On Monday, the Senate confirmed President Trump's nominee to be U.S. ambassador to the Holy See, Callista Gingrich, 70 to 23. Gingrich, who is Catholic, is the third wife of prominent Trump supporter and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who converted when he married her. "She realizes how big a challenge it's going to be," Newt Gingrich said on Fox News. "If you are the communications bridge between Pope Francis and President Trump, you're going to have a really big job, and she knows she's going to have to work hard." Peter Weber
On Wednesday, just a week after President Trump announced the rollback of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) raised doubts about the merits of deporting immigrants who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children. "I do believe that kicking these 800,000 kids out ... is not in our nation's interest," Ryan said in an interview with The Associated Press.
Though he doesn't think it's beneficial to push out the people once protected by DACA, Ryan maintained that he thinks "it's only reasonable" to address border security. He also reiterated his support for Trump's decision to partially delay the implementation of the DACA rollback, which will give a Congress a six-month window to work out a legislative solution.
In the wide-ranging interview, Ryan also revealed that Republicans plan to release an outline of their tax reform plans by the end of September. He declined to comment on whether the forthcoming plan would add to the national deficit. Becca Stanek
U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson met Sunday with his Russian counterpart, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, on the sidelines of a summit in the Philippines, and on Monday he said the U.S. would issue its response by Sept. 1 to Moscow's July 30 announcement that it is expelling 755 U.S. embassy and consulate staff from Russia. Tillerson said he told Lavrov that the U.S. hasn't yet decided on how it will respond to the expulsions, Moscow's retaliation for new U.S. sanctions against Russia, and asked "several clarifying questions" about the Russian move. Lavrov told reporters he had explained how Russia would carry out its response, which includes closing a U.S. recreation retreat outside Moscow, but did not provide details.
Russia's response has caused some confusion, since the U.S. is thought to have fewer than 755 Americans working at its Russian consulates and embassy. President Trump signed the sanctions bill last week, after it passed the House and Senate with veto-proof majorities, but has criticized it several times since. He has made no public comments about the Russian sanctions yet. Peter Weber
Mark Serrano, a longtime Republican operative, has been one of President Trump's most stalwart defenders on TV over the past few months, making semi-regular appearances on Fox Business Network and Fox News. Since at least April, he has also been a paid consultant for Trump's 2020 re-election campaign, according to federal disclosure forms the Trump campaign filed last weekend, The Washington Post reported Wednesday night. In April and May, the Trump campaign paid Serrano's firm, ProActive Communications, a total of $30,000 for "communications consulting," and during that time, his ties to the Trump campaign were not identified by the Fox networks.
That's because Serrano had not told the network about his hiring by the Trump campaign until late June, people at Fox tell the Post. In his most recent appearance, on July 6, Fox Business identified him as "Trump's campaign senior adviser," and a "person familiar with the network's internal discussions" tells the Post that Serrano won't appear on the network "for the foreseeable future" because he did not disclose his hiring by Trump. "It is the policy of the network to disclose all ties our guests have to any subject matter," Fox Business said Monday, "and in the case of Mark Serrano, as soon as we were made aware of his new title last month, we made sure to disclose his role during his on-air appearances."
An official at the Trump re-election committee said Serrano was paid for communication strategy, not his pro-Trump Fox appearances, and noted, accurately, that Serrano has been speaking favorably about Trump on Fox since at least August 2015, at no charge for most of that time.
Editor's note: A previous version of the headline on this article misidentified the network that benched Serrano. It has been corrected. We regret the error.
