Julie Pace named Associated Press Washington bureau chief

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Julie Pace will continue covering the presidency. | POLITICO Screen grab

The Associated Press named its chief White House correspondent as its next Washington bureau chief.

Julie Pace, who has covered the White House for the past decade and was one of AP’s senior reporters on the 2016 campaign, will take over the bureau chief position. The Washington bureau is the AP’s largest and arguably one of the most powerful in the country as countless news organizations, from local papers to the national television networks, run AP copy.

Pace will continue covering the presidency, so four deputy bureau chiefs will be appointed under Pace, leading to a reorganization of the bureau. An AP spokeswoman declined to give a figure on the number of journalists in the bureau.

“Two deputies will focus on newsgathering, working with and overseeing our team of news editors: one on the White House, Congress and politics, and the second overseeing the critical other beats, from national security to education,” AP Senior Vice President and Executive Editor Sally Buzbee wrote in a memo to staff. “A third deputy will focus on our visual and digital presentation efforts, including how we present our work in all formats. The fourth deputy will focus on video newsgathering, working closely with Head of U.S. Video and Radio News Denise Vance and her team at the BNC as we transition, later this year and into next year, to a cross-format operation in Washington.”

Buzbee stepped down as bureau chief last year, and Wendy Benjaminson then stepped in to serve as acting bureau chief.

Hadas Gold is a reporter at Politico.

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Sessions to testify in open hearing before Senate Intelligence Committee

Jeff Sessions is pictured. | Getty

The attorney general is facing increased scrutiny from lawmakers after former FBI Director James Comey testified last week. | Getty

Attorney General Jeff Sessions will testify in an open hearing Tuesday before the Senate Intelligence Committee on his role in the unfolding Russia investigation, according to congressional and Justice Department officials.

Sessions informed Congress over the weekend that he will appear before the intelligence committee, rather than before previously scheduled hearings regarding funding for the Justice Department.

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DOJ and Senate officials did not initially indicate over the weekend whether Sessions’ appearance would be public or private. The hearing is scheduled for 2:30 p.m.

The attorney general is facing increased scrutiny from lawmakers after former FBI Director James Comey testified last week that he knew details about Sessions before his recusal from the Russia probe that would make his involvement in the investigation “problematic.”

The DOJ said in a statement, “The Attorney General has requested that this hearing be public. He believes it is important for the American people to hear the truth directly from him and looks forward to answering the committee’s questions tomorrow.”

Over the weekend, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), a member of the committee, urged for an open session.

Comey’s testimony “allowed me to ask the former director about the attorney general’s actions before and after his recusal, whether the attorney general’s role in firing Comey violated that recusal, and whether the attorney general knew about the concerns related to former national security adviser Michael Flynn,” Wyden wrote to committee leaders on Sunday.

Wyden added, “The American people also deserve to hear the attorney general’s answers to these questions, as well as others related to his meetings with the Russians and his failure to disclose those meetings to the Senate Judiciary Committee.”

Sessions recused himself March 2 from the Justice Department’s investigation of Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election. His senior role in Trump’s presidential campaign — and the revelation earlier this year that he failed to disclose meetings with the Russian ambassador during his confirmation hearings — led to his decision to step aside from any federal probes involving the Trump campaign.

But testimony last week from Comey thrust Sessions again into the spotlight. Comey said he alerted Sessions to what he felt was inappropriate pressure from Trump on investigatory matters. Comey also said he wasn’t sure whether Sessions played a role in Trump’s decision to abruptly fire him on May 9.

“I think it is a reasonable question,” Comey testified last week. “If, as the president said, I was fired because of the Russia investigation, why was the attorney general involved in that chain? I don’t know. So I don’t have an answer for the question.”

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Qatar’s national airline CEO: I thought Trump would be more shrewd

Qatar Airways CEO Akbar al-Baker is pictured. |Kamran Jebreili/AP Photo

Qatar Airways CEO Akbar al-Baker told The Wall Street Journal in an interview that he was “extremely disappointed in President Trump” and was expecting the U.S. to challenge the blockade. | AP Photo

The CEO of Qatar’s national airline said Monday that he would have expected President Donald Trump to be “more shrewd” than to back the blockade of the Qatari government announced last week by four Middle Eastern nations.

Trump on Friday announced during a Rose Garden news conference that “Qatar, unfortunately, has been a funder of terrorism at a very high level,” offering support for Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates, all four of which had simultaneously broken off diplomatic and economic ties with Qatar earlier in the week. Those breaks included expelling Qatari nationals and officials as well as cutting off air travel between Qatar and each of the four respective nations.

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“I’m extremely disappointed in President Trump, I thought he was more shrewd,” Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker told The Wall Street Journal in an interview. “I was expecting that the U.S. will lead the challenge to this blockade.”

At issue for the four nations is frustration over Qatar’s support for Islamist organizations, including Hamas and an Al Qaeda-linked group in Syria, as well as its relatively warm relationship with Iran compared with other Gulf states.

Trump did not explicitly back the specific maneuvers taken by the four nations but his public statements on the issue aligned with the position of the blockading nations. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, in his own statement last week, called for an end to the blockade while reiterating demands that Qatar do more to curb support for extremist organizations.

