FOLLOW THE WEEK ON FACEBOOK
May 19, 2017
David Silverman/Getty Images

President Trump's continued hiring freeze at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is adversely affecting operations at the agency tasked with preventing global disease outbreaks, officials told The Washington Post. The freeze, which was implemented by Trump in an executive order signed Jan. 22, has left "nearly 700 positions vacant," which is taking a toll on programs that support "local and state public health emergency readiness, infectious disease control, and chronic disease prevention," the Post reported.

The CDC isn't the only Health and Human Services agency affected, even as physicians and public health emergency responders are exempted from the freeze. At the National Institutes of Health, the freeze has hampered clinical work and patient care. At the Office of Public Health Preparedness and Response — which the Post noted "regulates some of the world's most dangerous bacteria and viruses and manages the nation's stockpile of emergency medical countermeasures" — several positions remain unfilled.

The freeze is part of Trump's push for government agencies to slim down staff as he prepares to roll out a pared down budget, due out next week. Becca Stanek

10:56 a.m. ET

Police evacuated London's Old Vic theater, located near Waterloo Station, during a performance on Saturday in response to an unspecified security threat. The area has been isolated as "specialist officers" investigate the scene.

This incident comes less than a week after a suicide bombing in Manchester, England, during an Ariana Grande concert left 22 people dead and dozens more injured. The play that was interrupted is a showing of Woyzeck featuring Star Wars actor John Boyega.

This is a breaking news story that will be updated as more details become available. Bonnie Kristian

10:12 a.m. ET

President Trump will return to Washington on Saturday after the second day of the G7 summit in Italy, completing his nine-day tour through Saudi Arabia, Israel, and Europe. Saturday morning, Trump claimed on Twitter that his speech in Brussels Thursday is already producing results:

Trump's description of "payments" into a fund is misleading; NATO countries actually pledged in 2014 to hit a 2 percent of GDP target for their own defense spending. Only five allies have met that goal.

The president also used Twitter Saturday morning to address his decision on the 2015 Paris climate accord:

The other G7 member nations — Japan, Italy, Germany, France, Britain, and Canada — are all urging Trump not to exit the agreement made by former President Obama. They reaffirmed their "strong commitment" to the accord on Saturday, but Trump declined to join the declaration at that time. However, the White House on Friday said Trump's views on climate change are "evolving." Bonnie Kristian

9:57 a.m. ET
Craig Mitchelldyer/Getty Images

Two people were killed and a third injured on a commuter train in Portland, Oregon, on Friday, by a man witnesses said was "yelling a gamut of anti-Muslim and anti-everything slurs." Unverified reports suggest the suspect may have been targeting two Muslim girls riding the train, one of whom was wearing a hijab.

The victims were attempting to protect other passengers when they were stabbed. "Terrible tragedy on Portland's Max Train," Oregon's Sen. Jeff Merkley wrote on Twitter of the attack. "Champions of justice risked and lost their lives. Hate is evil."

The suspect has been detained by police, who have deemed his rant to be hate speech. Neither the attacker nor the victims have been publicly identified. Bonnie Kristian

8:20 a.m. ET
Win McNamee/Getty Images

Zbigniew Brzezinski, who served as national security adviser to President Jimmy Carter, died Friday in Virginia. He was 89.

The son of a Polish diplomat whose background was in academia, Brzezinski advised Carter throughout his presidency, guiding the White House during the Iranian revolution and hostage crisis as well as the Soviet Union's invasion of Afghanistan. Though a hard-line Cold War hawk — he implicitly encouraged, for example, Chinese support of the totalitarian Pol Pot regime to limit Soviet influence in Vietnam — in his later years, Brzezinski opposed the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003.

His death was announced by his daughter, MSNBC host Mika Brzezinski, on social media. "He was known to his friends as Zbig, to his grandchildren as Chief and to his wife as the enduring love of her life," she wrote. "I just knew him as the most inspiring, loving and devoted father any girl could ever have."

Former President Carter in a statement remembered Brzezinski as "a superb public servant" and a "brilliant, dedicated and loyal" man. Bonnie Kristian

8:00 a.m. ET
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

The Senate Intelligence Committee has asked President Trump's campaign to hand over all documents, including phone records and emails, with any reference to Russia dating from June of 2015 onward. The request, which The Washington Post reported Friday evening citing two unnamed sources, is part of the committee's investigation into alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

The committee's letter arrived last week, and campaign staffers are reportedly in the process of cooperating, though they have been instructed not to comment publicly. The letter was signed by committee chair Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) as well as Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-Va.), the committee's ranking Democrat.

This is the first time the Senate Intelligence Committee's investigation, which is distinct from the Justice Department probe led by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, has involved the official campaign organization. Bonnie Kristian

May 26, 2017

President Trump's son-in-law and top adviser Jared Kushner reportedly held discussions with Russia's ambassador about setting up a secret communication channel between the Trump transition team and the Kremlin shortly after the election, intelligence officials confirmed to The Washington Post.

The Post first learned of Kushner's inquiry in an anonymous letter sent in December; Kushner's meeting with Ambassador Sergey Kislyak reportedly happened at Trump Tower on Dec. 1 or 2. Kushner apparently suggested using Russian diplomatic facilities for the secret communications, alarming Kislyak, as that would have been a security risk for Russia, too.

... Kushner conveyed to the Russians that he was aware that it would be politically sensitive to meet publicly, but it was necessary for the Trump team to be able to continue their communication with Russian government officials.

In addition to their discussion about setting up the communications channel, Kushner, [Trump's former National Security Adviser Michael] Flynn, and Kislyak also talked about arranging a meeting between a representative of Trump and a "Russian contact" in a third country whose name was not identified, according to the anonymous letter. [The Washington Post]

Senior U.S. officials expressed shock at Kushner's bold proposition, especially as Russian communications are closely monitored by the U.S., with one calling his idea "extremely naive or absolutely crazy.” Read the full scoop at The Washington Post. Jeva Lange

May 26, 2017
iStock

A Yale University dean has been put on leave over racially insensitive remarks she made in Yelp reviews. "If you are white trash, this is a perfect night out for you," June Chu wrote about a Japanese restaurant. In other posts, she noted "I am Asian" as proof of her culinary expertise, warned of "sketchy" crowds at a movie theater, and called the workers "morons" who serve "snack orders to the obese." The Week Staff

See More Speed Reads