It’s Wednesday July 12, 2017



Christopher Wray, President Donald Trump's nominee to head the FBI, pledged on Wednesday to lead the agency with independence and without regard to partisan politics as he testified during his U.S. Senate confirmation hearing. Trump nominated Wray on June 7 to replace James Comey, who he fired May 9. Comey was overseeing the Federal Bureau of Investigation's investigation of potential collusion between Trump's presidential campaign team and Russia. Wray told the Senate Judiciary Committee, "There's only one right way to do this job, and that is with strict independence, by the book, playing it straight, faithful to the Constitution, faithful to our laws, and faithful to the best practices of the institution, without fear, without favoritism and certainly without regard to any partisan political influence." Wray added, "Anybody who thinks that I would be pulling punches as the FBI director sure doesn't know me very well."



Hundreds of workers at New York-area airports went on strike Tuesday night in a labor dispute with PrimeFlight Inc., which subcontracts their services to airlines. About 700 people who provide services at curbside and inside the terminals, including wheelchair attendants, skycaps, baggage handlers, cleaners, and shuttle drivers, walked out at New York's JFK and LaGuardia airports, and New Jersey's Newark airport. The workers approved the walkout in a vote earlier this week. The strike could disrupt flights for United Airlines, American Airlines, and JetBlue.



A federal judge ruled Tuesday that 1,400 Iraqi immigrants cannot be deported from the United States while courts are reviewing their cases. The Justice Department argued that the court did not have jurisdiction in the case, but U.S. District Judge Mark Goldsmith rejected that argument. He said that, if deported, the Iraqis would be exposed to "substantiated risk of death, torture, or other grave persecution before their legal claims can be tested in a court," denying them constitutional rights. Goldsmith's case directly concerned the cases of 114 Iraqis, most of them Christians, who were arrested in Detroit and ordered deported because they had committed crimes, but he had extended it to affect all 1,400 Iraqi nationals across the U.S. facing similar removal orders. Some of the Iraqis committed their crimes years, even decades ago but were allowed to stay in the U.S. because Iraq would not issue them travel documents.



President Trump is scheduled to travel to Paris late Wednesday for a meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron to discuss collaborating on Syria and efforts to fight terrorism. Trump and Macron are both political newcomers who won election upsets, but they have been divided on key issues, including climate change and trade. Macron invited Trump to celebrate France's July 14 Bastille Day national holiday and to mark the 100-year anniversary of the arrival of U.S. forces in World War I. Aides to both leaders say the visit will provide a good opportunity to push past their differences and find ways to work together.



Firefighters in California have gained ground in their battle to contain several wildfires that have forced the evacuation of thousands of people, but forecasters warned the hot and dry conditions in the U.S. West would continue over the coming days. In Northern California, firefighters had managed to contain over half a 5,800-acre wildfire by late on Tuesday, up from 35 percent a day earlier, fire service officials said. The blaze has displaced 4,000 people and destroyed over 100 structures, including 41 homes since it began five days ago. More than 50 uncontained large fires are burning across the U.S. West. The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection said, so far this year, more than twice as much land mass in California has been charred by fires compared to the same time last year.



Representative Steve Scalise, the No. 3 Republican leader in the U.S. House of Representatives who was shot and wounded last month, is no longer under intensive care although he remains in serious condition. Scalise had been readmitted to MedStar Washington Hospital Center's intensive care unit over concerns about an infection following surgery. He is still being treated for the infections. The Louisiana Republican was among a group of Republican lawmakers attacked June 14 just outside Washington when a gunman opened fire on them while they were practicing for an annual charity baseball game against Democrats. Scalise was among the most severely wounded and underwent several surgeries to repair internal organs and broken bones after being shot in the hip. The 66 year old gunman, James Hodgkinson, was killed by police at the Alexandria, Virginia, ballpark minutes after he started shooting.



Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced Tuesday that he was delaying the Senate's August recess to allow time to complete work on the GOP health bill and other legislation, such as raising the federal debt ceiling. McConnell said the extra time was needed for continuing negotiations on the GOP proposal to replace ObamaCare, with too many moderates and conservatives still opposing the bill for it to pass. He also blamed Democrats for blocking GOP priorities. McConnell said in a statement, "To provide more time to complete action on important legislative items and process nominees that have been stalled by a lack of cooperation from our friends across the aisle, the Senate will delay the start of the August recess until the third week of August." Senate Republicans plan to reveal a new draft of the proposed ObamaCare replacement plan on Thursday with a vote to come next week.



Ships carrying Chinese troops departed China on Tuesday and headed toward the country's first overseas naval base, which is being built in Djibouti in the Horn of Africa. China launched construction of the logistics base last year. It plans to use the facility to resupply ships involved in peacekeeping and humanitarian missions off of Yemen and Somalia, and other projects. Due to Djibouti's strategic location on the northwestern limits of the Indian Ocean, India has expressed concern that the base would extend China's "string of pearls" consisting of military allies and material surrounding India.



More than 40 good Samaritans formed a human chain to wade into the Gulf of Mexico off of Panama City, Florida, to rescue swimmers caught in a powerful rip current over the weekend. According to news reports two elementary-school-age boys on boogie boards got caught in the current, then their mother, grandmother, and uncle swam out to help, as did two onlookers. They all got caught in the current, too. Derek Simmons came up with the rescue plan with his wife Jessica and said "if we're arm to arm, we can get them." They all made it to shore safely.