happening today
July 5, 2018

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is making his third trip to North Korea on Thursday, where he will seek an assurance of denuclearization from leader Kim Jong Un. Pompeo is under pressure to get a commitment from Kim because his visits to Pyongyang have so far resulted in "very little to show," John Hannah, the former senior adviser to President Bill Clinton's secretary of state, told CNN, adding that "it should not happen a third time."

The Trump administration is reportedly considering inviting Kim to New York City for a summit this fall, although intelligence experts quietly believe the unpredictable leader is uninterested in full denuclearization. Kim "is trying to delay denuclearization and do it at his own pace," suggested Bill Richardson, a former U.S. energy secretary. Jeva Lange

June 27, 2018

National Security Adviser John Bolton is meeting Russian President Vladimir Putin, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, and Yuri Ushakov, Putin's foreign affairs adviser, in Moscow on Wednesday ahead of a potential summit between Putin and President Trump next month.

Bolton has expressed a critical opinion of Moscow in the past, The Washington Post notes, claiming Russian interference in the U.S. election, which Trump has denied, was an "act of war." Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said discussions between Bolton and the Russian leaders will center on international policies and the "sad state of our bilateral relations," Bloomberg News' Jennifer Jacobs reports.

Many critics have observed that details about the meeting between Bolton and Putin have largely been supplied by Russian spokespeople, rather than the White House. Jeva Lange

April 23, 2018

Republicans are hopeful about the chances of CIA Director Mike Pompeo getting confirmed as secretary of state later this week, although he does not appear likely to get a favorable recommendation from the Senate Foreign Relations Committee when it votes Monday, NPR reports. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) has been a vocal "no," and no Democrats on the panel support Pompeo's nomination. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) can still push Pompeo's nomination to a full Senate vote, though it would be unprecedented.

In the full Senate vote, there is still a chance Pompeo might not get confirmed due to the narrow 51-49 Republican majority. Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) remains on the fence, and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) is absent. As Axios notes: "If Paul and Flake vote no, [Republicans will] need two red state Democrats to vote yes." Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) is already on board and Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), Doug Jones (D-Ala.), and Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.) are expected to also potentially swing.

President Trump expressed his frustration Monday morning on Twitter, writing: "Hard to believe Obstructionists May vote against Mike Pompeo for Secretary of State. The Dems will not approve hundreds of good people, including the Ambassador to Germany. They are maxing out the time on approval process for all, never happened before. Need more Republicans!"

Pompeo was confirmed as CIA director last year by the Senate in a 66-32 vote. Jeva Lange

September 15, 2017

Paul Manafort's spokesman, Jason Maloni, will testify before a Washington federal grand jury Friday in what is considered a highly unusual move because spokespeople typically enjoy confidential attorney-client privileges, Politico reports.

Manafort served for a time as President Trump's campaign manager, and he is a central person of interest in the ongoing investigation into Russia's influence on the 2016 election. Manafort's home was raided in July by investigators.

Calling in Maloni could also have something to do with Manafort's unenthusiastic cooperation. "[T]here is nothing that prevents prosecutors from asking a PR person to testify — and they often have valuable insight," Politico writes. "The prosecutors have also asked Maloni for a wide array of records, according to people familiar with the matter."

U.S. officials told CNN that Manafort is under investigation for possible tax and financial crimes, centering around the work he did for a pro-Russia political party in Ukraine. Jeva Lange

December 28, 2016

Secretary of State John Kerry will present the Obama administration's final vision for Israel and Palestine as well as "address some of the misleading critiques" in a speech Wednesday.

The United States has faced the wrath of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after abstaining from voting in a United Nations resolution that ultimately resolved to condemn Israel's West Bank settlements. Kerry will argue that "the vote was not unprecedented" and "did not blindside Israel," an official familiar with the plans told The New York Times.

At this late date, weeks ahead of the inauguration of Mr. Trump, who openly lobbied on Israel’s side against the United Nations resolution, it is unclear what Mr. Kerry hopes to achieve from the speech, other than to leave a set of principles that he believes will one day emerge as the basis for talks, if and when they resume.

Mr. Kerry, the official said, has long wanted to give a speech outlining an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal but was held back by White House officials, who saw it as unnecessary pressure on Israel that would anger Mr. Netanyahu. But that objection was lifted last week as Mr. Obama and Mr. Kerry agreed the time had come to abstain on the United Nations resolution. That decision led to one of the biggest breaches yet in the rocky American-Israeli relationship during the Obama years. [The New York Times]

"Our vote today does not diminish [America's] steadfast" commitment to Israel, said Samantha Powers, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Netanyahu has argued that "the Obama administration not only failed to protect Israel against this gang-up at the UN, it colluded with it behind the scenes." Jeva Lange

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