Defense Secy. Esper, German counterpart discuss fight against ISIS

U.S. Secretary for Defense Mark Esper speaks during a press conference on the first day of the Munich Security Conference in Munich, Germany, Friday, Feb. 14, 2020. (AP Photo/Jens Meyer)b

OAN Newsroom
UPDATED 1:55 PM PT — Friday, February 14, 2020

Defense Secretary Mark Esper met with global officials in Germany this week to discuss progress in the fight against ISIS. During Friday’s press briefing in Munich, Esper said the U.S. is determined to defeat the terror group.

“We stand united with our partners and allies in the D-ISIS coalition,” he said. “Today in Munich, I reaffirmed our unwavering commitment to advancing global peace and security, and to the lasting defeat of ISIS.”

He also discussed the importance of the commitment made by 82 countries, who have joined the coalition in pursuit of taking down the caliphate.

The secretary emphasized that even though ISIS has been weakened, now is not the right time to let up.

“Looking ahead, it is imperative that we maintain unrelenting pressure on ISIS in Iraq and Syria, just as we help prepare the Iraqis to do so for the long term,” stated Esper. “Together we have achieved tremendous success against ISIS, destroying its physical caliphate and liberating millions from its barbaric rule.”

Esper’s comments came as global leaders met at the Munich Security Conference, where they are discussing containment of the coronavirus and tensions in the Middle East.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, center, shakes hands with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, right, as US Secretary of Defense Mark Esper watches during the 56th Munich Security Conference (MSC) in Munich, southern Germany, on Friday, Feb. 14, 2020. The 2020 edition of the Munich Security Conference (MSC) takes place from Feb. 14 to 16. (Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/Pool photo via AP)

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NATO defense ministers discuss Russia’s latest missile deployment, arms race

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, second right, meets with U.S. Secretary for Defense Mark Esper, second left, prior to a meeting of NATO defense ministers at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2020. (AP Photo/Virginia Mayo, Pool)

OAN Newsroom
UPDATED 1:55 PM PT — Thursday, February 13, 2020

NATO defense ministers and Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg are discussing Russia’s recent deployment of advanced cruise missiles. During the second day of their meeting in Brussels, NATO officials agreed to maintain deterrence strategies against the Kremlin while also seeking to strengthen dialogue.

“We have seen an unprecedented increase in defense spending across Europe and North America, with an extra $400 billion invested by the end of 2024,” said Stoltenberg. “This is making NATO stronger, but we need to keep up the momentum to keep our nations safe in a more unpredictable world.”

He said NATO will not mirror the Kremlin’s actions by deploying more weapons. He emphasized that both sides must avoid provocations.

He went on to say the latest military build-up increases the risk of miscalculation and misunderstanding, which could potentially spark a new conflict in Europe.

“We do whatever we can to prevent a new arms race,” stated Stoltenberg. “A new arms race, especially with nuclear weapons, is not good.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a ceremony to receive credentials from newly appointed foreign ambassadors to Russia in Kremlin, in Moscow, Russia, Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2020. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko, Pool)

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Trump defense team: Acquittal is the only appropriate result of Impeachment trial

President Donald Trump walks to a meeting in the Oval Office of the White House with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Monday, Jan. 27, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)

OAN Newsroom
UPDATED 2:15 PM PT — Monday, February 3, 2020

President Trump is raising questions about the so-called whistleblower as well as House impeachment manager Adam Schiff. In a tweet Monday, the president blasted Schiff for making up details about his conversation with the president of Ukraine.

This comes after Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C) said in an interview over the weekend that the whistleblower would be called before the Senate Intelligence Committee after the impeachment trial.

Meanwhile, House managers and the Trump defense team delivered closing arguments on the Senate floor Monday. Lead Democrat manager Schiff urged lawmakers in the upper chamber to convict and remove the president from office based on their weeks-long case.

However, the president’s defense gave their rebuttal to the Democrat arguments. They said the House majority is looking for an excuse to nullify the votes of millions of Americans.

The closing statements came ahead of Tuesday’s last debate over the articles of impeachment before Wednesday’s vote to either convict or acquit President Trump.

RELATED: Republican senators lay groundwork for bringing impeachment trial to a close

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Pentagon requests Iraqi government to ramp up air defense at U.S. facilities to deter future attacks

Secretary of Defense Mark Esper speaks during a news conference at the Pentagon in Washington, Monday, Jan. 27, 2020, with French Minister of Armed Forces Florence Parly, (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)

OAN Newsroom
UPDATED 7:57 AM PT — Friday, January 31, 2020

U.S. military officials are planning to ramp-up air defense infrastructure at American facilities in Iraq to contain Iran’s Ayatollah regime.