On Thursday, the House passed two immigration-related bills heavily promoted by President Trump, largely along party lines. The No Sanctuary for Criminals Act — which would bar so-called sanctuary cities from receiving many federal grants and opens them up to liability lawsuits from people victimized by illegal immigrants — passed 228-195, with seven Republicans voting against it and three Democrats voting yes. "Kate's Law," which would increase prison sentences for illegal immigrants who were deported and returned to the U.S., passed on a 257-157 vote, with one Republican voting no and 24 Democrats voting yes. After the vote, Trump urged the Senate to take up the legislation, though the bills face an uncertain fate in the upper chamber. Last year, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) won a vote on a version of "Katie's Law," and it failed. Peter Weber
Pentagon memo suggests scrapping program for foreign-born recruits, exposing 1,000 to quick deportation
The Defense Department is looking into canceling enlistment contracts for 1,800 foreign-born military recruits, about 1,000 of whom no longer have valid visas, opening them to the risk of deportation, The Washington Post reports, citing an undated Pentagon memo prepared for Defense Secretary James Mattis. The memo cites what it calls heightened security threats from the immigrants in the program, Military Accessions Vital to National Interest (MAVNI), launched in 2009 to fill crucial medical and language staffing gaps by offering foreign-born recruits expedited U.S. citizenship in return for military service.
Since its launch, MANVI has brought in more than 10,400 mostly Army recruits to jobs deemed critical for military operations, though the Pentagon stepped up security screenings for recruits in the program last year. Along with canceling the contracts of the 1,800 foreign-born recruits who have yet to be given orders for basic training, the memo suggests canning 2,400 part-time troops in the MANVI program who have yet to attend basic training, and submit another 4,100 — most of them naturalized U.S. citizens — to "enhanced screening," if the Pentagon can navigate the "significant legal constraints" of monitoring U.S. citizens without cause, the memo says.
The 1,000 recruits at risk for deportation have seen their visas expire while waiting for the Pentagon to send them to basic training, and canceling their enrollment would remove their protected status, not just their pathway to citizenship. Also, "the recruits are on government rolls detailing their addresses, phone numbers, and legal statuses, making them prime targets for removal," The Washington Post notes. "It remains unclear if military officials would hand over that information to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement."
"It's terrible," retired Army officer Margaret Stock, who helped set up the MANVI program, tells The Washington Post. "You trusted the Army, who delayed the process, and now they're going to cancel your contract and have you deported." Pentagon spokesman Johnny Michael told the Post on Monday that the Defense Department is reviewing the MANVI program requirements, but declined to elaborate or confirm the authenticity of the memo. You can read more at The Washington Post. Peter Weber
On Thursday night, the Homeland Security Department announced that DHS Secretary John Kelly has formally revoked a program that sought to protect the parents of U.S. citizens and legal residents from deportation. Former President Barack Obama had announced the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans (DAPA) program, enacted through a policy memo, in November 2014, along with the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, but neither fully took effect because a federal judge in Texas blocked parts of each.
During the presidential campaign, President Trump had pledged to end both programs, but it isn't clear what he plans to do about DACA, created to shield certain immigrants, called DREAMers, who were brought the U.S. as children. As of March 31, The Associated Press says, some 787,000 immigrants have been approved for DACA. Kelly revoked the DAPA program on the fifth anniversary of DACA's enactment. Peter Weber
On Thursday, the House will vote on the Financial Choice Act, a Republican bill that would repeal much of the 2010 Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, and it is expected to pass along party lines, with no Democratic support. The bill would lift regulations put in place to prevent another banking collapse, like those in the 2008 financial crisis, because Republicans argue they have hampered lending and economic growth.
The Financial Choice Act would give the president the ability to fire the head of the independent Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, a consumer watchdog agency set up under Dodd-Frank, and give Congress control over its budget, allowing lawmakers to zero-out its funding. The president would also gain the power to fire the head of the Federal Housing Finance Agency, which oversees Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae. The bill frees some banks from risk-aversion rules, and changes how Dodd-Frank handles banks' living wills, or plans to unwind systemically important financial institutions. House Speaker Paul Ryan on Wednesday called the legislation "the crown jewel" of the House GOP's deregulation push. It is not expected to pass the Senate without major changes. Peter Weber