Posts Tagged ‘Barack Obama’

Trump slams Pelosi over comment about ‘immoral’ wall

January 22, 2019

With the Senate and House poised to vote on dueling bills to reopen the government this week, President Trump on Monday put the squeeze on Nancy Pelosi over her rejection of his latest proposal.

“Nancy Pelosi thinks that Walls are ‘immoral,’ why isn’t she requesting that we take down all of the existing Walls between the US and Mexico, even the new ones just built in San Diego at their very strong urging. Let millions of unchecked ‘strangers’ just flow into the US,” Trump tweeted about the House speaker.

The California Democrat has remained steadfast in her opposition to giving the president the $5.7 billion he has demanded, and Trump has been equally insistent that he won’t sign bills that would reopen the government until he gets his way.

Thirty-one days into the partial government shutdown, Democrats and Republicans appeared no closer to ending the impasse than when it began, with Trump lashing out at his opponents after they dismissed a plan he’d billed as a compromise.

Trump on Sunday branded Pelosi a “radical,” and said she was acting “irrationally.”

The president also tried to fend off criticism from the right, as conservative pundit Ann Coulter and others on the right accused him of embracing “amnesty” for immigrants in the country illegally.

Trump offered on Saturday to temporarily extend protections for young immigrants brought to the country illegally as children and those fleeing disaster zones in exchange for $5.7 billion for his border wall.

But Democrats said the three-year proposal didn’t go nearly far enough to protect the so-called Dreamers.

With hundreds of thousands of federal workers set to face another payless payday this week, the issue passed to the Senate, where Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has agreed to bring Trump’s proposal to the floor this week.

Democrats say there’s little chance the measure will reach the 60-vote threshold usually required to advance legislation in the Senate.

Republicans have a 53-47 majority, which means they need at least some Democrats to vote in favor.

What’s unclear is how McConnell will bring Trump’s plan forward — or when voting will begin.

Democrats continue to say that they will not negotiate with Trump until he ends the shutdown, the longest in American history, and the Democratic-controlled House planned to advance legislation this week that would reopen the government.


Politicians Never Lied Before Trump

January 12, 2019

Look past the circus of democracy: The U.S. is finally facing up to its border failures.

Give Mr. Trump and his voters credit: Our screwed-up immigration system has become harder for Congress and the public to ignore. Who knows? This might even be leading to a productive moment.




An aide to President Obama boasted to the New York Times about lying and manipulating the media to sell the administration’s Iran policy. Mr. Obama himself proselytized for his health-care plan by saying that, despite mandatory requirements that outlawed millions of individual health plans, you’d be able to keep your existing plan. Nor is there the slightest ambiguity now: His administration deliberately lied to the American people about the origins of the 2012 terrorist attack on a U.S. consulate in Libya.

We could go on. Candidate Obama, in a formal address, explained that Detroit’s financial troubles were due to its large, gas-guzzling cars. This was ridiculous. Businesses fail because of products that don’t make money, not the ones that do. But smart pols know which fibs the media will applaud.

Lying is the other mother’s milk of politics. Political leaders are always making less-than-optimal decisions. They act within political constraints. They are often less concerned with the thing itself than how it might affect the next election or progress on some unrelated priority.

All political speech is a means to an end. Getting their priorities enacted is more important to politicians than telling the truth about them. Whether their policies even have the desired effect often is less important than racking up a “win” and avoiding a “loss.”

All this applies to Donald Trump and his signature promise, the wall.

The wall is mostly symbolic in relation to the issue of illegal immigration. It’s more important now to the president’s standing with his voter base, and to his hope of re-election. To Mr. Trump and his opponents, the current shutdown fight is a test of power. The Democrats are looking for a chance to defeat the president for the sake of defeating him.

Yet one thing is also true: As with just about everything Donald Trump does, his blunt and often grossly hyperbolic statements and gestures are in the service of deeply conventional policy.

Any immigration system is cruel: It keeps out people who want to come in, such as the opportunity-seeking Central American families pouring north at the moment. Millions would come if they could. Jeh Johnson, Mr. Obama’s homeland security chief, frankly acknowledged last year, when the child detention furor was getting started, that in such circumstances “deterrence” is the only realistic strategy—that is, unless and until the U.S. wants to fix the domestic problems of every country that refugees and migrants are fleeing.

