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Michele Kelemen

Shortly before he left office in January, President Obama did something that surprised many human rights activists. He suspended some trade sanctions on Sudan, a government notorious for human rights abuses and which the U.S. once accused of carrying out a genocide. The Trump administration has to decide by July 12 whether to stick with this approach.

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Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko met with President Trump at the White House on Tuesday, in what Poroshenko had earlier described as part of a "substantial visit" and the White House called a "drop-in."

Ukraine is concerned about what the Trump administration's efforts to improve relations with Russia might mean for its own relationship with Washington.

The White House didn't exactly roll out the red carpet for the Ukrainian leader — he dropped in to the Oval Office to see Trump following a meeting with Vice President Pence.

After Otto Warmbier, detained for more than a year in North Korea, returned home this week in a coma, the Trump administration is looking into ways to stop other Americans from going there.

The State Department currently warns Americans against travel to that country, but Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has signaled he may go further.

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Secretary of State Rex Tillerson says he wants flexibility as he tries to improve ties with Russia. U.S. lawmakers, however, are going in another direction.

The Senate has overwhelmingly passed a bill to impose new sanctions on Russia and to make sure the Trump administration doesn't change course without congressional buy-in.

A bipartisan group of senators has taken a step to limit the Trump administration's ability to ease sanctions on Russia, adding an amendment to a widely supported Iran sanctions bill to make sure Congress has a say in future Russia policy. The Senate is considering the bill this week.

As Secretary of State Rex Tillerson tries to heal a deep rift among Arab partners, President Trump seems to be upping the ante. Trump says he consulted with Saudi Arabia and others on a recent trip to Riyadh and decided to call out Qatar for its "very high level" of terror financing.

President Trump's Twitter account may be popular among his fans at home, but his latest missives are complicating the work of American diplomats overseas. As some diplomats push back, State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert cautions that they "are expected to use their judgment."

Consider Trump's personal attack on London's mayor, Sadiq Khan, after Saturday night's deadly terrorist attack in the British capital.

President Trump took to Twitter on Monday to complain about Democratic "OBSTRUCTIONISTS," blaming the Senate for being slow to approve his nominees, including his ambassadors.

A spokesman for the ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee threw it right back, saying Trump should be spending less time on Twitter and more time actually filling those positions.

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Beth Herman says she's praying a lot these days for her brother, who was detained by Turkish authorities last October and has been in prison since December.

Andrew Brunson is an evangelical Presbyterian pastor from North Carolina who has lived in Turkey for more than two decades, Herman says, serving as the pastor of the Izmir Resurrection Church.

"He's there because he loves Turkey and the people of Turkey," Herman says.

Brunson, 48, was charged with being part of an armed terrorist group, something Herman and his other supporters say is "totally false."

At the State Department on Wednesday, officials from 68 countries and organizations gathered for a two-day summit to coordinate plans to fight ISIS. This was the first full meeting of the Global Coalition on the Defeat of ISIS since 2014, and a chance for the Trump administration to flesh out what it wants to do differently.

So far, it is mainly stepping up a fight that the Obama administration put in motion.

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The Trump administration has cleared out the top echelons at the State Department. The latest departures include the assistant secretaries of state for Asia and Africa, who left this week.

Foreign governments are noticing all the vacancies — and so is Congress.

"We've had a lot of hearings and we've not had any Trump presentations at any of those hearings," said Maryland Sen. Ben Cardin, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. "There's no one to speak on behalf of the Trump administration."

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Russia's ambassador to the United States, Sergey Kislyak, is not known to seek the limelight. He's a mild-mannered diplomat and an arms control expert who came to Washington as ambassador in 2008. But he has been in the news a lot of late, as Trump administration contacts with him come under scrutiny.

One of the very first bills President Trump signed into law this month killed a Securities and Exchange Commission rule meant to promote transparency in countries riddled with corruption. Trump said getting rid of the rule, which required oil, gas and mining companies to disclose overseas royalties and other payments, would bring back jobs and save extraction companies many hours of paperwork and, potentially, hundreds of millions of dollars.

Rex Tillerson is heading on his second foreign trip as secretary of state later this week. But as in his visit last week to Germany, Tillerson is expected to try to keep a low profile when he travels to Mexico on Wednesday.

Tillerson has said very little in public since taking office. There has been no State Department briefing since the Trump administration began a month ago.

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This is a new era for U.S. relations with the European Union.

Gone are the days when the U.S. was more supportive of European integration than some Europeans are. The European Union's top diplomat, Federica Mogherini, is expecting a more businesslike, "transactional" approach with President Donald Trump, who has been skeptical of the EU and backs the British exit plan.

"We do not interfere in U.S. politics ... and Europeans expect that America does not interfere in European politics," Mogherini told reporters at the end of her trip to Washington.

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When Secretary of State Rex Tillerson arrived at the State Department for his first day on the job, he made a point of visiting two walls in the entryway that pay tribute to fallen foreign service personnel.

"They died in service of causes far greater than themselves," Tillerson told the hundreds of employees who packed the C Street lobby at Foggy Bottom. "As we move forward in a new era, it is important to honor the sacrifices of those who have come before us, and reflect on the legacy that we inherit."

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