillary Clinton.
In a separate interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Kelly defended the integrity of Kushner, whose involvement in communications with Russia has brought the investigation closer to Trump personally than has previous scrutiny of others in his campaign circle or the White House.
Calling Kushner “a great guy, a decent guy,” the Homeland Security secretary said the president’s son-in-law’s “No. 1 interest, really, is the nation.”
Also in the NBC interview, Kelly excoriated intelligence leaks in the wake of last week’s deadly bombing in Manchester, England. British officials including Prime Minister Theresa May were angered by disclosures about details of the investigation, including the release of the dead attacker’s name and detailed photos from the bomb scene that were published by the New York Times.
Several outlets cited unnamed U.S. officials as the source of the information including the bomber’s identity. The Times did not say how it obtained the photos.
Britain routinely shares intelligence with close allies like the United States with the expectation that it will be kept confidential. Kelly said that failing to keep such secrets could seriously damage intelligence-sharing arrangements with other nations.
"I believe when you leak the kind of information that seems to be routinely leaked -— high, high level of classification… I think it's darn close to treason," Kelly said. It is not clear what level of classification, if any, the information about the British investigation would have had.
Trump himself, who recently caused controversy when he passed sensitive intelligence on Islamic State to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and discussed the location of U.S. nuclear submarines with the president of the Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte, has denounced the Manchester leaks and vowed to track down the source or sources.
President Trump is back – and tweeting.
In a Sunday morning series of posts on Twitter, the president repeated his denunciations of the “fake media,” celebrated the Republican victory in a Montana special election and declared his overseas trip a success.
Trump returned to the White House late Saturday after a swing through the Middle East and Europe, the first foreign trip of his presidency. During it, he tweeted only sparingly.
While Trump was away, controversy continued to swirl around his White House, with media reports focusing on son-in-law Jared Kushner’s role in Trump campaign contacts with Russian officials. The GOP healthcare plan and Trump’s budget also came under withering scrutiny during the president's absence.
In Sunday’s tweets, Trump said cascading leaks from within his administration were in fact “fabricated lies” by news organizations based on sources that did not exist. One tweet was corrected to fix the spelling of “exist.”
Trump also complained that the special congressional election in Montana, called to fill the seat vacated when Ryan Zinke became his Interior secretary, "was such a big deal to Dems & Fake News until the Republican won." The "V was poorly covered," he said, referring to the Republican victory.
The victory by Republican candidate Greg Gianforte received extensive coverage. It was widely expected, given Montana's significant Republican edge, but made more suspenseful on the eve of the election when Gianforte was charged with misdemeanor assault for an incident in which he struck a reporter who had asked him a question.
The president received mixed reviews for his inaugural overseas venture. He was praised by some for his outreach to Sunni Arab allies in the Persian Gulf, but continued his administration’s practice of making no public criticism of serious human rights violations.
In Europe, he rattled allies by declining to explicitly endorse the NATO alliance’s bedrock common defense pledge or pledge to adhere to the Paris climate accord.
Whatever the commentary surrounding the trip, Trump counted it a success.
“Hard work but big results,” he wrote.
Donald Trump made no secret during the presidential campaign of his disdain for America’s trading partners, his skepticism of longtime alliances and his eagerness to refocus U.S. foreign policy on the single-minded pursuit of American security.
That was the largely the president the world got as Trump made his way through the Middle East and Western Europe over the last nine days,
Trump’s first foreign trip may have produced memorable, and at time cringe-inducing, images of the new president, whether grasping a glowing orb in Saudi Arabia or shoving the prime minister of Montenegro at a NATO meeting in Brussels. But perhaps most profoundly, the trip underscored what “America First,” as Trump has branded his governing philosophy, looks like on the world stage.
Seven wealthy democracies ended their summit Saturday in Italy without unanimous agreement on climate change, as the Trump administration plans to take more time to say whether the U.S. is going to remain in the Paris accord on limiting greenhouse gas emissions.
The other six nations in the Group of Seven agreed to stick with their commitment to implement the 2015 Paris deal that aims to slow down global warming.
The final G-7 statement, issued after two days of talks in the seaside town of Taormina, said the U.S. "is in the process of reviewing its policies on climate change and on the Paris agreement and thus is not in a position to join the consensus on these topics."
Trump tweeted he would decide his stance on the Paris agreement next week. The announcement on the final day of the U.S. president's first international trip comes after he declined to commit to staying in the sweeping climate deal, resisting intense international pressure from his peers at the summit.
Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni, who chaired the meeting, said the other six "won't change our position on climate change one millimeter. The U.S. hasn't decided yet. I hope they decide in the right way."
Gentiloni said climate was "not a minor point" and that he hoped the United States would decide "soon and well" because the Paris accords "need the contribution of the United States."
French President Emmanuel Macron also chimed in on the climate issue, praising Trump's "capacity to listen." Macron said he told Trump it is "indispensable for the reputation of the United States and the interest of the Americans themselves that the United States remain committed" to the Paris climate agreement.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel was more downbeat, calling the G-7 climate talks "very unsatisfactory."
Republicans were celebrating Friday, and relieved, and it was easy to see why: The party hung on to Montana’s sole congressional seat even though its candidate faced a freshly lodged criminal charge for physically assaulting a reporter on election eve.
Though they fell short in yet another special election — Greg Gianforte won handily, 50% to 44% — Democrats also found reason to be pleased: Their candidate, flawed as he was, continued a pattern of polling better than might be expected — “over-performing,” to use the political parlance, and that could hold future promise.
It’s possible, as elections analyst Nathan Gonzales put it, to lose and still have momentum.
Hillary Clinton delivered a subtle dig at President Trump on Friday, offering some parallels between his presidency and that of former President Nixon.
While delivering a commencement address at her alma mater, Wellesley College, a private women’s liberal arts school in Massachusetts, Clinton, without naming Trump, recalled how many young people in the 1970s reacted to Nixon's reelection and later battles with the Justice Department.
“We were furious about the past presidential election of a man whose presidency would eventually end in disgrace with his impeachment for obstruction of justice," she said, pausing to note she was referring to Nixon.
Actually, Nixon was not impeached, though many in Congress, including members of his own party, called for it. Clinton said Nixon's resignation came after he fired “the person heading the investigation into him at the Department of Justice.”
In 1973, Nixon ordered Justice Department officials to fire a special prosecutor who was looking into taped conversations recorded in the Oval Office as part of the Watergate investigation. A year later, in August 1974, Nixon resigned.
Some political observers – mostly Democrats -- have compared Trump’s recent firing of FBI Director James B. Comey, who was overseeing an investigation of possible collusion between Russians and Trump’s campaign, to Nixon’s actions. Last week, Rep. Al Green (D-Texas) called for Trump to be impeached.
Clinton, who has made few public appearances since Trump defeated her in last year’s presidential election, also assailed the Republican’s new budget proposal.
She called the budget, which proposes cuts to education and Medicaid, "an attack of unimaginable cruelty on the most vulnerable among us — the youngest, the oldest, the poorest and hard-working people who need a little help to gain or hang on to a decent, middle-class life."
In a statement, the Republican National Committee said Clinton was “lashing out” after her election loss.
Clinton graduated from Wellesley in 1969 and last delivered a commencement address at the school in 1992.
As President Trump met with leaders of the world's leading economies here Friday within miles of an active volcano, the White House was working to ease a pair of diplomatic eruptions.
Trump was due to meet with British Prime Minister Theresa May on the sidelines of the G-7 Summit in this coastal Sicilian resort town, amid tensions between their countries, longtime allies, following leaks to U.S. media outlets involving Britain's investigation of the Manchester terrorist bombing.
Separately, a top White House adviser partially confirmed reports that Trump had said Germany is "very bad" during Thursday's NATO meetings in Brussels, but clarified that the president was referring only to German trade policies.
Trump said, according to the German magazine Der Spiegel, "See the millions of cars they are selling to the U.S.? Terrible. We will stop this."
Gary Cohn, director of the National Economic Council, acknowledged that Trump made the remark but added that the president "doesn't have a problem with Germany."
"He said his dad is from Germany. He said I don't have a problem with Germany, I have a problem with German trade," Cohn said.
Press access to the G-7 meetings has been extremely limited, though the surrounding setting has produced abundant compelling visuals.
Trump tweeted that he expected to spend the day focused on economic growth, terrorism and security. The summit, and Trump's eight-day inaugural foreign trip, ends Saturday.
Other allies here were likely to press Trump on another issue: climate change, specifically whether Trump will carry out his campaign promise to pull the United States out of the landmark Paris climate deal.
Trump was hoping to better understand the European position, Cohn said. White House officials have said the president will make a decision once he is back in the United States.
"He knows that in the U.S. there's very strong opinions on both sides but he also knows that Paris has important meaning to many of the European leaders. And he wants to clearly hear what the European leaders have to say," Cohn said.
