Here’s where things stand heading into Day 74 of the Trump administration:
If you wanted to hold a secret meeting to attempt to set up back-channel communications between President Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin, where would you go?
For officials from the United Arab Emirates, it was the Seychelles Islands in the Indian Ocean, a place touted for its privacy and remoteness.
Our colleagues broke news of the meeting on Monday afternoon. Here’s what they found out.
An American executive with ties to Trump and a Russian close to Putin held a secret meeting in a remote location in January, purportedly to establish an unofficial back-channel line of communication between Moscow and the incoming Trump White House.
The meeting took place between Erik Prince, founder of security firm Blackwater and brother of education secretary Betsy DeVos, and a Putin associate on the Seychelles Islands in the Indian Ocean around Jan. 11, nine days before Trump’s inauguration.
It was arranged by the United Arab Emirates, which agreed to broker the meeting to explore whether Russia could be persuaded to curtail its relationship with Iran, including in Syria, our colleagues wrote.
Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary, said Prince had no role in the transition.
The details of the story shed light on Prince’s unofficial yet connected role in Trump’s world. Read more at The Post.
DEMOCRATS SECURE VOTES FOR GORSUCH FILIBUSTER
The ball is now in Republicans’ court on the fight over Judge Neil Gorsuch, Trump’s nominee for the Supreme Court.
That’s because Democrats secured enough votes Monday to maintain a filibuster of Gorsuch’s nomination under pressure from the GOP. This makes it more likely that Republicans will pursue the so-called nuclear option and get rid of the filibuster for Supreme Court nominations altogether, guaranteeing Gorsuch’s confirmation.
In the background Monday, the Senate Judiciary Committee approved Gorsuch’s nomination on a party-line vote after hours of commentary by members for and against his confirmation. Among the members who spoke were Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Chris Coons (D-Del.), each of whom announced their support for the filibuster.
The drama will reach a climax this week, as Republicans vow to confirm Gorsuch by Friday, before Congress breaks for a recess.
TRUMP HOSTS EGYPT’S SISSI AT THE WHITE HOUSE
This wouldn’t have happened when Barack Obama was president.
Trump received Egyptian President Abdel Fatah al-Sissi at the White House on Monday for meetings about security and counterterrorism. The summit broke an Obama-era policy that denied invitations to Sissi over concerns about human rights violations in Egypt.
Trump and Sissi sought to demonstrate warmth, and Trump congratulated his guest on doing a “fantastic job” amid upheaval in Egypt.
“I just want to let everybody know, in case there was any doubt, that we are very much behind President al-Sissi,” Trump said.
KUSHNER TRIP CONFIRMATION VIOLATED PROTOCOL
Trump aides have landed in hot water since confirming to reporters that Jared Kusher, Trump’s son-in-law and adviser, was traveling to Iraq to assess the fight against the Islamic State.
The issue was the timing: the aides confirmed the story before Kushner landed, a security risk and breach of military protocol. Typically, military officials do not confirm government travel to global hot spots before the planes land.
Kushner was invited on the trip by Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
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