While speaking at the Pentagon Thursday, Defense Secretary Mark Esper said the U.S. could move additional Patriot missiles to Iraq in an effort to repel possible Iranian attacks in the future. Esper pointed out that the U.S. would require permission from the Iraqi government to do that.

This comes after at least 50 American troops were wounded when 11 Iranian missiles hit the Ain al-Asad air base earlier this month. That facility did not have adequate air defenses at the time of the attack.

“We’re working with the Iraqi government in order to do exactly what you just suggested,” stated Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff. ” In terms of if there was a Patriot battalion at al-Asad or Irbil or whatever, could they have shot down these TBMs? That’s what they’re designed to do.”

FILE – In this Jan. 13, 2020 file photo, Iranian bombing caused a crater at Ain al-Asad air base in Anbar, Iraq. Ain al-Asad air base was struck by a barrage of Iranian missiles, in retaliation for the U.S. drone strike that killed atop Iranian commander, Gen. Qassem Soleimani. (AP Photo/Ali Abdul Hassan)

U.S. troops wounded in the Iranian attack suffered a mild form of traumatic brain injury. The Pentagon has already made the request to Baghdad to bring more missiles into Iraq.

RELATED: Baghdad Embassy attack evidence Of Iran’s power In Iraq

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Defense Dept. to house 200 Americans at Calif. military base after evacuation from China

An airplane carrying U.S. citizens being evacuated from Wuhan, China, lands at March Air Reserve Base in Riverside, Calif. Jan. 29, 2020. (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu)

OAN Newsroom
UPDATED 2:22 PM PT — Wednesday, January 29, 2020

The Department of Defense said it’s ready to temporarily house more than 200 Americans, who were evacuated from the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak in China. Evacuees, including State Department personnel and their families, landed at March Air Reserve Base in southern California on Wednesday.

“The whole plane erupted into cheers when the crew welcomed them back to the United States. It’s really easy for us to focus on fears, but at the end of this day, this mission, it was about people. It was about American citizens, some of whom were working to serve our country. It was about families (and) it was about helping each other in this time of need.” – Dr. Anne Zink, Alaskan Chief Medical Officer

Officials from the Health and Human Services Department will reportedly be at the base to observe and provide care for the evacuees. Before arriving in California, passengers were screened in Alaska.

“The crew never got off in China, and it was never in any sort of interaction with the passengers itself,” said Dr. Zink. “We have been working closely with the CDC and they felt that they were at zero risk.”

Moving forward, DOD officials said any person who shows symptoms will be transported to a local civilian hospital.

Personnel in protective clothing unload luggages from the airplane carrying U.S. citizens being evacuated from Wuhan, China, at March Air Reserve Base in Riverside, Calif. Jan. 29, 2020. (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu)

Earlier that same day, France confirmed its fourth case of the new virus. An elderly Chinese man was hospitalized on Wednesday after showing symptoms of the illness. Officials said the man traveled from the Hubei province in Wuhan, China, where the coronavirus outbreak is centered.

This comes as France is preparing to evacuate more than 500 of its citizens from the region. The country is sending the first of several planes to the region on Thursday.

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President Trump’s defense team set up their final defense in the impeachment trial

In this image from video, White House deputy counsel Patrick Philbin speaks during the impeachment trial against President Donald Trump in the Senate at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, Tuesday, Jan. 28, 2020. (Senate Television via AP)

OAN Newsroom
UPDATED 6:54 AM PT — Tuesday, January 29, 2020

President Trump’s impeachment team set up their final defense in the impeachment trial. The defense team wrapped up their opening arguments Tuesday, giving their last uninterrupted remarks against the pair of articles. They emphasized the articles don’t hold merit and don’t match what the framers of the Constitution envisioned.

“And what we see in the House managers charges and their definition of abuse of power is exactly antithetical to the framers approach because their very premise for their abuse of power charge is that it is entirely based on subjective motive, not object of standards, not predefined offenses,” explained White House deputy counsel Patrick Philbin.

The defense team also stressed the political gravity of removing the president under these charges, pointing out that it would set a “dangerous” precedent. They said it would overturn the last election as well as interfere with the upcoming 2020 election.

“What they are asking you to do is to throw out a successful president on the eve of an election with no basis and in violation of the Constitution,” said White House counsel Pat Cipollone. “It would dangerously change our country and weaken, weaken forever, all of our democratic institutions.”

