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Live Updates: Trump Says He Never Used The Word Israel When He Shared Information With The Russians

Trump has embarked on his first foreign trip: Nine days. Five countries. Two time zones. One president. Many scandals.

Originally posted on
Updated on

Here's What's Happening:

  • President Trump has embarked on his first foreign trip as commander in chief. His nine-day schedule will see him visit Saudi Arabia, Israel, Vatican City, Belgium, and Italy. Follow this post for updates throughout the trip.
  • Not long after Trump took off Friday, it was reported that the Russia investigation has identified a person of interest inside the White House. It was also reported that Trump told Russian diplomats visiting the Oval Office had taken pressure off himself by firing FBI Director James Comey.
  • An avowed homebody, Trump is the first president since Jimmy Carter not to travel overseas during the first 100 days of his administration. He's being joined on the trip by the first lady.
  • He's met with the leaders of Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Egypt, Kuwait and Israel. He has additional meetings scheduled with the leaders of Italy, and Belgium, as well as Pope Francis. He'll also attend summits for the G-7 and NATO, the military alliance which he has been highly critical of in the past.
  • On Sunday, he delivered a high-stakes speech on Islam in Riyadh, calling on Muslim officials to lead in "combating radicalization."
  • President Trump has just arrived in Tel Aviv for two-day visit to Israel where he is expected to attempt to revive the dormant Middle East peace process. He met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Israeli President Rueven Rivlin, in addition to making a trip to the Western Wall in Jerusalem.

Updates

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President Trump says that he never used the word Israel when he shared intelligence with the Russians

Really confusing moment here where Trump stops the press from being ushered out of his photo spray with PM Netanyah… https://t.co/xzMZEt30AW

President Trump stopped reporters after delivering remarks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to clarify that he did not use to the word Israel when he shared intelligence with the Russians at the White House.

"I never mentioned the word or the name Israel. Never mentioned during that conversation," Trump said. "They're all saying I did, so you have another story wrong. Never mentioned the word Israel."

That response came during a spray with reporters ahead of a bilateral meeting with Netanyahu when Bloomberg's Margaret Talev asked Netanyahu if he had any concerns about intelligence cooperation with the US. Before Trump's response, Netanyahu said that the "intelligence cooperation was terrific. It's never been better."

Media reports about the meeting did not say that Trump mentioned Israel, only that he shared highly classified information on an ISIS plot with the Russians.

Last week, two Israeli intelligence officials confirmed to BuzzFeed News that the information shared with the Russians, syncs up with information shared with the US by Israel.

–Jessica Simeone

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Former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn is expected to invoke 5th Amendment today

Former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn is expected to invoke the 5th Amendment on Monday with regard to the Senate Intelligence Committee's subpoena seeking documents, a source told the AP.

Flynn was subpoenaed by the committee to turn over any documents relevant to the investigation into Trump campaign associates' connections to Russia.

On Thursday, the chair of the committee, Sen. Richard Burr, has said that Flynn would not be complying with the subpoena but later backtracked that statement and said they hadn't received a "definitive answer" from Flynn's lawyer.

A 2013 tweet from White House press secretary Sean Spicer began recirculating Monday morning. In the tweet, Spicer implies that someone who has "nothing to hide" has no reason to plead the fifth.

—Jessica Simeone

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A top Trump aide boasted there wasn't a single protester in Saudi Arabia — and ignores the severe punishments protesters can face there

Here's Wilbur Ross, this morning on @CNBC, on the lack of protesters in Saudi Arabia

Speaking on CNBC Monday morning, US secretary of commerce Wilbur Ross said Saudi Arabia is "liberalizing their society," and lauded the country for the lack of protesters visible during Trump's visit.

"Clearly there's a big sea change underway," he said. "I think the other thing that was fascinating to me was there was not a single a single hint of a protester anywhere there during the whole time we were there. Not one guy with a bad placard."

CNBC presenter Becky Quick challenged Ross on his comments: "But Secretary Ross that may not necessarily be because they don't have those feelings there but because they control people and don't allow them to come express their feelings like we do here."

"In theory that might be true but boy there was certainly no sign of it. There wasn't anything. The mood was a genuinely good mood," Ross went on.

