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Newsline: House Democrats weigh action against U.S. and Israel ambassadors over banned visit

Senior Democratic members of Congress are considering action against top emissaries of the Israeli government and the Trump administration for their roles in Israel’s decision to bar two House members from entering the country. About a dozen lawmakers, including senior Jewish members, began discussions on Friday morning over ways to communicate a “deep lack of confidence and trust” in Israel’s ambassador to Washington, Ron Dermer, and the U.S. ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, according to two sources familiar with the discussions. (https://www.mcclatchydc.com/news/politics-government/white-house/article234095947.html) The group is weighing issuing a statement of no confidence in Dermer and opening an inspector general investigation into Friedman’s conduct, the sources said. Israel banned Reps. Rashida Tlaib of Michigan and Ilhan Omar of Minnesota from a planned visit to Israel and the West Bank this weekend, provoking outrage among Democrats and several Republicans, including some who have harshly criticized the two lawmakers on policy grounds. “We are reviewing all of our options,” a senior congressional source told McClatchy. “With Dermer, the issue is that there already was a severe lack of trust. But now there is a severe lack of confidence. It is completely unclear that he represents his government given he has made promises that he has not kept and wasn’t clear if he ever had any chance of keeping.”


Newsline: Man wearing bulletproof vest taken into custody outside Israeli Embassy in D.C.

A man wearing a bulletproof vest and armed with a knife was taken into custody Friday morning outside the Embassy of Israel in Washington, according to a law enforcement official. Secret Service Uniformed Division officers responded to a report of a suspicious person and vehicle near the embassy at around 8 a.m., the agency said in a statement. (https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/man-wearing-bulletproof-vest-taken-custody-outside-israeli-embassy-d-n1043206) The man, who has not been identified, told Secret Service he had a knife on him and had left his car running nearby, the law enforcement official said. Police checked the man’s vehicle and found a dog inside and one bullet, but no weapon. The vehicle was eventually cleared. The man surrendered his knife to authorities. According to the law enforcement official, the man apparently did not threaten anyone and did not brandish the knife. It’s also believed that he did not approach an embassy security checkpoint. The man will most likely undergo a psychiatric evaluation. Roads near the embassy were closed Friday morning. The Secret Service said closures “will be lifted at the conclusion of the investigation.”

Newsline: Trump mulling North Korea envoy to be next ambassador to Moscow

The White House is discussing whether to replace Jon Huntsman, the outgoing US ambassador to Moscow, with Steve Biegun, the special representative for North Korea, two administration officials tell CNN. (https://edition.cnn.com/2019/08/13/politics/us-ambassador-moscow-steve-biegun/index.html) Huntsman is set to step down in October after two years, the State Department announced last week, after reports that the former diplomat was moving back to Utah, perhaps to run for governor, a role he held from 2005 to 2009. Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said Wednesday that President Donald Trump told President Vladimir Putin during a phone call last month that a new ambassador to Russia would be nominated “shortly.” The new ambassador will be taking up residence in Moscow at an especially challenging time, as US-Russia relations continue to be strained by Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, its annexation of Crimea and disruptive activities in eastern Ukraine. Concerns are also growing about a potential nuclear arms race, as both world powers have now abandoned nonproliferation treaties that kept their arsenals in check. Biegun is seen as a fit for the challenging diplomatic post because of his extensive experience on Russia and in Washington. He served on the National Security Council as its executive secretary under President George W. Bush and spent 14 years working as a congressional aide in both the House and the Senate.

Newsline: Son of Brazil’s President, on Track to Be Ambassador to U.S.

Prosecutors in Brazil have launched what looks like a last-ditch effort to block President Jair Bolsonaro from nominating his son Eduardo to be the country’s next ambassador to the United States. The public prosecutor’s office in Brasília, the capital, argued in court papers filed Monday that the younger Bolsonaro, a 35-year-old congressman and close aide to his father, is not qualified to fill the country’s most prestigious diplomatic post, having never served his country abroad. Before his election to Congress, the younger Bolsonaro had worked as a low-ranking federal police officer, and the only international experience listed on his resume is the year he spent on a work-exchange program in the U.S., which included a brief stint behind the cash register at a Popeyes, a fast food restaurant. (https://theintercept.com/2019/08/13/eduardo-bolsonaro-pro-trump-son-brazils-president-track-ambassador-u-s/) Despite the court challenge, momentum for the likely nomination of the president’s son — a climate change denier who also happens to be a huge fan of Donald Trump — has been building in recent weeks. As his son met with Brazilian senators to win their support for his nomination last week, Jair Bolsonaro revealed that the Trump administration had promised in writing that it would welcome Eduardo’s appointment. The week before, the idea was publicly endorsed by Trump himself, who called the younger Bolsonaro “outstanding.”

Newsline: Belgium puts embassy in the US up for sale

The building housing the Belgian Embassy in the United States has been put on the market, after the outgoing head of foreign affairs said the property was too large and was not being fully used. The decision to move diplomatic operations from the property was taken in 2016 by Didier Reynders, who is set to step down from his current position as Minister of Foreign Affairs. At the time, Reynders explained his decision by the fact that the current building, located near other international embassies like that of Finland and China, was too big and not being fully used, , according to HLN. The transaction would see Belgium’s diplomatic delegation in the U.S. move to two apartment blocks in as-of-yet undisclosed locations in Washington D.C.. According to the outlet, the asking price is for the building is currently of 25 million dollars, or around 22.3 million euros. (https://www.brusselstimes.com/belgium/63639/belgium-puts-embassy-in-the-us-up-for-sale/) The decision reportedly ruffled some feathers at the foreign ministry, with some raising concerns that selling off the building would harm Belgium’s image abroad, and others saying that maintenance costs for the apartments were actually higher.

Newsline: Journalists block US ambassador to Germany on Twitter

The United States ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell shared with his Twitter followers on Sunday that he had been blocked by prominent MSNBC and NBC News personalities Kristen Welker and Chuck Todd. “Chuck & Kristen love to ‘debate’ the issues,” Grenell said in a tweet with screen captures of the Twitter block warnings. Grenell, a long-time Republican, was previously the spokesman for the United Nations before being appointed as the U.S. Ambassador to Germany by President Trump in 2018. Kristen Welker and Chuck Todd have both been openly critical of Trump and his administration in their posts, often remarking that the president espouses racist and homophobic views. (https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/news/senior-msnbc-journalists-block-us-ambassador-to-germany-on-twitter) Grenell, the highest ranking openly gay official in the Republican Party, is often critical of perceived media bias on his Twitter account. Earlier this year, Grenell was tapped by the Trump administration to lead the effort to decriminalize homosexuality in nations where it is still illegal.

Newsline: South Korea’s new U.S. ambassador has called Trump “treacherous”

South Korean President Moon Jae-in on Friday appointed a new ambassador to the U.S. who has described Donald Trump as “treacherous,” only a month after Britain’s envoy to Washington had to step down over his criticisms of the U.S. president. (https://www.cbsnews.com/news/south-koreas-new-u-s-ambassador-has-called-trump-treacherous/) In the early 2000s, Lee Soo-hyuck, a career diplomat before becoming a ruling party lawmaker, was Seoul’s chief negotiator in the six-party talks on North Korea’s nuclear program. Now he will be responsible for guiding the relationship between Seoul and Washington, which have not always seen eye-to-eye over the nuclear-armed North or their own ties.