Here's our look at the Trump administration and the rest of Washington.
Former Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who last year was pardoned by President Trump in a case stemming from his enforcement tactics aimed at immigrants, announced Tuesday he will run for the open Senate seat in his home state.
“I am running for the U.S. Senate from the Great State of Arizona, for one unwavering reason: to support the agenda and policies of President Donald Trump in his mission to Make America Great Again,” Arpaio, 85, said on Twitter.
He’ll enter a Republican primary for the seat being vacated by Republican Sen. Jeff Flake.
Last summer, Trump pardoned Arpaio, who was convicted in July of criminal contempt for violating a federal court order to stop racially profiling Latinos.
It was Arpaio’s roughly quarter-century as sheriff that gave him a national reputation for his tough treatment of people suspected of being in the country illegally. Repeated court rulings against his office for civil rights violations cost local taxpayers tens of millions of dollars.
In the early 1990s, Arpaio directed construction of a tent city for immigration detainees, a measure he said was intended both to alleviate overcrowding and to underscore his aggressive enforcement measures. But it was open to the burning Arizona sun, and drew widespread criticism.
After Trump entered the presidential race in July 2015, Arpaio invited him to Phoenix to talk about a crackdown on illegal immigration. He endorsed Trump just before the first votes in the Iowa caucuses in 2016 and frequently spoke out on behalf of Trump’s campaign.
President Trump signed an executive order late Wednesday ending the voter fraud commission he launched last year as the panel faces a flurry of lawsuits and criticism from Democrats and Republicans alike.
Trump signed the order disbanding the commission “rather than engage in endless legal battles at taxpayer expense,” White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement.
The Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, created by executive order in May with the stated goal of restoring confidence and integrity in the electoral process, has faced a barrage of lawsuits in recent months over privacy concerns, as the commission sought personal data on voters across the country.
Congress returns to work this week with unfinished business on spending, immigration and other crucial issues, but with an even narrower GOP majority that will make it tougher to move on President Trump’s agenda.
The House and Senate will convene Wednesday, swearing in the newly elected Democratic senator from Alabama, Doug Jones, and Minnesota’s Tina Smith to replace a fellow Democrat, Sen. Al Franken, who is resigning as the latest high-profile public figure sidelined by allegations of sexual misconduct. The change gives Republicans only a one-seat margin in the Senate.
Trump, fresh off passage of the GOP tax cuts bill, is pushing lawmakers to pivot quickly on his new year priorities of infrastructure investment and immigration, as well as his foreign policy agenda.
But another legislative victory seems far off. Republicans have struggled to hold their majority together and Congress first must tackle critical stalled agenda items that leaders punted to 2018.
President Trump on Tuesday angrily threatened to cut off U.S. aid to Palestinians as punishment for what he called their failure to show “appreciation or respect” to the United States.
Writing on Twitter, the president compared the Palestinians to Pakistan, a nuclear-armed ally that abruptly drew his ire this week and a similar threat to drastically curtail aid.
He accused the Palestinians of recalcitrance in what he described as their refusal to negotiate a peace deal with Israel.
Palestinian officials have said they can no longer use Washington as a broker to restart peace talks with Israel following Trump’s Dec. 6 decision to overturn decades of U.S. policy and recognize the disputed city of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, and ultimately to move the U.S. Embassy there.
The Palestinians also claim part of Jerusalem as the capital of an eventual independent state. Until now, the United States and most of the world agreed the city’s political status was a matter to settle in final peace talks.
The United Nations General Assembly overwhelmingly condemned any effort to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, and the Palestinian leadership said it would not meet with Vice President Mike Pence, who had planned a trip to the region. That trip is on hold.
“[W]e pay the Palestinians HUNDRED [sic] OF MILLIONS OF DOLLARS a year and get no appreciation or respect,” Trump wrote on Twitter. “[W]ith the Palestinians no longer willing to talk peace, why should we make any of these massive future payments to them?”
In response to Trump’s tweet, Hanan Ashrawi, a senior Palestinian official, issued a statement saying: “Palestinian rights are not for sale. By recognizing Occupied Jerusalem as Israel’s capital Donald Trump has not only violated international law, but he has also singlehandedly destroyed the very foundations of peace and condoned Israel’s illegal annexation of the city.”
“We will not be blackmailed,” she said. “President Trump has sabotaged our search for peace, freedom and justice. Now he dares to blame the Palestinians for the consequences of his own irresponsible actions!”