"At the end of the trip when I was getting back on the plane the security guards from the Saudi side who had been helping us over the weekend all wanted to pose for a big photo op, and then they gave me two gigantic bushels of dates. That was a pretty from the heart genuine gesture and it really touched me."

However, people have been quick to criticize Ross for ignoring Saudi Arabia's history of imposing severe punishments, including death, for protesters.

As though this is a positive thing to highlight! No protesters because Saudi Arabia jails protesters & sometimes cu… https://t.co/krPIGdFoS3

Wilbur Ross thinks it's swell that no Saudis risked a death sentence to protest someone who isn't their president. https://t.co/JIoXFE4SLm

Commerce Sec. Wilbur Ross brags that no one protested Trump in Saudi Arabia, where protesting is illegal https://t.co/AXJoMCoQIo

Did Wilbur Ross really just say "There was not a single hint of a protester" in #SaudiArabia during #Trump visit? Does he understand *why*?

—Alicia Melville-Smith

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Trump has become the first sitting president to visit the Western Wall in Jerusalem

President Trump pays a visit to the Western Wall, becoming the first sitting US president to do so

President Trump has made an historic visit to Jerusalem's Western Wall, a few hours into his two-day trip to Israel.

Trump became the first sitting US president to visit what is one of Judaism's holiest sites.

He stood in quiet reflection, before placing a note in the wall, which is located in Jerusalem's Old City.

His wife Melania and daughter Ivanka — who converted to orthodox Judaism — visited the women's section of the holy site, Haaretz reported.

— Francis Whittaker

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President Trump has just arrived in Tel Aviv for two-day visit to Israel where he is expected to attempt to revive the dormant Middle East peace process.

Trump was welcomed at the airport by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. He will spend Monday meeting visiting religious sites and meeting with officials.

Speaking briefly at the airport, Trump said he was visiting Israel "to reaffirm the unbreakable bond between the United States and the state of Israel," adding: "We have before us a rare opportunity to bring security and stability and peace to this region and to its people."

Trump then traveled to Jerusalem, where he participated in a very brief but cordial public chat with Israeli President Rueven Rivlin.

"I've seen such a different feeling towards Israel, from countries that may have not felt well towards Israel, in recent times," Trump said. "There's a great feeling for peace throughout the Middle East ... People have had enough of the bloodshed and the killing. What we did over the weekend [in Saudi Arabia], they say there has never been anything like that before."

However, Trump may face some tough questions from Israeli officials about reports last week that stated he disclosed sensitive Israeli intelligence to Russian officials and over a new $110 billion arms deal he announced in Saudi Arabia.

On Sunday, the Associated Press reported Netanyahu had ordered all his cabinet ministers to attend the official greeting of Trump, after reports some of them planned to skip the event.

On Tuesday, Trump will meet with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. During a meeting with Abbas at the White House in March, Trump stated achieving peace is "something that I think is, frankly, maybe not as difficult as people have thought over the years."

However, some Palestinian activists are planning a "Day of Rage" and will stage public demonstrations against Trump during his visit to the West Bank. In a statement, the Supreme National Leadership Committee said Palestinian factions "affirm their rejection of the American position, which is biased in favor of the occupation."

—Alicia Melville-Smith

Ever Stronger חזקים תמיד 🇮🇱🇺🇸

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Moroccan historian and human rights advocate Maati Monjib is currently being prosecuted for vague but grave crimes against national security by the country's shadowy security forces. On Wednesday, the 55-year-old faces yet another court hearing. So it was with disappointment that he watched US President Donald Trump deliver a lengthy speech to the Muslim world without once mentioning "human rights," "democracy," or "freedom."

"At least he's saying bluntly that the US is not interested in human rights and democracy of the world," he said in a telephone interview from Rabat, the Moroccan capital. "It is only interested in the promotion of the economy and American business, and the huge amount of money in the contracts with the Saudis signify the single-minded orientation of the Trump administration: business and only business."

Read more here.

Borzou Daragahi

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US Muslims noticed something missing from Trump's speech — themselves

In the week before President Donald Trump's Islam-focused speech in Saudi Arabia, American Muslims collectively cringed over the big question: Just how bad could it be?

