President Donald Trump's maiden international trip, a five-stop marathon across the Middle East and Europe, has long loomed as a crucial first test abroad for the chaos-courting president.
Trump, dogged by questions at home, makes first trip abroad
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump's maiden international trip, a five-stop marathon across the Middle East and Europe, has long loomed as a crucial first test abroad for the chaos-courting president.
That was before he fired his FBI director — and the chain reaction of scandal that followed.
Now, with the eyes of the world upon him, the president will embark on his big trip carrying the baggage of dire troubles at home. As he tries to calm allies worried about his "America First" message, he'll be followed by fallout from his firing of FBI Director James Comey and the appointment of a special counsel to probe the president's campaign ties with Russia.
"There has never been a president taking his first international trip being dogged by scandal like this," said Larry Sabato, head of the University of Virginia Center for Politics. "He's already a president viewed skeptically by much of the world. And while the pictures from the trip may be great, the White House can't change the headlines that will follow him wherever he goes."
US protests 'unprofessional' intercept by Chinese jets
BEIJING — The U.S. Air Force says a pair of Chinese fighter jets conducted an "unprofessional" intercept of an Air Force radiation sniffing surveillance plane over the East China Sea.
Pacific Air Forces spokeswoman Lt. Col. Lori Hodge said in a statement that the incident occurred Wednesday when a pair of Chinese SU-30 jets approached a WC-135 Constant Phoenix aircraft conducting a routine mission in international airspace in accordance with international law.
Hodge says the crew "characterized the intercept as unprofessional" and the issue is being addressed with China through "appropriate diplomatic and military channels."
China declared an air defense identification zone over a large section of the East China Sea in 2013, a move the U.S. called illegitimate and has refused to recognize.
Polls open in first Iran presidential vote since atomic deal
TEHRAN, Iran — Iranians began voting Friday in the country's first presidential election since its nuclear deal with world powers, as incumbent Hassan Rouhani faced a staunch challenge from a hard-line opponent over his outreach to the West.
The election is largely viewed as a referendum on the 68-year-old cleric's more moderate policies, which paved the way for the nuclear accord despite opposition from hard-liners.
Economic issues also will be on the minds of Iran's over 56 million eligible voters as they head to more than 63,000 polling places across the country. The average Iranian has yet to see the benefits of the deal, which saw Iran limit its contested nuclear program in exchange for the lifting of some sanctions.
Statue of General Lee coming down in New Orleans on Friday
The city of New Orleans will take down a prominent statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee on Friday, completing the southern city's removal of four Confederate-related statues that some called divisive.
Unlike the first three statues, city officials plan to take Lee's statue down during the day, with Mayor Mitch Landrieu planning a major speech Friday afternoon to explain his reasoning.
In a news release obtained by The Associated Press, the city said the statues were "erected decades after the Civil War to celebrate the 'Cult of the Lost Cause,' a movement recognized across the South as celebrating and promoting white supremacy."
The city plans to have extra security around the Lee statue Friday morning and will block off a one-block radius around Lee Circle to cars before and during the removal in anticipation of protests.