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  • Congress
(Romney family)

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.

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  • White House
Anti-riot police prevent university students from joining other protesters in Tehran on Dec. 30.
Anti-riot police prevent university students from joining other protesters in Tehran on Dec. 30. (Associated Press)

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.

  • White House
(Brendan Smialowski / Agence-France Presse)

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.

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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.

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.”

  • Russia
Australian High Commissioner Alexander Downer.
Australian High Commissioner Alexander Downer. (Alastair Grant / Associated Press)

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.

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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.

  • White House
  • Russia

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.”

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (Associated Press)

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.

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