Deterrence is the symbolic function of the Trump wall. Deterrence has been the formal U.S. game plan since “Bill Clinton’s presidency,” goes a long, accusatory wail in New York magazine, which dwells on the suffering of migrants.

Except that it extends much further back. See the 1949 film noir “Border Incident” about people-smuggling: “It is this problem of human suffering and injustice about which you should know,” intones the narrator.

The deterrent effect comes not from the risk of apprehension by U.S. border agents but from the risk of dying in the desert or being robbed, exploited or murdered by trafficker gangs.

This is the force holding back the tide.

Unfortunately the world also hears our ambivalence. As the 1949 film dramatized, smugglers peddle their services based on their knowledge of the modes and moods of U.S. border security. Mr. Trump quickly learned what Presidents Obama and Bush knew: Our legal and humanitarian inhibitions about the handling of small children are a particular lacuna. Since a 2003 immigration reshuffle, the processing of minors has been dumped in the lap of the Health and Human Services Department. It soon developed a reputation for handing children back to traffickers and sweatshop operators purporting to be their legal guardians. Happily, Sens. Rob Portman and Tom Carper, leaders of a Homeland Security investigative subcommittee, have been trying to right the mess since before Donald Trump took office.

But everything Mr. Trump does and says must now be attacked by the media in a way that didn’t apply to the lies and evasions of his predecessors. Photos of caged immigrant children shot during the Obama administration must be attributed to Trump policy. Mr. Trump must be shown to be illegitimate.

This is the flip side of Mr. Trump’s own sorry failure to continue the mystifications that power uses to conceal its dilemmas. We have long tolerated illegal immigration by those who survive the rigors of people-smuggling or exploit loopholes by towing small children along. Given enough time, Mr. Trump might also be acculturated into the virtues of keeping quiet or directing attention elsewhere. He came into office as a person who imagined his advantage was bluntness, as if this made him the antidote to what came before (it did) and provided an actual solution to dilemmas (it didn’t).

Still, give Mr. Trump and his voters credit: Our screwed-up immigration system has become harder for Congress and the public to ignore. Who knows? This might even be leading to a productive moment.

Appeared in the January 12, 2019, print edition.

See also:

Lie of the Year 2013: ‘If you like your health care plan, you can keep it’


Trump uses Obama’s words in new argument for wall funding

Sarah Sanders Responds To New York Times Report on Trump Working for Russia

January 12, 2019

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders responded quickly to a Friday New York Times report claiming that President Donald Trump’s firing of former FBI Director James Comey led officials to begin investigating “whether he had been working on behalf of Russia against American interests.”

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders talks to reporters about the government shutdown outside the White House on Friday in Washington. (Evan Vucci/AP)

From the report:

Agents and senior F.B.I. officials had grown suspicious of Mr. Trump’s ties to Russia during the 2016 campaign but held off on opening an investigation into him, the people said, in part because they were uncertain how to proceed with an inquiry of such sensitivity and magnitude. But the president’s activities before and after Mr. Comey’s firing in May 2017, particularly two instances in which Mr. Trump tied the Comey dismissal to the Russia investigation, helped prompt the counterintelligence aspect of the inquiry, the people said.

The FBI eventually handed the inquiry over to Robert Mueller after his appointment, and it’s not clear whether or not the same avenue of investigation is being pursued by the special counsel, according to the Times.

In a statement to press, Sanders called Comey a “disgraced partisan hack” and former Deputy Director Andrew McCabe a “known liar.” (RELATED: White House Reinforces Counsel’s Office As Subpoenas, Mueller Report Loom)

“James Comey was fired because he’s a disgraced partisan hack, and his Deputy Andrew McCabe, who was in charge at the time, is a known liar fired by the FBI,” the statement reads. “Unlike President Obama, who let Russia and other foreign adversaries push America around, President Trump has actually been tough on Russia.”

Geoff Bennett


.@PressSec responds to @nytimes report that the FBI opened an inquiry into whether Trump was secretly working on behalf of Russia:

3,557 people are talking about this

The Times also reported that “some former law enforcement officials outside the investigation have questioned whether agents overstepped” in opening an investigation into that angle.

The report acknowledged that “no evidence” has come to light showing that the president had communication or acted upon the instruction of Russian officials. It also quoted Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani reasoning that since “nothing came out of” the report in a year and a half “that showed a breach of national security,” the investigation “found nothing.”