The United States does not pay large amounts of money directly to the Palestinian Authority, the government that rules over parts of the Palestinian West Bank. Instead, most money goes to the U.N., refugee or aid agencies and even Israel to pay for roads, welfare, schools, security and other Palestinian projects.
The U.S. ambassador to the U.N., Nikki Haley, said Tuesday that the administration was planning to cut off one of those organizations, the U.N. Relief and Works Agency, until the Palestinians “return to the negotiating table.”
UNRWA, which receives around $300 million annually from the U.S., for years has been the lifeline to hundreds of thousands of Palestinian refugees living in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. It was not clear if Haley was threatening to cut all U.S. support for the agency.
Special correspondent Noga Tarnopolsky in Jerusalem contributed to this report.
President Trump wants Iran to give its citizens “basic human rights” and “stop being a state sponsor of terror,” his top spokeswoman said, but the White House stopped short of calling for a change of government in Tehran.
“If they want to do that through current leadership, if that's possible, OK,” White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters.
Sanders praised the “organic popular uprising,” which she said the widespread protests in Iran represented. The protests grew out of years of “years of mismanagement, corruption, and foreign adventurism have eroded the Iranian people's trust in their leaders,” she said.
Earlier Tuesday, Trump called Iran’s government “brutal and corrupt” and wrote in a tweet: “The people have little food, big inflation and no human rights. The U.S. is watching!”
Trump also blamed President Obama for “foolishly” giving Iran money that he said went to fund terrorism. The money he referred to were funds belonging to Iran that had been frozen by the U.S. and were released as part of the deal in 2015, which blocked Iran’s development of nuclear weapons.
The retirement of Utah’s senior senator, Orrin G. Hatch, opens the way for a widely expected Senate bid by Mitt Romney, the Republicans’ 2012 presidential nominee and a frequent critic of President Trump.
Although Romney previously served for two terms as governor of Massachusetts (and was raised in Michigan, where his father was governor and his mother ran for the Senate), he comes from a prominent Mormon family with strong ties to Utah. He also served as chief executive of the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics. He’s viewed as a strong candidate for the Senate seat.
Romney’s criticisms of Trump, however, could prompt a challenge in a Republican primary. Trump was widely reported to have tried to convince Hatch to run for a seventh term, in part to head off a Romney candidacy.
Last month, Romney and Trump were on opposite sides of one of the biggest political fights of the fall — the battle over the Senate seat from Alabama. The president strongly supported Roy Moore, the Republican candidate who had been accused of sexual misconduct by several women. Romney called Moore “a stain on the GOP.”
On Tuesday, Romney tweeted praise for Hatch, but did not immediately reveal his own plans.
The Trump administration is calling on Iran's government to stop blocking Instagram and other popular social media sites as Iranians are demonstrating in the streets.
Undersecretary of State Steve Goldstein says the U.S. wants Iran to "open these sites." He says Instagram, Telegram and other platforms are "legitimate avenues for communication."
The United States is encouraging Iranians to use virtual private networks, known as VPNs. Those services create encrypted links between computers and can be used to access blocked websites.
Goldstein says the U.S. is still communicating with Iranians in Persian through State Department accounts on Facebook, Twitter and other platforms. He says the U.S. wants to "encourage the protesters to continue to fight for what's right."
Goldstein says the U.S. has an "obligation not to stand by."
The day before a meeting of administration officials and congressional leaders on outstanding legislative business, President Trump accused Democrats of “doing nothing” to hammer out an immigration deal to protect from deportation people brought to the country illegally as children.
“Democrats are doing nothing for DACA — just interested in politics,” Trump wrote in a Tweet on Tuesday morning, referring to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program by its acronym.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer along with the Republican leaders, House Speaker Paul D. Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, are scheduled to meet on Wednesday at the Capitol with Trump’s legislative director, Marc Short, and budget director, Mick Mulvaney.
The White House on Tuesday said the meeting is to discuss separate spending caps on military and domestic programs. Yet the Democrats insist the discussion also must include a variety of legislative issues that Trump and Congress punted into the new year — on immigration, the budget, healthcare and more.
That stance reflects Democrats’ leverage: Republicans need Democratic votes to pass a government-funding bill and avert a federal shutdown when the current funding expires Jan. 19. Democrats especially want separate legislation replacing the Obama-era DACA program; Trump in September ordered a phase-out of the program, beginning March 6, and called on Congress to act before then on an alternative way to address the plight of the group.
However, Trump has demanded that any alternative must be part of a package including both money for a border wall and immigration limits. Democrats are opposed.
