Top News Stories for Today – July 13, 2017
FBI director nominee Chris Wray pledges strict independence
President Trump’s FBI director nominee, Christopher Wray, faced the Senate Judiciary Committee for his confirmation hearing Wednesday. Wray pledged his “strict independence” should he be confirmed to the role, relevant given former FBI Director James Comey’s allegations that President Trump asked him for an oath of loyalty, which Comey rebuffed.
“No one asked me for a loyalty oath … and I sure as heck didn’t offer one,” Wray said of his discussions with the Trump administration about the position. When pressed by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) about Donald Trump Jr.’s contact with a Russian government official last June, Wray conceded that such exchanges were “the kind of thing the FBI would want to know.” Fox News, NBC News, The Week
Russian officials mention Trump even before campaign
US intelligence overheard Russian government officials discussing President Trump even before he’d declared he was running for office, The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday. Such conversations were intercepted in spring 2015 and apparently referred to “meetings held outside the US involving Russian government officials and Trump business associates or advisers.”
Trump has sold properties in Russia and produced the Miss Universe pageant there in 2013. The Journal noted it’s unclear whether the conversations were at all tied to Trump’s plans to run for president. The conversations were intercepted during routine intelligence monitoring that was not specifically targeted at Trump. However, intelligence agencies are now returning to the transcripts since Donald Trump Jr. on Tuesday released emails confirming he’d set up a meeting with a Kremlin-linked Russian lawyer who claimed she had compromising information about Hillary Clinton. The Wall Street Journal, The Week
Trump lands in Paris for talks with Macron
President Trump landed in Paris Thursday, where he is expected to meet with French President Emmanuel Macron to discuss ways to improve relations between the United States and France. Officials say the two men will discuss global security and counterterrorism issues, along with the Syrian civil war. But the conversations could be tense. During the French election, Trump backed Macron’s opponent, Marine Le Pen. And Macron has been a vocal critic of Trump’s decision to pull America out of the Paris climate agreement.
But Reuters reports that one French official says Macron wants to “bring Trump back into the circle so that the United States, which remains the world’s number one power, is not excluded.” The visit comes at a difficult time for Trump; his son, Donald Trump Jr., is facing scrutiny for agreeing to meet with a Kremlin-linked Russian lawyer back in 2016, after being promised dirt on Trump’s then-presidential rival, Hillary Clinton. Reuters, CNN, The Week
FDA advisers recommend approval of new cancer therapy
A new cancer treatment endorsed Wednesday by the Federal Drug Administration’s Oncologic Drugs Advisory Committee is being described by one panel member as “the most exciting thing I’ve seen in my lifetime.”
CAR T-cell therapy, made by Novartis, retrains a patient’s immune cells so they target and attack cancer; the cells are removed from the body, sent to Novartis’ plant so they can be genetically modified, and then shipped back to the patient for infusion. Novartis is seeking approval for use in children and young adults with leukemia who have relapsed despite undergoing chemotherapy. If the FDA approves CAR T-cell therapy, which could happen by the end of September, it would be the first gene therapy cleared for use in the United States. The Washington Post
Senate Republicans making new health care push
US Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell plans to unveil a revised health care bill to Republican colleagues Thursday, as he makes a push to achieve one of the top legislative goals for the party and President Donald Trump.
McConnell last month withdrew an earlier plan after it became clear there was not enough support for it in the Republican-led Senate. Trump has been vocal this week in pushing Senate Republicans to finish work on a health care bill before leaving for their annual August vacation. His latest comments came Wednesday in an interview with the Christian Broadcasting Network, with Trump saying he would be “very angry” if a health care bill does not pass. VOA
Trump says Putin would have preferred Clinton in WH
Russian President Vladimir Putin would have preferred Hillary Clinton in the White House instead of Donald Trump, the US president asserted on Wednesday. “If Hillary had won, our military would be decimated. Our energy would be much more expensive,” Trump told the Christian Broadcasting Network’s founder, Pat Robertson.
“That’s what Putin doesn’t like about me,” the president added. “And that’s why I say, why would he want me? Because from day one I wanted a strong military. He doesn’t want to see that.” VOA
Sixth seed Johanna Konta, 26, takes on the 37-year-old five-time champion Venus Williams in Thursday’s second Centre Court match. If Konta wins she will become the first British woman to reach a Wimbledon singles final for 40 years. She was rated by bookmakers as the tournament favourite as early as the third round, and her dramatic quarter-final win over Simona Halep attracted the biggest television audience of the tournament so far.
In men’s match, defending champion Andy Murray was hampered by a hip injury as he was knocked out of Wimbledon in the quarter-finals by Sam Querrey. Querrey, 29, won 3-6 6-4 6-7 (4-7) 6-1 6-1 to become the first American man to reach a Grand Slam semi-final since Andy Roddick at Wimbledon in 2009. Since Novak Djokovic has elbow injury, Murray will remain as world number one. BBC