Iran

Trump, self-described ‘Chosen One,’ heads to G-7 looking for ‘respect’
President heads to France summit after an odd, chaotic week — even by his standards

President Donald Trump speaks to the media before departing the White House on Wednesday, a gaggle during which he called himself “The Chosen One” and gestured toward the heavens. He leaves Friday night for a G7 summit in France. (Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

Look out, Biarritz, here comes “The Chosen One.

The chic resort town on France’s picturesque Basque coastline will host a G-7 summit this weekend amid worries about a global recession and fraying alliances in Europe and Asia. President Donald Trump — who used that moniker Wednesday to describe himself as a savior in a decades-old trade dispute with China despite so far failing to resolve a single issue — will be center stage after one of the most erratic and strange weeks of his wild presidency.

The Detroit Trump diss track: Debating Democrats blister the president
Trump campaign responds that Democrats showed ‘plenty of socialist stupidity’

Democratic presidential candidates (L-R) Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO), Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), former housing secretary Julian Castro, Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ), former Vice President Joe Biden, Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) , former tech executive Andrew Yang, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI), Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, and New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio at the Democratic Presidential Debate Wednesday in Detroit (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

From “authoritarian” and “predator” to “socialist” and “white nationalist” — with a whole lot of “racist” thrown in — the leading Democratic presidential candidates debating in Detroit this week lobbed dozens of rhetorical bombs at President Donald Trump as they battled for the nomination to take him on next November.

Trump did not seem impressed by the Democrats’ attempts to paint him as morally and Constitutionally corrupt during debates fearing 10 candidates each on Tuesday and Wednesday. He tweeted during the second debate that the “people on the stage tonight, and last, were not those that will either Make America Great Again or Keep America Great.”

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.

Esper content with defense budget, calls for 'stable leadership'
Top jobs in the Pentagon remain unfilled or are being carried out by 'acting' officials

Mark Esper enters the top job at the Pentagon Tuesday as the new Secretary of Defense. Esper said the $738 billion allocated to the military for fiscal 2020, is a 'good number.' (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Newly minted Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper enters the top job at a moment of both relief and urgency for the Pentagon.

The relief came from an agreement this week between Congress and the White House to fund the military for the next two years at $738 billion in fiscal 2020 and $740.5 billion in 2021, numbers that defense hawks have said they can live with.

Trump: US shoots down Iranian drone in Strait of Hormuz
‘The drone was immediately destroyed,’ the president said

President Donald Trump and Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte (L) talk to reporters in the Oval Office at the White House July 18, 2019 in Washington, DC. According to the Dutch government, the two leaders will discuss defense and security cooperation, especially focused on whether the Netherlands will participate in a global effort to secure international waterways against threats from Iran. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

President Trump said U.S. forces shot down an Iranian drone that was operating too close to an American vessel.

Trump said the drone was shot down in the Strait of Hormuz, an important shipping lane that provides the only access to open ocean from the Persian Gulf. He called on other countries to condemn Iran and protect their own ships.

Senate seeks to make sure that hacking election systems is a federal crime
Senators unanimously pass narrow legislation, but no broad action is expected

The Senate passed a bill Wednesday that would clarify that hacking election systems and machines is a federal crime. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The Senate took another small step to improve election security Wednesday evening, even as there is no plan for a broader debate on the floor.

As the chamber was closing for the evening, senators passed by unanimous consent a bipartisan bill out of the Senate Judiciary Committee designed to make sure that hacking election systems is actually a federal crime.

Tension between Democratic factions spills into minimum wage debate
Progressives say they have the votes to kill their priority minimum wage bill if moderates help Republicans amend it

Reps. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., and Mark Pocan, D-Wis., co-chairs of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, say their members will not vote for a priority minimum wage bill if moderate Democrats help Republicans adopt a poison pill amendment. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file)

Tension between the progressive and moderate factions of the Democratic Caucus are again spilling into public view ahead of a priority party vote to raise the federal minimum wage. 

A day before a planned Thursday vote on a bill to incrementally increase the current $7.25 federal minimum wage to $15, Congressional Progressive Caucus Co-Chairs Mark Pocan and Pramila Jayapal issued a statement that served as a warning to their moderate colleagues. 

Defense conferees to decide fate of firearms export oversight
Decision nears on blocking the Trump administration from weakening regulations on the export of firearms

Rep. Norma Torres, D-Calif. added an amendment restricting the administration from moving forward with its plan to shift export control of firearm sales from the State Department to the Commerce Department (File photo by Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Among the many thorny issues Senate and House negotiators have to hash out as they negotiate a final annual defense policy bill this summer is whether to block the Trump administration from weakening regulations around the export of firearms.

The House version of the fiscal 2020 defense authorization measure contains a provision that would restrict the administration from moving forward with its plan to shift export control of firearm sales from the State Department to the Commerce Department.

Esper on path for quick confirmation despite Raytheon ties
The former lobbyist stressed Tuesday that his undivided loyalties are to serving the country and the military

Chairman Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., left, shakes hands with Secretary of Defense nominee Mark Esper before the start of Esper’s confirmation hearing in the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday, July 16, 2019. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Mark Esper, President Donald Trump’s pick to be the next Defense secretary, defended his work as a lobbyist for defense contractor Raytheon during his confirmation hearing Tuesday, stressing that his undivided loyalties are to serving the country and the military.

During an otherwise uncontentious hearing, Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, a 2020 Democratic presidential contender, sparred with Esper on his ties to the Massachusetts-based defense giant and implored the nominee to recuse himself from any decisions affecting the firm, which he declined to do.

House bill targets Qatar-linked ‘flag of convenience’ Italian airline
Targets ‘flag of convenience’ airlines from undermining labor standards

House Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., joined a bill targeting low-cost foreign airlines seeking to fly to the United States. (File photo by Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

A House bill that would limit access of foreign airlines to the U.S. based on substandard labor conditions for their workers is the latest round in a long — and mostly successful — fight by U.S. airlines and aviation unions to keep low-cost foreign competition out of the U.S. market.

House Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman Peter DeFazio was joined by other committee leaders, including Republicans, in sponsoring the bill introduced last week and aimed at preventing “flag of convenience” airlines from undermining labor standards.