Not as bad as imagined, it turns out, but still unimpressive.

US Muslims said Trump's address Sunday at a summit in Riyadh was remarkable mainly for its blandness – shopworn lines about good versus evil from a president who once blamed his Saudi hosts for 9/11, who floated the idea of shutting down mosques, and who said, "I think Islam hates us."

Read more here.

Hannah Allam

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In a high-stakes speech delivered to Muslim leaders in Saudi Arabia, President Donald Trump demanded Middle Eastern nations rid themselves of terrorism without waiting for America's help. He also announced the signing of multiple agreements with Saudi Arabia and other nations to counter terrorism.

Trump said the US "was not here to lecture" but instead to "offer partnership — based on shared interests and values — to pursue a better future for us all."

He went on to outline how he believes the countries present should combat terrorism — culturally, financially, and judicially — and advised them not to wait for America's lead.

"The Middle East cannot wait for the American people to crush to enemy for them; the nations of Middle East have to decide what kind of future they want for themselves, their country, and for their families and children," Trump said. "It is a choice between two futures, a choice America cannot make for you."

Apparently without going off-script, Trump delivered an unusually traditionally rhetorical speech, repeatedly demanding the leaders and people of the Middle East "drive terrorists out" of their communities and countries.

"Drive them out of your places of worship, drive them out of your community, drive them out of your Holy land, and drive them out of this Earth," he said.

Trump touched briefly upon the global refugee crisis, commending Jordan, Turkey, and Lebanon for taking in people from neighboring countries. He told the other nations present that a way to stop the flow of refugees from their countries was to protect the "equality" of their "women, children, and the followers of all faiths."

He described the great touristic and economic potential of many of the countries present, and reprimanded the leaders for dealing financially with members of terrorist organizations such as Hezbollah in the past. He called out Iran directly, accusing its government of "fueling the fire of sectarian terror," bolstering Assad's regime in Syria and helping that government "commit terrible crimes," such as the chemical bombing of civilians.

Toward the end of his speech Trump called on the gathered leaders to come together to confront "the crisis of Islamist extremism and the Islamist terror groups it inspires."

"It means standing together against the murder of innocent Muslims, the oppression of women, the persecution of Jews, and the slaughter of Christians. Religious leaders must make this absolutely clear: Barbarism will deliver you no glory — piety to evil will bring you no dignity. If you choose the path of terror, your life will be empty, your life will be brief, and your soul will be condemned."

It was an important speech for Trump, given his past comments about Islam. During the campaign trail, Trump called for a "total and complete shutdown" of Muslims entering the US, and as president he twice tried to block travel to America from several Muslim-majority nations. Those bans have been blocked by courts. Trump has also said "Islam hates us" on the trail and has relished repeating the phrase "radical Islamic terrorism," which critics say paints the religion with an unfair and broad brush.

Most recently, Muslim advocates in the US said a plan to blacklist the Muslim Brotherhood — and, by extension, target US Islamic groups — no longer seems imminent from the White House.


—Ema O'Connor & Alicia Melville-Smith

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Trump's speech pushed back

Trump's speech has been pushed back to 10 a.m. ET, Fox News is reporting.

It was supposed to be broadcast live at 9:20 a.m. ET.

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Trump to tell Muslim leaders they must confront "the crisis of Islamist extremism"

President Trump will give a widely-anticipated speech on how to battle extremism from Saudi Arabia in just over an hour.

Excerpts of the speech, released by the White House Sunday morning, see Trump calling for unity across the Muslim world in the fight against terrorism.

Trump is expected to tell leaders that America is "not here to lecture — we are not here to tell other people how to live, what to do, who to be, or how to worship. Instead, we are here to offer partnership."

He will say that defeating terrorism "means honestly confronting the crisis of Islamist extremism and the Islamist terror groups it inspires."

However, Trump will reportedly not say "radical Islamic terrorism" during the speech, a phrase he repeated with great relish on the campaign trail.

His National Security Adviser, Gen. McMaster, has reportedly pushed Trump to remove the phrase from his speeches, which critics say paints and entire religion with a broad brush

—Alicia Melville-Smith & Tom Namako

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President Donald Trump apparently had high praise for the footwear worn by Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi Sunday.