Pakistan lashed out Monday after President Trump accused its leaders of “lies and deceit” and suggested the United States would withdraw financial assistance to the nuclear-armed nation it once saw as a key ally against terrorism.
U.S. Ambassador David Hale was summoned to the Foreign Ministry to discuss the president’s statement, U.S. Embassy spokesman Richard Snelsire said. Pakistan lodged a strongly worded protest, according to two foreign office officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly.
Pakistan’s prime minister, Shahid Abbasi, called a Cabinet meeting for Tuesday and a meeting of the National Security Committee on Wednesday to discuss Trump’s New Year’s Day tweet.
It was the president’s latest broadside against Pakistan after a speech in August in which he demanded its leaders crack down on the safe havens enjoyed by Taliban militants fighting U.S.-backed forces in neighboring Afghanistan.
President Trump expressed renewed support Sunday for protesters in Iran, declaring that “people are finally getting wise as to how their money and wealth is being stolen and squandered on terrorism.”
In a tweet from his Florida estate, Mar-a-Lago, the president said the nationwide economic protests that began on Thursday – and have taken on wider political overtones as they have grown in size --- were a signal that Iranians “will not take it any longer.”
The president’s earlier hailing of the protests drew condemnation from Iran’s government. A Foreign Ministry spokesman called his comments “deceitful and opportunistic.”
Following an overnight report of the first two fatalities stemming from the protests, Trump raised some eyebrows by expressing concern over human rights violations as authorities move to crack down on the demonstrations. During his first year in office, the president has shown scant inclination to press foreign governments to respect the fundamental rights of their citizens.
“The USA is watching closely for human rights violations!” Trump said in his tweet Sunday.
Some domestic critics have pointed to the president’s inclusion of Iranian nationals in his travel ban, suggesting he was more interested in bashing the Tehran government than in supporting freedom of speech in Iran.
Even some of the president’s allies said that supporting the protesters on social media did not amount to making policy. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said he had urged Trump to give a national address laying out his Iran strategy.
“President Trump is tweeting very sympathetically to the Iranian people,” Graham said on CBS’ “Face the Nation.”
“But you just can’t tweet here. You have to lay out a plan.”
An Australian diplomat's tip appears to have helped persuade the FBI to investigate Russian meddling in the U.S. election and possible coordination with the Trump campaign, the New York Times reported Saturday.
Trump campaign advisor George Papadopoulos told the diplomat, Alexander Downer, during a meeting in London in May 2016 that Russia had thousands of emails that would embarrass Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton, the report said. Downer, a former foreign minister, is Australia's top diplomat in Britain.
Australia passed the information on to the FBI after the Democratic emails were leaked, according to the Times, which cited four current and former U.S. and foreign officials with direct knowledge of the Australians' role.
"The hacking and the revelation that a member of the Trump campaign may have had inside information about it were driving factors that led the FBI to open an investigation in July 2016," the newspaper said.
White House lawyer Ty Cobb declined to comment, saying in a statement that the administration is continuing to cooperate with the investigation now led by special counsel Robert Mueller "to help complete their inquiry expeditiously."
Papadopoulos has pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI and is a cooperating witness. Court documents unsealed two months ago show he met in April 2016 with Joseph Mifsud, a professor in London who told him about Russia's cache of emails. This was before the Democratic National Committee became aware of the scope of the intrusion into its email systems by hackers later linked to the Russian government.
The Times said Papadopoulos shared this information with Downer, but it was unclear whether he also shared it with anyone in the Trump campaign.
President Trump again offered support Saturday for anti-government protesters in Iran, where a third day of demonstrations, the largest in years, spilled across the country amid fears of a crackdown.
“Oppressive regimes cannot endure forever, and the day will come when the Iranian people will face a choice. The world is watching!” Trump wrote on Twitter.
Trump took a break from playing golf near his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida to tweet clips from his speech to the United Nations General Assembly in September when he called for Iranian democratic reforms.
Iranian authorities warned of potential violence as the street demonstrations, which began over economic conditions, swelled into frustrations with the theocratic rule of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
Trump has maintained a hawkish stance toward Iran, sharply criticizing the landmark nuclear disarmament accord that Tehran reached with then-President Obama and five other nations in 2015.
In October, Trump declined to certify the accord to Congress although the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency says Iran is complying with it.
Several conservative GOP senators signaled their support for Trump’s position and backed the protesters in Iran. Others in Congress did not immediately respond, however, amid conflicting reports over who had organized the demonstrations.
“Even after the billions in sanctions relief they secured through the nuclear deal, the ayatollahs still can’t provide for the basic needs of their own people,” said Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), a Trump ally and opponent of the nuclear deal.
