WASHINGTON — The Senate easily confirmed Christopher Wray to lead the FBI on Tuesday, approving President Donald Trump’s nominee to replace fired Director James B. Comey.

The vote, 95-5, was a reflection of the Senate’s confidence in Wray’s credentials as a Yale-educated former Justice Department official and as a top cop who vowed to maintain the bureau’s independence, resisting interference even from the president.

Trump abruptly fired Comey in May, and his shifting reasons for the sudden dismissal only deepened questions of possible cooperation between the president’s campaign and Russian interference in the 2016 election. The president eventually admitted that he fired Comey because he was displeased with the Russia probe.

Wray started his work in Washington during the George W. Bush administration after serving as a federal prosecutor in Georgia. He rose to become an assistant attorney general.

Later, in private practice he represented New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie amid the “Bridgegate” scandal that led to charges against several of the governor’s top aides.

—Tribune Washington Bureau


Poll shows Kid Rock as Republican front-runner for Michigan Senate seat

WASHINGTON — Kid Rock, the rock-rapper and outspoken Donald Trump supporter, tops the field Republican field in a new Michigan Senate poll, but trails Democratic Sen. Debbie Stabenow.

Considering Rock, or Robert Ritchie as he was born, hasn’t yet declared his candidacy in the race, Stabenow’s 8-point lead in a hypothetical matchup will likely add fuel to his possible candidacy. In a hypothetical Republican primary matchup, he polled at 33 percent support compared with his closest rival, businessman and veteran John James, who had 16 percent.

The poll showed 49 percent of likely Michigan voters think Trump is doing an “excellent” or “pretty good” job as president, a much more positive assessment than Trump’s national approval numbers, currently under 40 percent.

Ritchie has been an ardent Trump supporter since he switched support from Ben Carson when Trump won the Republican presidential nomination. Since then he began selling pro-Trump merchandise in his online store, including T-shirts with the phrase “God, Guns & Trump.” He supported Mitt Romney in the 2012 presidential election.

Despite not having officially announced his run, Ritchie is also selling “Kid Rock for Senate 2018” shirts, hats, bumper stickers and yard signs.

—CQ Roll Call


Florida officials confirm year’s first case of sexually transmitted Zika

ORLANDO, Fla. — Florida health officials have confirmed a case of sexually transmitted Zika in Pinellas County, a first for the state in 2017.

The infected individual had no history of travel but the person’s sexual partner had recently traveled to Cuba and was sick with symptoms of Zika, health officials said. Both individuals tested positive for Zika.

Mosquito control has taken appropriate actions to reduce the mosquito population in that area, according to the state.

Health officials said that there have been no locally acquired Zika cases in Florida via infected mosquitoes so far this year.

“There is no evidence of transmission through mosquitoes taking place anywhere in Florida,” the state health department stated in a news release, in underlined and bold letters.

In 2016, Florida was the first state in the country to confirm a locally acquired Zika case. This year, the first local case in the nation was confirmed in Texas in July.

—Orlando Sentinel


Sharif loyalist wins vote for interim Pakistan prime minister

ISLAMABAD — Pakistani lawmakers chose Shahid Khaqan Abbasi as the interim prime minister to replace deposed leader Nawaz Sharif, settling political uncertainty caused by a Supreme Court decision last week that forced the former premier to resign.

Abbasi, 58, who is considered a die-hard Sharif loyalist after serving in his Cabinet as the petroleum minister, won 221 votes out of 305 polled by members of the 342-seat National Assembly, according to Speaker Ayaz Sadiq. His closest rival, Naveed Qamar, who was backed by the opposition Pakistan Peoples Party, got 47 votes in Tuesday’s ballot.

Though Abbasi said on Monday he’ll continue Sharif’s policies, he will quit in about 45 days to make way for Shehbaz Sharif, the younger brother of the ex-premier, according to a plan announced over the weekend by the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz party. The younger Sharif, who needs to quit his current post of chief minister of Punjab province and win an election to enter the National Assembly, will ensure the government completes its five-year term in June. The by-election on the seat left vacant after Sharif’s disqualification will be held on Sept. 17, according to the country’s election commission.

—Bloomberg News


Suicide bombing in western Afghan mosque kills at least 29 people

KABUL, Afghanistan — A suicide bombing late Tuesday evening inside a Shiite mosque left at least 29 people dead in the western Afghan province of Herat, officials said.

“Another 64 people were wounded,” governor spokesman Jailani Farhad told dpa.

The suicide bomber entered Jawadia mosque and detonated explosives.

“The mosque was full of people when the incident happened,” Abdul Ahad Walizada, spokesman for Herat police, told dpa.

“According to eyewitness accounts, the suicide bomber first opened fire on those who were praying then detonated his explosives.”

Denying involvement in the attack, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said via his Twitter account: “Bomb blast in Jawadiyah mosque in #Herat has nothing to do with the Mujahidin.”

The Islamic State extremist militia has been attacking Shiite mosques and gatherings regularly in the past months, despite being heavily targeted by U.S. and Afghan forces.

The security situation in Afghanistan has been worsening rapidly since the end of the NATO mission in 2014.