"Love your shoes. Boy, those shoes. Man," he gushed, according to the White House pool report. It was not clear what exactly Trump liked about Sisi's shiny, but otherwise apparently normal, black dress shoes.

The meeting was one of several Trump is holding with Arab leaders ahead of his big speech in Saudi Arabia Sunday. And as the shoe compliment suggests, his confab with Sisi was a continuation of a lovefest between the two leaders that began during the Egyptian president's visit to Washington in April.

"We've really been through a lot together, positively," Trump said Sunday.

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President Donald Trump is spending the second day of his first overseas trip meeting with Arab leaders.

Trump met with leaders from Bahrain, Qatar, Egypt, Kuwait, and several other countries on Sunday.

During his meeting with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi, Trump said he would accept an invitation to visit Egypt. Trump said the visit would happen before long.

Through a translator, el-Sissi said Trump "had a unique personality" that allowed him "to do the impossible."

Trump replied: "I agree."

—Alicia Melville-Smith

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Neither Melania nor Ivanka Trump has chosen to cover their heads while in Saudi Arabia, apparently contradicting Donald Trump's previous admonitions about such a fashion statement.

The Trump ladies' decision to go bare-headed is not itself remarkable — many female Western political figures make the same choice while traveling in Saudi Arabia.

But a lot of people have pointed out that in 2015, Trump slammed then-First Lady Michelle Obama for not covering head, tweeting that the move "insulted" Saudis.

Many people are saying it was wonderful that Mrs. Obama refused to wear a scarf in Saudi Arabia, but they were insulted.We have enuf enemies

But while the president may be offended by his wife's decision not to cover her head, the Saudis don't seem to mind. On Sunday, the day after the Trumps arrival, Saudi news reportedly praised the First Lady for her "elegantly respectful" look.

.@FLOTUS praised in Saudi news for her "classy and conservative" look (sans headscarf) 👇🏼👇🏼👇🏼 cc: @KateBennett_DC… https://t.co/S5Y4ALGCm3

— Grace Wyler

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President Donald Trump's national security advisor, H.R. McMaster, teased his boss's much anticipated speech in Saudi Arabia, hinting that the president may drop the phrase "radical Islamic terrorism" from his remarks.

"I think what the president will point out is the vast majority – the vast majority of victims from these people are Muslims," McMaster said in an interview with ABC's George Stephanopoulos set to air Sunday. "And of course the Muslim world is very cognizant of that, having born witness to and experienced directly this humanitarian catastrophe that's going on across the greater Middle East and beyond."

McMaster's remarks are the latest suggestion that Trump may temper some of his more virulent anti-Muslim rhetoric when he delivers his first major overseas address as president Sunday.

Though Trump made a point of using the phrase "radical Islamic terrorism" during his presidential campaign — and won praise from conservatives for doing so — drafts of his speech reportedly abandon this type of inflammatory language, the Associated Press reports. Instead, the president is expected to cast the fight against Islamic terrorism as "a battle between good and evil," while calling on Arab leaders to "drive out the terrorists from your places of worship."

The speech is being written by senior policy advisor Stephen Miller, with input from McMaster, and Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner. McMaster has previously urged Trump to refrain from using the phrase "radical Islamic terrorism," and argued that it hinders US counter-terrorism goals.

Still, as of Saturday, Trump reportedly had not yet signed off on a final draft of the address. And when asked directly whether Trump would avoid using the term "radical Islamic terrorism," McMaster hedged a bit.

"The president will call it whatever he wants to call it," he told ABC. "Whatever we call it, we recognize that these are not religious people. And, in fact, these enemies of all civilizations, what they want to do is to cloak their criminal behavior under this fall idea of some kind of religious war."

— Grace Wyler

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Trump, Tillerson, and Ross join the dancing in Saudi Arabia

please enjoy this footage of the secretaries of commerce and state dancing awkwardly while holding swords

During a welcoming ceremony at Murabba Palace in Saudi Arabia on Saturday evening, President Trump, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, and Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross participated in a traditional dance.

The male-only dance, held before a state dinner in Riyadh between Trump and the Saudi king, involved swaying and holding swords.

