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  • White House
  • Immigration

President Trump is holding a meeting at the White House to talk with America’s mayors about infrastructure and opioids – but the mayors of the nation’s biggest cities won’t be there.

The leaders of New York, Chicago and New Orleans were among the Democrats who snubbed the Tuesday afternoon event after the Justice Department sent a threatening directive to their cites and 20 other cities and counties over their sanctuary policies regarding immigrants.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, who is also in Washington this week for the annual meeting of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, had not been invited to the White House event.

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Alex Azar testifies recently on Capitol Hill.
Alex Azar testifies recently on Capitol Hill. (TNS)

The Senate on Wednesday voted 55-43 to approve Alex Azar to become the next secretary of Health and Human Services, making the former drug executive President Trump’s second Health secretary.

Azar will succeed Dr. Tom Price, who was forced to resign last year amid reports that he routinely used expensive charter jets at taxpayer expense.

Azar is less controversial than Price, who had also traded extensively in healthcare stocks while he was a congressman. Azar’s confirmation even garnered six Democratic votes.

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  • White House
As Pence prayed on the men's side, it was impossible for the female journalists to see above the cameras and microphones held by their male colleagues. (Jan. 24, 2018)

An Israeli newspaper said it would sue the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv after one of its reporters was restrained with other female journalists while attempting to cover Vice President Mike Pence’s visit to Jerusalem’s Western Wall.

Before the vice president’s arrival at the wall on Tuesday, female reporters were led to the back of a specially constructed platform, behind a fence and several rows of men.

The hashtag #PenceFence was trending on Israeli social media, and international coverage of the women’s protests overshadowed coverage of Pence’s last day in Israel.

  • Immigration
The Justice Department sent letters to 23 states, cities and counties, including California, Los Angeles and Chicago, demanding records showing whether law enforcement officers are sharing information with federal agents on the immigration status of people in their custody. (Jan. 24, 2018)

Returning to a favorite cause for President Trump and Atty. Gen. Jeff Sessions, the Justice Department on Wednesday escalated a struggle with two dozen so-called sanctuary jurisdictions, demanding records proving they are cooperating with immigration enforcement agencies.

The department sent letters to 23 states, cities and counties, including California, Los Angeles and Chicago, demanding records showing whether law enforcement officers are sharing information with federal agents on the immigration status of people in their custody.

If the local jurisdictions don’t comply, the department says it will issue subpoenas or possibly cut off certain federal grant funds.

As Congress searches for a deal to protect so-called Dreamers from deportation, there are parallels to 2013, when immigration legislation won widespread support in the Senate only to be roundly ignored in the more conservative, Republican-led House.

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In the end, it was neither the self-proclaimed deal-making President Trump nor seasoned congressional leaders who found the path to end the three-day government shutdown.

  • White House
As Pence prayed on the men's side, it was impossible for the female journalists to see above the cameras and microphones held by their male colleagues. (Jan. 24, 2018)

Vice President Mike Pence’s 48-hour visit to Israel stumbled into a public storm Tuesday when female reporters covering his final stop at Jerusalem’s Western Wall were penned behind four rows of their male colleagues.

White House officials told stunned journalists that the arrangement emanated from a request made by the Western Wall rabbi, Shmuel Rabinowitz, and followed “Western Wall rules.”

Some women journalists said they could not recall such treatment in the past.

The Senate on Tuesday overwhelmingly voted to confirm Jerome H. Powell to be the next chairman of the Federal Reserve, allowing him to take over when Janet L. Yellen’s term expires early next month.

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An injured Syrian is carried to safety after a government airstrike on a rebel-held suburb of Damascus on Jan. 2.
An injured Syrian is carried to safety after a government airstrike on a rebel-held suburb of Damascus on Jan. 2. (AFP / Getty Images)

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Tuesday vigorously condemned a reported chlorine-gas attack by Syrian government forces on civilians near Damascus, and put the blame squarely on Russia.

"Russia's failure to resolve the chemical weapons issue in Syria calls into question its relevance to the resolution of the overall crisis," Tillerson said to reporters in Paris, where he met with allies to inaugurate a new 29-nation organization dedicated to monitoring and punishing the use of banned chemical weapons.

"Whoever conducted the attacks, Russia ultimately bears responsibility for the victims in East Ghouta and countless other Syrians targeted with chemical weapons since Russia became involved in Syria," Tillerson said.

Atty. Gen. Jeff Sessions was questioned for several hours last week by the special counsel's office investigating Russian interference in the 2016 campaign, a sign that the politically sensitive probe has moved deeper into the White House.

Sessions is the first known member of Trump's Cabinet to be pulled into the probe, which is looking at whether Trump or any of his aides assisted the Russian operation during the election campaign or were involved in obstruction of justice during the transition or early months of the administration.