In this image from video, White House counsel Pat Cipollone speaks during the impeachment trial against President Donald Trump in the Senate at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, Tuesday, Jan. 28, 2020. (Senate Television via AP)

The president’s team also tackled concerns coming from former National Security Advisor John Bolton. In his new book, Bolton alleges President Trump explicitly told him he would withdraw aid from Ukraine if they didn’t investigate former Vice President Joe Biden. The team responded to the allegations by quoting the president himself who said the conversation never took place. Attorney Jay Sekulow read the follow response:

“I never told John Bolton that the aid to Ukraine was tied to investigations into Democrats, including the Bidens. In fact, he never complained about this at the time of his very public termination. If John Bolton said this, it was only to sell a book.”

Officials are expected to vote Friday on whether to call witnesses or produce more documents.

RELATED: Sen. Cruz says Hunter Biden would be most important witness

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President Trump’s defense team to resume arguments

FILE – In this Dec. 2, 2019, file photo, attorney Alan Dershowitz talks to the press outside federal court, in New York. (AP Photo/Richard Drew, File)

OAN Newsroom
UPDATED 9:01 AM PT — Monday, January 27, 2020

President Trump’s defense team is gearing up to continue attacking the case made by the impeachment managers last week. On Monday, the president’s legal team will address the Senate again during their second day of arguments.

This week, Harvard Law professor Alan Dershowitz has planned to argue that even if the president committed the actions the Democrats are alleging, it doesn’t rise to the level of an impeachable offense.

On Saturday, the team spent two-hours on its opening case for why President Trump shouldn’t be removed from office. They cited lead manager Adam Schiff’s lack of credibility and claimed the Democrats are trying to interfere with the 2020 presidential election. President Trump has echoed these sentiments.

President Donald Trump’s personal attorney Jay Sekulow gestures while speaking to the media during a break in the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, Thursday, Jan. 23, 2020, on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/ Jacquelyn Martin)

“This case is really not about presidential wrongdoing, this entire impeachment process is about the House manager’s insistence that they are able to read everybody’s thoughts,” said Jay Sekulow, attorney for President Trump. “They can read everybody’s intention, even when the principal speakers, the witnesses themselves, insist that those interpretations are wrong.”

Former Clinton special prosecutor Ken Starr is also expected to speak at the trial to argue against the article of obstruction of Congress.

RELATED: Rep. Meadows says the Impeachment sham is getting old

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Rep. Jordan: Finally get to hear facts, truth from President Trump’s defense team

Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, with Rep. Mike Johnson, R-La., left, and Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., speaks to reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington, Saturday, Jan. 25, 2020. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

OAN Newsroom
UPDATED 11:58 AM PT — Saturday, January 25, 2020

Rep. Jim Jordan is saying the American people will finally get to hear the facts and truth now that the Democrats’ opening statements are over.

“Two hours of truth beats over 20 hours of presumptions, assumptions and hearsay,” said Jordan.

On Sunday, the lawmaker took a shot at the Democrats’ case. He said they relied heavily on Ambassador Gordon Sondland’s testimony, which they referred to twice as much as any other witness account.

Jordan stated Sondland had no evidence to back any of his claims and admitted he was just presuming. He also pointed out the ambassador had to revise his testimony to clarify several of his statements.

U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland gives his opening statement as he testifies before the House Intelligence Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Nov. 20, 2019, during a public impeachment hearing of President Donald Trump’s efforts to tie U.S. aid for Ukraine to investigations of his political opponents. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

The lawmaker went on to say President Trump’s defense team has a “bulletproof” case because the facts are on their side.

“As we’ve said all along, the president’s case is so strong on constitutional grounds, so strong on the fact that he was denied due process in the House, and most importantly, those four facts that are on his side will never change,” he said.

On Friday, Jordan said the Senate will work to end the trial as soon as possible so Congress can get back to working for the American people.

READ MORE: President Trump Slams Top Democrat Lawmakers As Defense Team Delivers Opening Arguments In Impeachment Trial

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President Trump slams top Democrat lawmakers as defense team delivers opening arguments in impeachment trial

President Donald Trump speaks to a bipartisan group of the nation’s mayors in the East Room of the White House, Friday, Jan. 24, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

OAN Newsroom
UPDATED 10:05 AM PT — Saturday, January 25, 2020

President Trump blasted top congressional Democrats as his defense team delivered opening remarks in Saturday’s impeachment hearing. In a tweet, the president said, “Our case against lyin’, cheatin’, liddle’ Adam ‘Shifty’ Schiff, Cryin’ Chuck Schumer, Nervous Nancy Pelosi…and the entire radical left starts today.”