—David Mack

And here is President Trump dancing in Saudi Arabia.

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Sen. John McCain slammed President Trump on Saturday for hosting two Russian officials in the Oval Office amid the investigation into Moscow's interference in last year's election.

Trump met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Russia's ambassador to the US, Sergey Kislyak, inside the Oval Office on May 10, a day after he fired FBI director James Comey, who was investigating his campaign's possible ties to Russia.

During the meeting, the president revealed highly classified Israeli intelligence about ISIS to the Russians.

"I do not believe that Mr. Lavrov should be allowed in the Oval Office, and I think it's pretty obvious they turned it into their propaganda advantage," McCain told the Arizona Republic newspaper.

"These are the same people that tried to change the outcome of our election," McCain said. "I don't believe they had an effect, but they tried. These are the same people who used precision weapons to strike hospitals in Aleppo in what clearly qualifies as war crimes. They took Crimea, invaded Ukraine."

While the White House barred all US media from the meeting, a Russian photographer was allowed inside the Oval Office.

According to a New York Times report, Trump told the Russian officials that by firing the "nut job" Comey he had eased the "great pressure" he faced because of the Russia investigation.
— Tasneem Nashrulla

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Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Saturday he had "no knowledge" about the person of interest at the White House reportedly being investigated in the Russia probe.

During a press briefing with the Saudi Arabian foreign minister, Tillerson responded to a Washington Post report that a current White House official close to the president was being investigated as part of the probe into possible collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign.

"I do not have any information or knowledge regarding the person of interest that's been referenced," Tillerson said.

At the briefing, Saudi foreign minister Adel al-Jubeir said that President Trump and Saudi King Salman "had a very, very good and very wide-ranging conversation" about the challenges facing the region, including the "scourge of terrorism."

The two leaders signed signed a Joint Strategic Vision Statement "promising close collaboration to counter violent extremism, disrupt the financing of terrorism, and advance defense cooperation," the White House said in a statement. The deal includes nearly $110 billion in American arms sales, part of $350 billion in defense and economic investments over 10 years that the White House claims will create thousands of American jobs.

"That was a tremendous day," Trump told reporters after his meeting. "Tremendous investments into the United States and our military community is very happy. Hundreds of billions of dollars of investments into the United States and jobs, jobs, jobs."
— Grace Wyler and Tasneem Nashrulla

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Trump gave a "thumbs up" gesture in Saudi Arabia — but is it considered rude?

Trump flashed me a thumbs up as he rode the gold escalator up to his first overseas adventure.

Supporters and detractors of President Trump seized on a photo of him giving a thumbs up during his visit to Saudi Arabia on Saturday, hours after the US embassy there had advised reporters that the gesture was considered rude.

But here's the thing: it's actually not really taboo at all. And The whole controversy has confused a lot of Saudis.

Read more here.

—David Mack

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People are debating whether or not Trump bowed before the king

video-cdn.buzzfeed.com

When President Trump arrived in Saudi Arabia on Saturday and met King Salman, Trump did not bow, shaking the king's hand instead.

Conservatives praised the move, primarily due to the fact that when President Obama met the Saudi king in 2009, he greeted him by bowing (the Obama White House denied this, saying he was leaning over to shake his hand).

However, people are now wondering if Trump did, in fact, bow before the Saudi king later on Saturday. When the king presented him with Saudi Arabia's highest civilian honor, Trump ducked down to allow the king to place the collar over his head. Then, Trump bent down again for just a moment, in what many people compared to a "curtsy."

Now, many people are criticizing the lack of outrage from the right as hypocritical, while some Trump supports are defending the president.

Read more here, and take the poll on what you think Trump actually did.

—Julia Reinstein

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Trump has just received Saudi Arabia's highest civilian honor from King Salman at a ceremony in the Royal Court in Riyadh.

The king said the Collar of Abdulaziz Al Saud was being awarded to Trump for "his quest to enhance security and stability in the region and around the world."

The honor has previously been bestowed to Russian President Vladimir Putin, British Prime Minister Theresa May, and President Barack Obama.

—Alicia Melville-Smith

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President Donald Trump has landed in Saudi Arabia after an overnight flight from Washington to start his first international trip as president.

