Mike Pompeo

Senate confirms wealthy GOP donor, McConnell friend as UN ambassador
Kelly Knight Craft, current envoy to Canada, has come under harsh criticism from Democrats

Kelly Knight Craft was confirmed Thursday as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

After seven months without a permanent U.S. representative to the United Nations and at a time of increasing turbulence in global affairs, the Senate on Thursday narrowly confirmed a new ambassador, a Republican Party fundraiser whose thin diplomatic résumé has come under harsh criticism from Democrats.

The confirmation vote, 56-34, of Kelly Knight Craft, who currently is U.S. ambassador to Canada, came hours after Senate Foreign Relations Democrats published a report that harshly criticized her suitability for the role. The report asserted she was “unknowledgeable” about basic U.S. foreign policy issues and likely to be “outmatched” by her U.N. counterparts from Russia and China. It also lambasted her long record of unexplained absences during her time as envoy in Ottawa.

State Department aides won’t rule out existing authorizations allowing for attack on Iran
Officials would not commit on seeking congressional approval for military action, either

Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Sen. Jim Risch, R-Idaho, left, and ranking member Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., look to reconcile differences over congressional authorization for the use of military force. (File photo by Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Senior State Department officials wouldn’t commit to a Senate panel Wednesday that the Trump administration will seek congressional authorization for a potential military conflict with Iran, nor would they promise that existing military authorizations would not be reinterpreted to allow attacks on Iran.

Rather, the Trump administration officials said they would consult and inform lawmakers of any administration plans to carry out military strikes on Iran, including actions related to the defense of U.S. troops and partner forces.

Russia wanted Trump to win in 2016, Mueller testifies — challenging Barr
AG has directed agents to investigate CIA’s conclusion that Putin wanted Trump to win

Former Special Counsel Robert Mueller testifies during the House Judiciary Committee hearing on "Oversight of the Report on the Investigation into Russian Interference in the 2016 Presidential Election" on Wednesday, July 24, 2019. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Russia perpetrated a sweeping influence campaign during the 2016 U.S. presidential elections and wanted President Donald Trump to prevail over Democrat Hillary Clinton, special counsel Robert S. Mueller III testified on Wednesday.

Rep. Zoe Lofgren, a senior Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, asked Mueller at his hearing on Wednesday if the Russian government “perceived it would benefit from one of the candidates winning.”

State Department official en route to Switzerland to monitor A$AP Rocky detention, Espaillat says
‘Sweden is going to walk out of this with a black eye,’ congressman says of rapper’s detention

ASAP Rocky performs onstage during the BET Hip Hop Awards 2018 at Fillmore Miami Beach on October 6, 2018, in Miami Beach, Florida. A U.S. State Department official is headed overseas to more closely monitor the rapper’s two-week detainment in Sweden. (Paras Griffin/Getty Images)

Updated July 19 1:10 p.m.An official from the U.S. State Department is headed overseas to more closely monitor the detainment of American rapper A$AP Rocky, who has been held in a Swedish jail for more than two weeks, according to Rep. Adriano Espaillat.

The New York Democrat said the State Department has notified him that Carl Risch, assistant secretary of State of consular affairs, is currently en route to Sweden. He is expected to be there on the day of A$AP Rocky’s Friday hearing.

Capitol Ink | Wayward Drone

White House threatens to veto resolutions blocking Saudi arms sales
Senate sends 22 resolutions disapproving of sales to Saudis and UAE to the House where they have good prospects for passage

President Donald Trump meets with Mohammed bin Salman in the Oval Office in 2017. (Mark Wilson/Getty Images file photo)

The White House said Thursday it would veto Senate-passed measures to block its proposed arms sales to Saudi Arabia and other Middle East countries.

“The transfer of these capabilities and services to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan directly supports the foreign policy and national security objectives of the United States by improving the security of friendly countries that continue to be important forces for political and economic stability in the Middle East,” according to a statement of administration policy memo.

3 things to watch: Before any Iran conflict, Trump faces war within his own team
'Iran made a very big mistake,' president warns in cryptic tweet after U.S. drone shot down

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, left, and Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., are among the more promiment hawks when it comes to Iran. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

ANALYSIS | Donald Trump is facing one of the biggest tests of his presidency after Iran shot down a U.S. military aircraft, prompting him to declare the islamic republic “made a very big mistake.”

His tweet at 10:16 a.m. Thursday broke the nearly 15 hours of essential White House silence on the missile takedown of the RQ-4 Global Hawk drone aircraft. But the U.S. commander in chief did not suggest he is ready to respond — even after a top Iranian official admitted the shootdown was meant as a “clear message” to Washington.

Acting Defense Secretary Shanahan gives up post, withdraws name from nomination
Shanahan was to succeed Mattis, who had differences with President Trump

Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan has stepped down, and Army Secretary Mark Esper will succeed him. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan has given up his post and withdrawn his nomination to take the job permanently, President Donald Trump tweeted, announcing yet another Cabinet change.

Army Secretary Mark Esper will be the new acting Pentagon boss, Trump said. Shanahan, a former defense industry executive, replaced retired Marine Corps Gen. James Mattis when he stepped down, citing differences with Trump.

Running for re-election the Trump way — with half the country against you
President’s Orlando kick-off could be the high point of his re-election campaign

President Donald Trump kicks off his re-election campaign, officially, in Orlando, Fla., on Tuesday night. Despite a healthy economy, he has his challenges ahead of him in seeking a second term, Shapiro writes. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

OPINION — When Donald Trump declares his candidacy for a second term Tuesday night in Orlando, the line of supporters fighting to get in will stretch from Disney World to the Everglades.

Many people are already saying that Trump is such a favorite for re-election that all 23 Democrats will withdraw after they make fools of themselves criticizing the Greatest Economy in World History during next week’s debates. Already, there is a huge movement to repeal the 22nd Amendment so Donald J. Trump can be anointed as President for Life.

Democrats spar with State official over arms sales maneuver

Rep. David Cicilline accused a senior State Department official of gas-lighting Congress in his assertions about why the administration needed to subvert Congress on arms sales to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

A senior State Department official on Wednesday appeared to blame Democrats for the administration’s decision last month to declare a state of emergency over Iran to avoid congressional review of billions of dollars of weapon sales to Arab Gulf states.

R. Clarke Cooper, assistant secretary of State for political-military affairs, attributed the emergency order to holds placed in spring 2018 by Senate Foreign Relations ranking member Robert Menendez on $2 billion in proposed precision-guided missile sales to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Menendez, D-N.J., placed the holds in response to the many civilian casualties in the Yemen civil war, in which the two Gulf nations are fighting against Iranian-backed Houthi insurgents.