DC Roundup: Trump Q&As, North Korea, Russia, US Diplomats

Developments in Washington, D.C., on Thursday include President Donald Trump continuing the heated rhetoric with North Korea over its nuclear program, answering reporters’ questions in a wide-ranging question-and-answer period where he touched on the expulsion of U.S. diplomats from Russia, nuclear weapons, and the FBI raid on former campaign manager Paul Manafort’s home.

Trump Stiffens Resolve Against North Korea — Trump stiffened his resolve against North Korea on Thursday, saying that if Pyongyang initiated warfare, “things will happen to them like they never thought possible.” In his latest bellicose warning, Trump said that his earlier comments vowing to inflict “fire and fury” on the reclusive communist regime for its nuclear weapons development program maybe were not “tough enough.”

Trump Faces Crisis on North Korea Amid Sliding Polls — Trump is facing his greatest foreign policy challenge to date in dealing with a nuclear-potent North Korea. But the test comes at a difficult time politically for the president. Recent polls show that Trump’s standing at home has weakened because of doubts about his leadership and his stalled domestic agenda.

WATCH: President Trump speaks to reporters

Trump Thanks Russia’s Putin for Slashing US Diplomatic Staff — Trump on Thursday thanked Russian President Vladimir Putin for ordering the United States to slash its diplomatic staff in Russia, remarks likely to rekindle criticism of Trump’s kid-gloves handling of Putin. Breaking nearly two weeks of silence on Putin’s July 30 order cutting U.S. embassy and consulate staff by nearly two thirds, Trump said: “I’m very thankful that he let go of a large number of people because now we have a smaller payroll.”

Trump Intensifies Feud With Senate Republican Leader McConnell — Trump intensified his feud Thursday with Mitch McConnell, the Republican Party leader in the Senate, who has a key role in advancing the president’s agenda. Trump even suggested McConnell should step aside if he could not get a majority of votes in the Senate — which the party controls — to pass legislation to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as Obamacare, and other legislation on issues embraced by the president.

Guam’s Governor Talks to VOA About North Korean Threat — Guam’s governor says his Pacific island is concerned but not in a panic in the face of new threats by North Korea to launch ballistic missiles toward the U.S. territory located about 3,400 kilometers from Pyongyang. Speaking to VOA, Eddie Calvo says that at the same time he feels the island is adequately protected and that people should go on with their daily lives.

US Destroyer Sails Near China’s Man-made Islands in South China Sea — A U.S. Navy destroyer carried out an operation near the Chinese man-made islands in the South China Sea an effort to challenge China’s territorial claims in the heavily trafficked international waters, Navy officials said. Speaking with U.S. news agencies, the officials said the USS John S. McCain carried out a routine “freedom of navigation operation” Thursday that saw the ship travel within 12 nautical miles of the Spratly Islands and Mischief Reef.

Global Study Says 2016 Was Warmest Year on Record — The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says 2016 surpassed 2015 as the warmest year on record, citing the combined influence of long-term global warming and an unusually strong El Niño weather pattern. The agency’s annual report, released Thursday, was based on contributions from nearly 500 scientists from more than 60 nations. NOAA said the report took into account tens of thousands of measurements from independent data sets, reflecting global climate indicators, notable weather events, and measurements of greenhouse gas emissions, sea level, ocean salinity, snow cover and sea ice.

Report: Trump EPA Lags Behind in Environmental Enforcement — During the first six months of the Trump presidency, the Environmental Protection Agency has lagged behind three previous administrations in environmental enforcement, collecting 60 percent less in civil penalties from polluters, a report released on Thursday said.

Clock Ticking to Avoid US Debt Default — U.S. lawmakers will have three weeks to raise America’s $20 trillion borrowing limit and avert a potential debt default when Congress gets back to work next month — the first such deadline to occur during the Trump administration. If recent history is a guide, raising the debt ceiling will be anything but drama-free, with lawmakers demanding concessions in return for votes to prevent an outcome that could throttle global finances: the U.S. government unable to pay its bills.

Trump Declares Opioid Crisis a ‘National Emergency’ — Trump on Thursday declared the opioid epidemic a national emergency and said his administration was drafting papers to make it official. “The opioid crisis is an emergency and I’m saying officially right now it is an emergency,” Trump told reporters in New Jersey. “We’re going to draw it up and we’re going to make it a national emergency. It is a serious problem, the likes of which we have never had.”

Report: Mexican Official Says Migration, Security at Stake in NAFTA Talks —

Mexico could pull back on cooperation in migration and security matters if the United States walks away from talks to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement, the Mexican economy minister said in a newspaper report published on Thursday.

US Defense Secretary Mattis Begins Tech Outreach with Amazon Visit — Defense Secretary Mattis kicked off his first official visit to the U.S. technology industry on Thursday with a tour of Amazon’s headquarters in Seattle, the first stop on a two-day outreach campaign intended to highlight the Pentagon’s commitment to tech innovation. Mattis was scheduled to visit Mountain View, California, later in the day to tour the Pentagon’s Defense Innovation Experimental Unit, or DIUx, a Silicon Valley outpost set up in 2015 by his predecessor, Ash Carter.

Frustrated with Trump, McCain Unveils Afghan War Strategy — In a rebuke of  Trump, Arizona Sen. John McCain declared Thursday that “America is adrift in Afghanistan” as he unveiled a war strategy of his own that includes more U.S. combat forces and greater counterterrorism efforts. McCain, the Republican chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said the U.S. needs to put strict conditions on continued assistance to Afghanistan requiring Kabul to demonstrate “measurable progress” in curbing corruption, strengthening the rule of law, and improving the government’s financial transparency.

US Judge Declines to Make Early Ruling on Texas ‘Sanctuary City’ Law — A U.S. district judge in Austin has rejected an effort by Texas to have a law that would punish so-called sanctuary cities be declared constitutional ahead of the measure’s effective date next month. The Republican-backed law is the first of its kind since Republican Trump became president in January, promising a crackdown on illegal immigrants and localities that protect them. Texas is the U.S. state with the longest border with Mexico

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