Trump was greeted by King Salman of Saudi Arabia inside the airport terminal after the president stepped off Air Force One at about 10am (local time).

Trump then travelled to his hotel for a few hours of rest before beginning the day's meetings.

Trump is the only American president to make Saudi Arabia, or any majority Muslim country, his first stop overseas as president.

Following Saudi Arabia, Trump will travel to Israel, have an audience with Pope Francis at the Vatican, and attend the NATO summit in Brussels, and the Group of 7 meeting in Sicily.

—Alicia Melville-Smith

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Russian officials reportedly bragged that they could use Michael Flynn to influence Trump

Russian officials bragged during last year's presidential campaign that they could use Michael Flynn to influence Donald Trump, CNN reported Friday.

The bragging reportedly was intercepted by US intelligence officials and showed that the Russians believed they had cultivated a strong relationship with Flynn, who would go on to become Trump's national security advisor, to consider him an ally.

The comments troubled US officials at the time, CNN reported, and some moved to limit how much sensitive information they shared with Flynn.

"This was a five-alarm fire from early on, the way the Russians were talking about him," a former Obama administration official told CNN.

Trump ultimately fired Flynn after it was revealed that he failed to disclose his contact with the Russian ambassador to Vice President Mike Pence. However, the president has continued to defend Flynn and has privately said he should have kept him on, Politico reported Friday.

Earlier Friday, CNN also reported that White House lawyers had begun to research impeachment procedures as new controversies over a probe into Russia's election influence emerge almost daily.

— Jim Dalrymple II

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Former FBI Director James Comey has agreed to testify in open session before the Senate Intelligence Committee sometime after Memorial Day.

Comey is expected to testify on his role in the investigation into Russian interference in US elections, but will likely be asked about a number of media reports surrounding his sudden dismissal from the FBI and memos he wrote detailing his conversations with President Trump, including one where the president asked him to drop the investigation into former National Security Advisor Mike Flynn.

"I am hopeful that he will clarify for the American people recent events that have been broadly reported in the media," committee chairman Sen. Richard Burr said in a statement.

Comey's decision comes about a week after the former director had reportedly declined a previous invitation shortly after he was fired to testify before the same committee behind closed doors.

"I hope that former Director Comey's testimony will help answer some of the questions that have arisen since Director Comey was so suddenly dismissed by the president," Virginia Sen. Mark Warner said in a statement.

—Salvador Hernandez

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Trump to describe fight against radical Islam as a “battle between good and evil"

President Trump will describe the fight against radical Islam as a "battle between good and evil" during a speech Sunday, the Associated Press reported Friday.

The AP obtained a draft of the speech, which will be delivered in Saudi Arabia during Trump's first foreign trip as president. According to the AP, the draft also abandons some of the harsher anti-Muslim language Trump used while campaigning.

In addition, the speech will reportedly call for new partnerships with US allies in the Middle East, and does not mention democracy and human rights.

"We are not here to lecture — to tell other peoples how to live, what to do or who to be," the AP reported the document as stating. "We are here instead to offer partnership in building a better future for us all."

Trump has apparently not signed off on a final draft, however.

— Jim Dalrymple II

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Trump called James Comey a "nut job," told Russians firing him took pressure off Russia probe

President Trump told Russian officials earlier this month that former FBI Director James Comey was a "nut job," and said firing him took care of "great pressure" he had been facing, the New York Times reported Friday.

The reported conversation between Trump and the Russians happened on May 10, when Russia's ambassador, Sergey Kislyak, and foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, visited the White House one day after Comey was fired.

During the meeting, Trump told the Russians about Comey's termination and called the ousted director "crazy, a real nut job," the Times reported.

"I faced great pressure because of Russia," Trump reportedly added. "That's taken off."

The comments were recorded in a document summarizing the meeting, which an unnamed US official read to the Times.

The White House responded to the Times' story in a statement saying Trump "has always emphasized the importance of making deals with Russia." It went on to accuse Comey of "grandstanding and politicizing the investigation into Russia's actions," creating "unnecessary pressure on our ability to engage and negotiate with Russia."