He encouraged his followers to catch the trial on One America News. He also joked they could tune in to “Fake News CNN” or “Fake News MSDNC.”

House Democrats have argued the president abused his position by soliciting help from foreign country to investigate a political opponent. President Trump has long denied wrongdoing and said he’s confident in his case against them. Prior to the proceedings, he advised his legal team to “just be honest, just tell the truth.”

In this image from video, White House deputy counsel Patrick Philbin speaks during the impeachment trial against Trump in the Senate at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, Saturday, Jan. 25, 2020. (Senate Television via AP)

President Trump’s defense team is expected to lay out a case against allegations of abuse of power by the president. Among those set to speak are White House Counselor Pat Cipollone, Clinton impeachment investigator Ken Starr and attorney Jay Sekulow.

On Saturday, Cipollone slammed the Democrat-led effort as a push to redo the 2016 presidential election. He said Democrats do not have enough evidence to remove President Trump from office and added the Senate cannot make a decision without merit.

“They’re asking you to tear up all of the ballots across this country, on your own initiative, and take that decision away from the American people,” he said. “I don’t think they spent one minute of their 24 hours talking to you about the consequences of that.”

In this image from video, White House counsel Pat Cipollone speaks during the impeachment trial against President Donald Trump in the Senate at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, Saturday, Jan. 25, 2020. (Senate Television via AP)

Sekulow said the team intends to show there is overwhelming evidence the president did nothing wrong. During Saturday’s proceedings, the attorney said disagreeing with the President Trump’s decisions on foreign policy, or whose advice he is going to take, is in “no way” an impeachable offense.

He also accused House impeachment managers of trying to re-litigate the Mueller probe. He suggested they are making false inferences about others’ intentions.

“This case is really not about presidential wrongdoing. This entire impeachment process is about the House managers’ insistence that they are able to read everybody’s thoughts. They can read everybody’s intention, even when the principal speakers (and) the witnesses themselves insist that those interpretations are wrong.” – Jay Sekulow, Counsel for President Trump

The attorney also pointed out the president has placed holds on aid a number of times to foreign countries.

In this image from video, personal attorney to President Donald Trump, Jay Sekulow, speaks during the impeachment trial against Trump in the Senate at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, Saturday, Jan. 25, 2020. (Senate Television via AP)

Saturday marked the fifth day of the Senate impeachment trial. The legal team is set to argue for three days and will reportedly focus on Joe Biden’s efforts to get Ukraine’s former top prosecutor dismissed on corruption concerns.

RELATED: President Trump’s Legal Team Could Opt For Shorter Defense & Sen. Ernst Blasts Democrats Over Double Standards When It Comes To Ukraine Aid

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President Trump’s legal team could opt for shorter defense

President Donald Trump’s personal attorney Jay Sekulow speaks to the media during a break in the impeachment trial of President Donald, Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2020, on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/ Jacquelyn Martin)

OAN Newsroom
UPDATED 1:31 PM PT — Friday, January 24, 2020

The president’s legal team is preparing to start its opening arguments on Saturday. The defense is pushing ahead with the plan, despite the potential for further declining viewership, and may opt for a much shorter defense strategy.

On Thursday, attorney Jay Sekulow told reporters the president’s legal team will present a vigorous defense of the facts and a rebuttal of the Democrats’ claims. He also said the defense team isn’t planning on running out the clock.

“We’re going to use a sufficient amount of time to defend our case and point out the inconsistencies of their case. We’re not going to try to run the clock out. We’re going to do what our legal team thinks is appropriate to present our case.” – Jay Sekulow, Counsel for President Trump

He went on to say the president’s defense will make a decision on the time frame and depth of their arguments after the Democrats finish theirs.

President Donald Trump’s personal attorney Jay Sekulow, left, walks with White House Counsel Pat Cipollone, right, as they arrive at the Capitol in Washington during the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, Friday, Jan. 24, 2020. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

Earlier this week, Sekulow said Democrats are failing to present a coherent impeachment case. While speaking to reporters on Wednesday, the attorney said Democrats have tried to deny the president his constitutional rights by dismissing executive privilege.

He stressed executive privilege is protected by Supreme Court decisions and added any attack against it amounts to an attack on the U.S. Constitution.

RELATED: House Prosecutors Rehash Old Arguments On Second Day Of Senate Trial, Cry Corruption

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Comey admits error in defense of FBI’s FISA process after IG report: ‘He was right, I was wrong’

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Former FBI Director James Comey admitted on "Fox News Sunday" that the recently released Justice Department Inspector General’s report on the launch of the FBI’s Russia investigation and their use of the surveillance process showed that he was "overconfident" when he defended his former agency's use of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).