“We should support the Iranian people who are willing to risk their lives to speak out against it,” he added.
Trump initially tweeted his support on Friday night. White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders issued a statement at that time as protests spread.
"There are many reports of peaceful protests by Iranian citizens fed up with the regime’s corruption and its squandering of the nation’s wealth to fund terrorism abroad,” Sanders said. “The Iranian government should respect their people’s rights, including their right to express themselves. The world is watching."
The deteriorating relationship between the United States and Russia is one of the biggest disappointments of 2017, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman told reporters today.
Russia would like to rebuild relations between the two adversaries, but “it takes two to tango,” Dmitry Peskov said today during a conference call with the press.
“We want and are looking for good mutually beneficial relations based on mutual respect, mutual trust with all countries, primarily with European ones, including the United States, but it is necessary to dance tango, as they say.”
Peskov blamed the ongoing anti-Russian “Russophobia” in Washington for playing a major role in blocking the two countries from moving forward in their relationship. U.S. investigations into the Trump presidential campaign’s alleged collusion with the Kremlin during the 2016 U.S. election and accusations that the Kremlin tried to interfere with the electoral process continue to cast a dark shadow over the relationship, he said.
Peskov told reporters that Moscow was “perplexed” by the investigations. The Kremlin has continued to deny having any involvement with the Trump campaign or doing anything to interfere with the American election.
“This is definitely a U.S. domestic affair, but in this case it naturally hurts our bilateral relations, which is regrettable," Peskov said.
Relations between the U.S. and Russia have been categorized as the worst they’ve been since the end of the Cold War. This year, Washington and Moscow have engaged in a diplomatic tit-for-tat in which both sides have been forced to reduce diplomatic staff, embassy properties have been repossessed by the hosting countries and visa services have been interrupted. The U.S. diplomatic mission to Russia shrank from 1,200 personnel, including some Russian local staff, to just over 450 across all its three consulates and embassy in Moscow. In the U.S., Russia was forced to vacate its San Francisco consulate.
Moscow has also blamed anti-Russian sentiments on the recent decision by the International Olympic Committee to ban Russian teams from wearing their tricolor uniforms or flags during the upcoming games in South Korea. The international body accused some of the Russian national teams of doping.
The United States and Turkey began issuing reciprocal visas again on Thursday, more than two months after normal visa service was suspended in a dispute over the arrest of two U.S. diplomatic staffers in Istanbul — the latest friction between the two nominal allies.
The State Department said it was lifting the visa restrictions after it was assured by the Turkish government that U.S. Embassy employees would not be arrested when performing their official duties.
But the Turkish Embassy in Washington denied assurances were offered “concerning the ongoing judicial processes,” and suggested that the arrests were legal and justified.
“It is inappropriate to misinform the Turkish and American public that such assurances were provided,” the embassy said in a statement.
The dispute has aggravated the already tense relationship between the United States and Turkey, which is a member of the NATO military alliance. The two countries have clashed over U.S. support for Kurdish rebels in Syria and over Turkey’s demands that the U.S. extradite a Turkish cleric who lives in rural Pennsylvania.
After a failed coup attempt killed more than 250 people in July 2016, Turkey’s autocratic president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, launched a harsh crackdown on his political opponents, arresting or firing tens of thousands of teachers, police, journalists, military officers and others.
Erdogan accused Fethullah Gülen, an Islamic educator and former political ally, of orchestrating the coup. Gulen, who has lived in a compound in the Pocono Mountains, has denied any involvement.
The Justice Department has so far denied Turkey’s repeated demands to extradite Gulen.
Erdogan raised the issue again at the White House in May, but his visit ended in a public relations disaster when his security guards brutally beat peaceful protesters outside the Turkish ambassador’s residence.
Two Turkish employees of the U.S. Consulate in Istanbul were arrested this fall for alleged ties to the 2016 coup attempt. The U.S. responded by suspending most visa services at its missions in Turkey in October. The Turkish government reciprocated in November.
State Department officials said they have repeatedly demanded more information about any formal charges against the two employees. They reiterated on Thursday that “serious concerns” about the allegations remained.
President Trump isn’t taking a holiday vacation from Twitter. In one of three tweets early on Thursday from his West Palm Beach golf club, he charged that China was “caught RED HANDED” allowing oil shipments to reach North Korean ports.
Pronouncing himself “very disappointed,” Trump in effect was acknowledging the failure of his months-long effort to convince China to clamp down further on energy shipments going to the isolated country, which relies heavily on Beijing, as a way to pressure North Korea to abandon its nuclear weapons program.