"The investigation would have always continued, and obviously, the termination of Comey would not have ended it," the White House added. "Once again, the real story is that our national security has been undermined by the leaking of private and highly classified conversations."

The May 10 meeting had already become highly controversial after it was revealed, earlier this week, that Trump shared classified information with the Russians.

The president has also faced backlash for firing Comey, who had been leading an investigation into Russia's influence in last year's presidential election. Many of the president's critics — citing a continuous string of headlines in recent weeks — have accused him of firing Comey in an effort influence that investigation.

News that Trump described Comey's firing as a relief from "pressure" over Russia is likely to bolster their argument.

— Jim Dalrymple II

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Moments after Trump took off, reports emerged that the Russia probe has reached the White House

The probe into Russia's influence on the US presidential election has identified a current White House official as a significant person of interest, the Washington Post reported Friday, just moments after President Trump departed for his first international trip.

The Post cited unnamed government sources who said the official is someone close to the president. The person of interest was not identified.

The probe has been a source of significant controversy and headache for Trump, who has said he hopes it ends quickly.

The unnamed officials told the Post that the investigation remains focused on former members of Trump's team, such as Michael Flynn and Paul Manafort. However, the revelation that a current official is now a person of interest is significant because it indicates the probe is reaching the top levels of the government, officials told the Post.

In a statement Friday, the White House responded by saying that "a thorough investigation will confirm that there was no collusion between the campaign and any foreign entity."

— Jim Dalrymple II

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President Donald Trump has tapped Stephen Miller, a senior adviser at the White House and an outspoken NATO critic, to draft his speech before the military alliance in Brussels next week, people familiar with the plans tell BuzzFeed News.

The prospect of a speech penned by the 31-year-old anti-globalist adds a new layer of anxiety for NATO allies uncertain about which version of Donald Trump will show up in Belgium's capital: The one that believes NATO is "no longer obsolete" or the one that thinks the 28-member military alliance is a relic of the past.

"We're just hoping the remarks don't turn out to be 'America First' on steroids," a European official whose country will attend the gathering told BuzzFeed News. "But who knows with Miller."

Read more here.

—John Hudson

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President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump took off on Air Force One in Maryland on Friday afternoon on their first official foreign trip.

The pair, along with Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, arrived by the Marine One helicopter at Joint Base Andrews at approximately 2:12 p.m.

Earlier, Vice President Mike Pence saw the First Family off from the White House.

Also spotted by reporters on board Air Force One were chief of staff Reince Priebus and economic adviser Gary Cohn.

The president is now headed to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

—David Mack

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Trump is the first president since Jimmy Carter not to head abroad during the first 100 days of his administration.

Instead, he has spent much of his time as leader visiting Trump-branded properties in Florida and New Jersey.

His decision not to travel abroad reflects a combination of an election that focused on a return to "America First," and on the homebody ways of a 70-year-old who spends a lot of time golfing at clubs he owns.

But it also marks a new era in American relations with its allies and enemies alike, and the emergence of a world with a smaller American presence, or at least one where if you want to meet the president of the United States, you're coming to him — not the other way around.

Read this report from April about Trump's homebody tendencies.

—Adrian Carrasquillo

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For the first time since he was elected, Donald Trump is taking his show on the road, with a trip abroad that has many observers watching nervously through their fingers — especially with visits to Israel, Saudi Arabia, and the Vatican, which host major holy sites of all three Abrahamic faiths.

Trump's visit comes at a time when the Middle East is on a knife's edge, with sectarian, ethnic, and ideological ground wars crisscrossing the region, and US, Russian, and other air forces launching airstrikes in attempts to tip the balance in their favor. Even the deftest, most well-informed of statesmen would be challenged to promote the US's interests and values without piercing the obscure layers of decorum that shroud public life in the Middle East.

Enter President Trump, with his penchant for unscripted moments and offensive gestures.

"There is so much subject matter that he could trip up on," said a Dubai-based analyst for a risk-management firm, who asked that his name not be published because his firm operates in the region. "There's so much room for it to go wrong, and that seems to be amplified with this president. The potential for Trump to say something inappropriate is really high, and this is a part of the world where personal slights and loss of face are a big deal."

Read more about how foreign diplomats are preparing themselves here.

—Borzou Daragahi