With President Trump balking on his vow to shred the Obama-negotiated Paris agreement on climate change, the last place the pact’s staunch opponents wanted to see the president is where he will be this weekend — meeting other world leaders unanimous in their warnings that withdrawal from the accord would seriously damage America’s economy and world stature.
Trump has repeatedly delayed fulfilling his campaign pledge to move against the agreement. The longer the White House deliberates over Paris, the more Trump seems to be searching for a face-saving excuse to walk back his previous position.
The White House indecision over the climate accord — which has the support of every nation except Syria and Nicaragua — reflects a deeply divided worldview in a Trump inner circle now packed with establishment Republicans.
The issue also presents yet another policy reckoning for Trump. On the campaign trail, he vowed to strike blows against the existing world order. But on the Paris agreement, as on other matters, he is finding that political backup for such pledges can fade quickly when the moves lack robust support from major U.S. companies or majority voting blocs.
The chairman of the House Oversight Committee asked the FBI on Thursday to turn over more documents about former FBI Director James B. Comey's interactions with the White House and Justice Department, including materials dating back nearly four years to the Obama administration.
Meanwhile, the Washington Post reported that the FBI is investigating meetings that President Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, had in December with Russian officials.
The FBI and the Oversight Committee — as well as several other congressional panels — are looking into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election and possible connections between Russia and the Trump campaign. Trump fired Comey on May 9 amid questions about the FBI's investigation, which is now being led by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, a former FBI director.
Kushner, a key White House advisor, had meetings late last year with Russia's ambassador to the U.S., Sergey Kislyak, and Russian banker Sergey Gorkov.
The Post story cited anonymous "people familiar with the investigation," who said the FBI investigation does not mean that Kushner is suspected of a crime.
Kushner's attorney, Jamie Gorelick, released a statement saying: "Mr. Kushner previously volunteered to share with Congress what he knows about these meetings. He will do the same if he is contacted in connection with any other inquiry."
Earlier Thursday, House Oversight Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz told acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe that he wants records of Comey's contacts with the White House and Justice Department dating to September 2013, when Comey was sworn in as FBI director under President Obama.
In a letter to McCabe, Chaffetz said he is seeking to review Comey's memos and other written materials so he can "better understand" Comey's communications with the White House and attorney general's office.
Republican Greg Gianforte overcame a last-minute assault charge to win Montana’s special congressional election Thursday, keeping its lone House seat in GOP hands and dealing Democrats a setback in their bid to gain a red-state toehold ahead of the 2018 midterm election.
Gianforte, 56, a wealthy businessman who ran unsuccessfully for governor in November, had long been the front-runner against Democrat Rob Quist, a professional bluegrass musician making his first run for public office.
With more than 90% of the votes counted, Gianforte was holding a healthy lead with just over 50% support.
Appearing at an exuberant victory rally in Bozeman, the congressman-elect hushed the crowd and apologized to the reporter with whom he tangled on election eve, reversing his campaign’s initial assertion that the journalist was to blame.
A federal appeals court has ruled against President Trump's travel ban, upholding a nationwide injunction barring the administration from enforcing the executive order.
The ruling is the latest legal setback for Trump on the travel issue and, like several previous court rulings, the outcome rested heavily on his own words.
Trump's order restricting travel from six majority-Muslim countries "speaks with vague words of national security, but in context drips with religious intolerance, animus and discrimination," Chief Judge Roger L. Gregory of the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals wrote in his ruling.
The 10-3 ruling included numerous citations to campaign statements in which Trump called for a ban on Muslims immigrating to the United States. The plaintiffs who have challenged the travel order have argued that it is a disguised version of the Muslim ban that he called for during the campaign.
Trump's statements "provide direct, specific evidence of what motivated both EO-1 and EO-2," the court said, referring to ther first and second versions of the travel order: "President Trump’s desire to exclude Muslims from the United States."
The 4th Circuit, based in Richmond, Va., is one of two appeals courts that have recently heard arguments on the travel ban. A similar case is pending before the 9th Circuit, based in San Francisco.
President Trump used his first NATO meeting to rebuke member nations who fail to meet the trans-Atlantic alliance’s defense spending target, saying American taxpayers unfairly are left to pick up the slack.
Speaking at dedication ceremonies for NATO’s new headquarters, Trump noted that the defense budgets of 23 of the 28 members don’t meet a target equal to 2% of each respective nation’s economic output, while the United States has spent more on defense in eight years than the other 27 combined.
“Many of these nations owe massive amounts of money from past years,” he said. “We have to make up for the many years lost.”