Trump’s tweet came after a South Korean newspaper published what it said were U.S. spy satellite images of Chinese ships selling oil to North Korean ships.
The United Nations Security Council, which includes China, has voted repeatedly to restrict fuel shipments to North Korea. Trump asked Chinese President Xi Jinping in November to cut off North Korea’s oil supply entirely, the American ambassador to the U.N., Nikki R. Haley, said at the time.
It is unclear if Trump’s admonishment of China was based on news reports or classified information he received from U.S. intelligence officials. There was no daily intelligence briefing on Trump’s public schedule Thursday. He is expected to return to Washington next week after spending the Christmas holiday and New Year’s Eve at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Fla.
After another morning at his Florida golf club, President Trump visited firefighters and paramedics at a West Palm Beach firehouse and praised his own performance as president, including with a false boast.
Trump touted his administration’s work to roll back government regulations and cut taxes and claimed credit for the stock market hitting record highs. He also said he’s signed more bills into law than any other president, which isn’t true.
“We have signed more legislation than anybody,” Trump said, standing in front of a rescue vehicle inside the fire station.
“We have more legislation passed, including — the record was Harry Truman a long time ago, and we broke that record, so we got a lot done,” Trump said.
An analysis by GovTrack, a website that tracks bills in Congress, shows that Trump has signed the fewest bills into law at this point than any president in more than 60 years, back to Dwight D. Eisenhower.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson asked Russia on Wednesday to reinstate its military personnel at a monitoring station in eastern Ukraine intended to quell escalating bloodshed.
In a telephone conversation with his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, Tillerson also urged Russia to “lower the level of violence” and underscored the Trump administration’s “concern” over increased fighting in Ukraine, the State Department said in a statement.
Russia last week withdrew its monitors from the Joint Center on Coordination and Control, which is tasked with verifying a much-violated ceasefire between Ukrainian forces and Russia-backed separatists. Moscow cited what it called restrictions and “provocations” from Ukrainian authorities that made it impossible for the observers to do their jobs.
Washington has accused the pro-Russia forces of being responsible for many of the truce violations.
Late last week, the State Department also announced plans to provide Ukraine with lethal defensive weapons, including Javelin anti-tank missiles, a decision that angered Moscow.
The State Department statement did not say whether the weapons deal came up in Tillerson’s conversation with Lavrov.
The two also discussed North Korea, its “destabilizing nuclear program” and the need for a diplomatic solution “to achieve a denuclearized Korean peninsula,” the statement said. Russia has offered to serve as a mediator between Washington and Pyongyang, but direct talks do not seem likely at this point.
The Trump administration announced sanctions Tuesday against two more North Korean officials for their alleged role in Pyongyang’s expanding ballistic missiles program.
The Treasury Department “is targeting leaders of North Korea’s ballistic missile programs, as part of our maximum pressure campaign to isolate [North Korea] and achieve a fully denuclearized Korean Peninsula,” Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin said in a statement.
The nuclear-armed country tested an intercontinental ballistic missile last month that U.S. officials said appeared capable of reaching New York or Washington, a significant milestone in the country’s growing arsenal.
The Treasury Department identified the two North Korean officials as Kim Jong Sik, who “reportedly is a key figure” in the ballistic missile program and led efforts to switch missiles from liquid to solid fuel (which makes them easier to hide before launch), and Ri Pyong Chol, who was “reported to be a key official” in the development of intercontinental ballistic missiles.
The sanctions block banks, companies and individuals from doing any business with the targeted officials. It also allows the U.S. government to freeze any American assets owned by the officials.
On Friday, the United Nations Security Council unanimously voted to add more sanctions on North Korea, its third round this year. The new measures order North Koreans working abroad to return home within two years, and ban nearly 90% of refined petroleum exports to the country.
In a statement published Sunday by North Korea’s state-run KCNA news agency, the foreign ministry denounced the new U.N. sanctions as “an act of war.”
"We define this 'sanctions resolution' rigged up by the US and its followers as a grave infringement upon the sovereignty of our Republic, as an act of war violating peace and stability in the Korean Peninsula and the region and categorically reject the 'resolution,'" it said.
Perhaps the most significant move of Hatch’s career is the one that should, if there is any justice, end it.
The last time the senator was up for reelection, in 2012, he promised that it would be his last campaign. That was enough for many likely successors, of both parties, to stand down, to let the elder statesman have his victory tour and to prepare to run for an open seat in 2018.
Clearly, it was a lie.