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By Jonathan Allen

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina — President Donald Trump landed here Thursday night with special counsel Robert Mueller looming over his shoulder back home and President Xi Jinping of China on his horizon.

The trick for him, as he celebrates the signing of a new trade agreement with Mexico and Canada Friday and negotiates over his trade war with China Saturday, is to prevent his domestic troubles from damaging American foreign policy interests as the G-20 meets here.

Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said that the “dark cloud” of the Mueller probe could affect not only Trump’s “state of mind” and ability to deal with foreign leaders but his counterparts’ approach toward him.

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Lawmakers move to end ‘barbaric’ dog experiments at the VA

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By Dareh Gregorian

The Department of Veteran Affairs’ inspector general is reviewing whether the agency flouted regulations on dog experimentation, as a new bill was introduced to outlaw the often-gruesome testing.

In a letter to a bipartisan group of lawmakers, VA Inspector General Michael Missal said his office will probe whether nine ongoing dog studies were being carried out in violation of a law signed by President Donald Trump last year. That law said the VA secretary had to sign off on any such procedures, which animal advocates and members of Congress say are painful and unnecessary. The IG’s letter was first reported by Stars and Stripes.

“We welcome the oversight from the inspector general,” VA press secretary Curt Cashour said.

The VA maintains former Secretary David Shulkin verbally signed off on the experiments on the day he was fired by the president, but Shulkin has denied that claim. He told USA Today in November that he “wasn’t asked, nor did I request a review for an approval” of the dog experiments.

In a letter last year to Rep. Dina Titus, D-Nev., current Secretary Robert Wilkie said the experiments include “critical research to investigate how to restore the ability of Veterans with traumatic spinal cord injuries to breathe properly and avoid repeated bouts of pneumonia and early death.”

The current experiments include forced heart attack experiments at a veterans’ center in Richmond, Virginia, and tests involving damaging dogs’ spinal cords and collapsing their lungs in Cleveland in an effort to see how their cough reflexes respond to electrode treatments, according to the White Coat Waste Project, an animal advocacy group. A past VA experiment involved drilling into live dogs’ skulls.

The agency maintains the testing has led to a breakthrough on cough restoration for paralyzed vets, and has helped researchers better understand links between heart rate irregularities and heart disease. The agency also maintains it only uses dogs for the tests when necessary, and said it adheres to animal welfare guidelines.

In a letter to members of Congress on Tuesday, Wilkie said, “These canine research decisions are complex and taken with great care and solemnity, but the choice is clear that Veterans with these debilitating injuries deserve a better quality of life.”

Congress now wants to outlaw the experiments altogether. On Wednesday, Titus introduced the Preventing Unkind and Painful Procedures and Experiments on Respected Species (PUPPERS) to end what she called this “barbaric practice.”

“There are proven alternatives to this unnecessary testing that inflicts severe pain on puppies and dogs while producing no discernible medical advances,” she said.

The bipartisan bill has 60 co-sponsors, including Florida Republican Rep. Brian Mast, an Army veteran who lost his legs in Afghanistan.

“While I was recovering from my injuries, I saw firsthand the important role that dogs play in helping veterans recover from war’s physical and psychological tolls,” Mast said in a statement. “For too long, the VA has gotten away with conducting these harmful — sometimes fatal — experiments on dogs. These tests are abusive, waste taxpayer dollars and must be stopped.”

The lawmakers’ push has some high-profile help with White House ties. Lara Trump, who is married to the president’s son Eric and is an adviser to his re-election campaign, told USA Today the experiments are “cruel and ineffective” and should be stopped.

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Barclay BUCKLES: Brexit Secretary tells Barnier UK doesn’t need to renegotiate deal

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BREXIT secretary Stephen Barclay has told Brussels the UK doesn’t need to renegotiate Theresa May’s deal to solve the Irish backstop issue – a compromise which risks drawing down the wrath of Brexiteers.

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Rebuking Trump, House passes measure to end U.S. involvement in Yemen

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By Leigh Ann Caldwell

WASHINGTON — The House on Wednesday passed a measure aimed at withdrawing all U.S. military support for the Saudi Arabia-backed war in Yemen, the latest in a series of rebukes by Congress to President Donald Trump’s foreign policy.

The Democratic-led House advanced the bill, 248-177, as its first major vote on foreign policy, making it priority even as the administration resists congressional involvement in the conflict. Last year, with Republicans in the majority, the House refused to take up the measure in order to keep the president’s hands from being tied on a key foreign policy area.

Because a similar bill has passed the Senate before and is likely to pass again, it could be the first veto of Trump’s presidency.

The resolution, authored by Rep. Ro Khanna, D-Calif., has strong support from both sides of the aisle. It would invoke the War Powers Resolution, inserting congressional oversight into the conflict in Yemen, effectively ending U.S. involvement and military assistance to the civil war there between the Yemen government and the Iran-backed Houthi rebels.

“It’s overdue,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said of the measure.

The bill is the result of a long-running debate between Congress and the executive branch over war-making authority, but it’s also the latest example of a Congress, including members of the president’s own party, increasingly asserting its voice against his foreign policy in a number of critical areas. The Senate passed a similar resolution in December, with the support of a handful of Republicans.

Criticism in Congress escalated after the administration refused to place blame on Saudi Arabia for the murder of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi, despite U.S. intelligence that shows a “high confidence” Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman was involved.

Members are also concerned about the worsening humanitarian crisis in Yemen, where food and supplies are being blocked by the Saudi-led coalition. Aid groups and the United Nations say 14 million people are on the brink of starvation and more than 85,000 children have already died from malnutrition.

And critics say Trump’s foreign policy is inconsistent as he’s supporting a continuation of the U.S.’s role in that conflict even as he has ordered the withdrawal of troops in Syria and Afghanistan.

Pressure from Congress has already forced the Trump administration to halt one of the major U.S. support roles in Yemen — the midflight refueling of Saudi planes. Supporters of the resolution say additional congressional action would prevent it from restarting and would remove all military support, including logistical support, intelligence sharing and threat analysis.

“The administration has changed for the better,” Khanna said in an interview, adding that the current measure “will force their hands and force them to make peace.”

In an attempt to lobby Congress from passing a war powers resolution, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told members in November that the parties are advancing peace talks. While they have resulted in a ceasefire, there has not been a breakthrough on the broader political stalemate.

“The message we want to send is first of all, Yemen is a humanitarian crisis. It’s been going on some period of time, we’ve expected the Saudis to do some things that they haven’t done in terms of the prosecution of that conflict,” House Democratic Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said Wednesday. “In addition to that, we have not seen any actions by them to hold anyone accountable in a real way for the killing of Khashoggi, the Washington Post reporter.”

But some Republicans are opposing the proposal, including Rep. Michael McCaul of Texas and ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, who say it will defer peace and embolden Iran.

“This resolution is not only a dangerous precedent legally — it violates the construction of the War Powers Act — but it is damaging, it is very bad policy,” McCaul said on the House floor ahead of the vote.

The Senate will be forced to take up the measure again, most likely in the last week of February. Never before has resolution to end military action reached the president’s desk since the War Powers Resolution was passed in 1973.

Alex Moe and Josh Lederman contributed.



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