Seemingly complicating the dispute for the U.S. is the fact that Qatar is host to Al Udeid air base, home to some 11,000 American military personnel and the site from which airstrikes against Islamic State targets are launched. But that military relationship did not stop Trump’s strong criticism of the Qatari government that he said was inspired by his conversations about terrorism with other Middle Eastern leaders during his visit to the region last month.

“For Qatar, we want you back among the unity of responsible nations,” Trump said. “We ask Qatar and other nations in the region to do more and do it faster.”

The growth of state-owned airlines in the Persian Gulf region, including Qatar Airways but also Emirates and Etihad Airways, has become a point of contention in the U.S., where some American carriers, including American Airlines, Delta Air Lines and United Airlines, have lobbied the government to take measures to slow the growth of the Gulf competitors.

Al Baker conceded that the blockade likely means his company will face “a difficult year,” but said that the airline has plans in place to mitigate the damage. His airline is stronger, he said, than Emirati-owned competitors like Etihad Airways and Emirates.

“If they think they are going to go laughing to the bank at Qatar’s cost, I think they are mistaken,” Al Baker said.

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McCain: America’s leadership standing in the world was better under Obama

WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 17: Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) speaks to reporters on Capitol Hill, May 17, 2017 in Washington, DC. Members of Congress are reacting to reports that President Trump asked FBI Director James Comey to end the agency's investigation into ties between former White House national security adviser Michael Flynn and Russia. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

Sen. John McCain slammed President Donald Trump in an interview with The Guardian, saying the world is “not sure of American leadership, whether it be in Siberia or whether it be in Antarctica.” | Getty

Amid unprecedented policy shifts and loose rhetoric on foreign policy from the Trump administration, Arizona Sen. John McCain said that American leadership was better under former President Barack Obama.

McCain, a frequent Republican critic of President Donald Trump, slammed the former real estate mogul in an interview with The Guardian, saying the world is “not sure of American leadership, whether it be in Siberia or whether it be in Antarctica.”

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McCain’s comments in a story published Sunday were a direct response to the president’s Twitter habits. After the recent terrorist attacks on the London Bridge, Trump used 140 characters to blast London Mayor Sadiq Khan, the first Muslim mayor of a major western European city.

“Pathetic excuse by London Mayor Sadiq Khan who had to think fast on his ‘no reason to be alarmed’ statement,” Trump wrote on June 5, in an attempt to use the attacks, which left eight people dead, to defend his controversial travel ban on refugees and immigrants from certain Muslim-majority nations.

The legality of the travel ban is still being dueled out in the courts, but criticism from the entire political spectrum ensued, as the president’s statement mischaracterized what the mayor said and also the message it sent to one of the United States’ most crucial allies.

“What do you think the message is? The message is that America doesn’t want to lead,” McCain said.

Trump’s loose, freewheeling approach to foreign policy could continue to have larger ramifications for the country’s diplomatic relations. The president reportedly won’t visit the United Kingdom until he feels the British public would welcome him, he told U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May in a phone conversation in recent weeks.

Authors:
Negassi Tesfamichael

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D.C., Maryland to sue Trump over alleged Constitutional violations

President Donald Trump is pictured. | Getty

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The attorneys general of Maryland and the District of Columbia intend to file a lawsuit against President Donald Trump on Monday, accusing him of violating portions of the Constitution intended to protect against corruption and seeking to uncover the tax returns that the president has thus far been unwilling to release.

A source familiar plans for the suit said its focus will be on the president’s continued ownership of his family’s business empire, control of which Trump said has been handed over to his two adult sons. But far from the blind trust standard adopted by past presidents, Trump continues to receive some information about the Trump organization, including profit reports, from his sons.

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Details of the lawsuit brought by D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine and Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh, both Democrats, were first reported by The Washington Post.

The president’s tax returns, which Trump has refused to release despite a decades-long tradition of presidential candidates releasing them, would be sought through the discovery process if the case is allowed to proceed, according to the source. The lawsuit accuses Trump, via his businesses, of being “deeply enmeshed with a legion of foreign and domestic government actors.” His continued ownership of the Trump organizations constitutes “unprecedented constitutional violations,” it says.

Partially at issue in the case is the Constitution’s so-called “emoluments clause,” a portion of the document that prohibits those holding “any office of profit or trust” from accepting a gift, payment or title from a foreign nation. Another portion of the Constitution cited in the case prohibits the president from accepting payments from a particular state, intended to guard against preferential treatment for one state over another.

At a press conference in January before his inauguration, the president and his legal team announced that the Trump Organization would donate money earned at its hotels from foreign governments to the U.S. Treasury. But last March, the Trump Organization announced that it would not begin making those donations until 2018, an announcement that was followed in May by another one in which the organization declared that it will be “impractical” to single out foreign guests so as to siphon their payments to the Treasury.

Lawyers from Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a non-profit watchdog group that goes by the acronym CREW, will act as outside counsel to the two attorneys general in their lawsuit against the president. In addition to its work with Racine and Frosh, CREW has brought its own lawsuit to bear against Trump over alleged Constitutional conflicts, a case that the Justice Department moved late last week to throw out.

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