This comes days after IG Michael Horowitz’s report and testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee detailed concerns that included 17 “significant errors and omissions” by the FBI’s investigative team when applying for a FISA warrant to monitor former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page. Horowitz referred “the entire chain of command” to the FBI and DOJ for “how to assess and address their performance failures” during the probe, which was conducted while Comey was in charge.

"He's right, I was wrong," Comey said about how the FBI used the FISA process, adding, "I was overconfident as director in our procedures."

IG HOROWITZ RIPS FBI 'FAILURE IN RUSSIA PROBE, SAYS NOBODY VINDICATED BY REPORT

Horowitz did make it clear that he believes the FBI’s investigation of Russian election interference and possible connections with the Trump campaign was properly initiated, but he did note that this is based on a “low threshold.” He also concluded that there was no testimonial or documentary evidence to show that the investigation started due to any political bias, but said the issue of bias “gets murkier” when it comes to the various issues with the FISA process.

That process included the reliance on information gathered by former British spy Christopher Steele as part of opposition research conducted by Fusion GPS for the Democratic National Committee and Clinton campaign. Horowitz’s report stated that government attorneys were hesitant to approve a FISA warrant application until they relied on unverified information from Steele. That information also was used in subsequent renewals for the FISA warrant.

Comey downplayed the role of Steel's information in obtaining the FISA warrant against Page, claiming Sunday that it was "not a huge part of the presentation to the court," although recognizing that "it was the one that convinced the lawyers" to move forward.

He claimed he had not misstated the relevance of Steele's information, but said "if I was then I'm sorry that I did that."

In addition to not properly ensuring that the evidence they presented was accurate, the FBI was found to have omitted exculpatory information about Page that could have impacted the judge’s decision in granting the FISA warrant. Included in this was an instance where an attorney was found to have altered an email to say that Page had not been a CIA source, when in fact he had been working with them. That information would have justified Page’s contacts with Russia, and its omission ultimately led to the FBI renewing the FISA warrant against Page.

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In an April 2018 interview with MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow, Comey claimed that the FISA process is “incredibly rigorous” and claimed that Republicans’ criticism of the Page FISA warrant was “a political deal” that was not “based in substance or law.”

Following the report’s release, Comey essentially claimed vindication, declaring in the wake of the report that the criticism of the bureau's actions "was all lies.” When asked about vindication at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, the inspector general bluntly replied, "I think the activities we found here don’t vindicate anybody who touched this FISA."

On Sunday, Comey claimed that the FBI did not intentionally commit wrongdoing, but described the FBI's failures as "real sloppiness." He said that "in general" he was unaware of "the particulars of the investigation" when it was going on, but said that as the person at the head of the FBI at the time, it still falls on him.

"I was responsible for this."

Fox News’ Brooke Singman contributed to this report.

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House approves defense bill authorizing Space Force, 12 weeks of paid family leave for feds

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The Democrat-controlled House passed a $738 billion Pentagon defense package on Wednesday that allocated 12 weeks of paid parental leave for federal employees and authorized the creation of President Trump's sought-after "Space Force."

The measure was passed by a final vote of 377 to 48 following several weeks of negotiation between the House and Senate, The Associated Press reported.

Certain House Democrats reportedly sought a more liberal bill that would have blocked Trump from using Pentagon funds to fulfill his campaign promise of a southern border wall. Those same members also expressed concerns about the rising deficit and national debt.

Congressional Republicans compromised on parental leave and were able to gain authorization for the building of Trump's Space Force, which would consolidate existing personnel under a new branch of the Air Force. The bill also includes a 3.1 percent military pay raise and a repeal of the widow's tax on military death benefits.

FEDERAL JUDGE BLOCKS TRUMP PLAN TO SPEND MILLIONS IN MILITARY FUNDS ON BORDER WALL CONSTRUCTION

House Armed Services Committee (HASC) Chairman Adam Smith, D-Wash., declared victory for Democrats and told The Associated Press that he had proudly presided over an expansion of America's welfare state.

"I was able to get them to enthusiastically support the largest expansion of the social welfare state since the Affordable Care Act — the widow's tax and paid parental leave," Smith said.

"That was an enormous accomplishment, OK? I got them to do things that they never wanted to do," he added.

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Despite not receiving the $7.2 billion he sought for the construction of his southern border wall, President Trump is expected to sign the measure when it passes the Senate sometime next week.

The Associated Press contributed to this report

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