By his scolding, Trump was directly delivering to NATO allies the criticism that was a staple of his nationalist campaign for president. But his lecture came at an event intended to be celebratory, showcasing unity and resolve for the nearly 70-year-old alliance: the dedication of its shining, glass-enclosed new headquarters in Belgium’s capital.
The ceremony also was meant to call attention to the fact that the only time NATO has invoked its collective defense agreement was on behalf of the United States, after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on New York and Washington. Trump stood beside a section of wrenched steel from the downed World Trade Center Towers, a relic NATO calls the “Article V artifact,” to signify that post-9/11 invocation of the NATO charter’s article holding that an attack on any one member would be considered an attack on all.
Speaking to reporters before the president arrived, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg acknowledged that the alliance had a “long way to go” to meet its goals.
“But it’s much better than it was just two years ago,” he said. “The reality is that when we decrease defense spending when tensions are going down, as we did after the end of the Cold War, we have to be able to increase defense spending when tensions are going up. And now we see that tensions are going up.”
Hours before German Chancellor Angela Merkel flew to Brussels to meet with President Trump and other NATO heads of state, she rekindled an old acquaintance with Trump’s predecessor, Barack Obama.
About 70,000 people packed an avenue by Berlin’s landmark Brandenburg Gate on Thursday to hear the two leaders speak, with cheers and chants of “Barack, Barack!” breaking out when the former president took the stage.
Without mentioning Trump by name, Obama spoke of the need for universal healthcare and a nuanced approach to immigration in response to security threats.
“This is a new world we live in — we can’t isolate ourselves,” the former president declared, with Merkel looking on. “We can’t hide behind a wall.”
Obama spoke of this week's deadly bombing at a pop concert in Manchester, England, saying leaders had to find ways to balance security fears and fundamental rights.
“One of the biggest challenges… is how do you protect your country and your citizens from the kinds of things that we just saw in Manchester,” he said. “And how do you do it in a way that is consistent with your values and your ideals?”
Making his first European speech since his presidential term ended, Obama told the crowd he had spent the last four months "trying to catch up with my sleep" and devoting more time to his family.
"I'm very proud of the work I did as president," he said to more cheers, adding that he considered healthcare reform a signature achievement. Republicans are now in the midst of trying to dismantle his Affordable Care Act.
"My hope was to get 100% of people healthcare,” he said. “We didn't quite achieve that, but we were able to get 20 million people healthcare who didn't have it before.”
Obama’s speech was not timed to coincide with Trump’s first visit to Europe as president, aides said. The invitation was extended before Trump’s trip to Brussels — the fourth leg on multi-stop tour — was scheduled.
French President Emmanuel Macron, who met President Trump for the first time on Thursday, said he urged the U.S. leader to respect the Paris climate accord.
The White House, however, did not mention the issue in its readout on Trump’s working lunch in Brussels with the newly elected French president.
Macron told reporters as he headed into the meeting that climate change would be one of the issues he raised, along with concerns about terrorism and the economy. Afterward, at a news conference, the French president said that in his talk with Trump, he “reiterated the importance” of the landmark climate accord.
“No hasty decision on this subject should be taken by the U.S.,” Macron said. “Our collective responsibility is to make sure this commitment remains a global commitment.”
Referring to the agreement, he added: “It’s one of a kind."
In its readout, the White House said Trump urged Macron to meet NATO commitments on French defense spending and help ensure that the alliance is “focused on counter-terrorism.”
It also said the two leaders talked about the importance of defeating Islamic State and “other vital issues.”
Banks had hoped Congress would let them charge merchants higher fees to process debit card purchases, but an effort to allow that has crumbled — a victory for retailers and, possibly, shoppers who might have had to shoulder those costs.
In the latest chapter of a long-running fight, a repeal of federal limits on so-called swipe fees no longer will be part of a House financial regulation bill, said the legislation’s author, Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas).
Hensarling, chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, said he decided to strip the provision from the bill because many lawmakers are balking at removing the limits.
Trump administration lawyers are urging the Supreme Court to reject a 2nd Amendment claim that would restore the right to own a gun for two Pennsylvania men who were convicted more than 20 years ago of nonviolent crimes.
The case of Sessions vs. Binderup puts the new administration in a potentially awkward spot, considering President Trump’s repeated assurances during the campaign that he would protect gun ownership rights under the 2nd Amendment.
But the Justice Department under Trump has embraced the same position in this case that was adopted under President Obama: to defend strict enforcement of a long-standing federal law that bars convicted criminals from ever owning a gun, even when their crimes did not involve violence.