See also:



Democrats were for a border wall before they were against it

January 11, 2019

Barring some miraculous breakthrough, on Saturday the current government shutdown will become the longest in American history. But it has already hit another historic milestone: It is, by far and away, the stupidest government shutdown in American history.

In 2019, the federal government will spend a whopping $4.407 trillion. Yet Congress and the president are shutting down the government in a dispute between the $1.3 billion the Democrats have approved for border security and the $5.7 billion the president is demanding — the difference being precisely 0.0998 percent of the total federal budget. In Washington, that is considered a rounding error.

Worse, Democrats are doing it over a border wall strikingly similar to one that they almost unanimously supported just five years ago. While House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) now says that “a wall is an immorality,” back in 2013, she supported a bill that required the construction of 700 miles of border fencing. (Trump has called for a wall of “anywhere from 700 to 900 miles” long.) The bill negotiated by the Gang of Eight, which included current Democratic leaders Sens. Charles E. Schumer (N.Y.) and Richard J. Durbin (Ill.), declared that “not later than 180 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, the Secretary [of Homeland Security] shall establish . . . the ‘Southern Border Fencing Strategy,’ to identify where 700 miles of fencing (including double-layer fencing) . . . should be deployed along the Southern border.”

By  Marc A. Thiessen
Washington Post

Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), left, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) are joined by furloughed federal workers at an event in Washington on Wednesday to discuss the impact on families of the partial government shutdown and President Trump’s demands for funding a U.S.-Mexico border wall. (J. Scott Applewhite/AP)

That’s not all. The bill further said that “the Secretary may not adjust the status of aliens who have been granted registered provisional immigrant status . . . until 6 months after . . . [the Secretary submits] a written certification that . . . there is in place along the Southern Border no fewer than 700 miles of pedestrian fencing.” In other words, Democrats agreed that no illegal immigrants could get a path to citizenship until all 700 miles of border fencing had been fully completed.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer in Washington, D.C., Jan. 8.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer in Washington, D.C., Jan. 8. PHOTO: JONATHAN ERNST/REUTERS

Every Senate Democrat voted for the Gang of Eight bill — including 36 Democratic senators still serving today. President Barack Obama agreed to sign it. Indeed, he praised the bill for including what he called “the most aggressive border security plan in our history” and said that “the Senate bill is consistent with the key principles for commonsense reform that I — and many others — have repeatedly laid out” (emphasis added). That bears repeating: Obama said building a 700-mile fence on the southern border was consistent with the principles of the Democratic Party.

Pelosi supported the Gang of Eight bill, saying at the time that “every piece of this legislation has had bipartisan support” (emphasis added). But now we are shutting down the government over a wall much like the one that Pelosi and Senate Democrats fully supported just five years ago?

Nancy Pelosi.

Pelosi hopes to find ‘common ground’ with Republicans

Democrats will object that the Gang of Eight bill did fund a border wall, but it was in exchange for a lot of concessions. Of course it was. As Obama said at the time, “the bipartisan bill that passed today was a compromise.” But today, Democrats are refusing to compromise or lay out what concessions they would accept in exchange for wall funding. When Trump rhetorically backed off the wall and talked about “steel slats” — a fence — Democrats ignored it. When Vice President Pence reportedly offered a deal for $2.5 billion, Democrats dismissed it. In a White House meeting Wednesday, Trump asked Pelosi whether, if he agreed to end the shutdown and negotiate separately on border security, she would support wall funding. She said no. That is ridiculous.

In their response to the president’s address to the nation, Schumer and Pelosi accused Trump of “manufacturing a crisis.” That is simply untrue. As The Post reported this week, the United States now faces “a bona fide emergency on the border” as “record numbers of migrant families are streaming into the United States, overwhelming border agents and leaving holding cells dangerously overcrowded with children, many of whom are falling sick.”

Democrats could not possibly be in a better position to demand concessions form Trump if they had manufactured a crisis. So put some demands on the table, for crying out loud. If Democrats think they have Trump cornered, then squeeze him and try get a lot out of him. But don’t refuse to negotiate and tell us the wall is an “immorality” — because their voting history shows they don’t believe that.

Read more from Marc Thiessen’s archivefollow him on Twitter or subscribe to his updates on Facebook.

Above: Sign near former President Barack Obama’s house…..


Characters behind legal twists of Trump-Russia probe a tangled maze of Washington establishment

January 11, 2019

The Trump-Russia investigation, with its dynamic cast of judges, defenders and prosecutors, can have the look of an exclusive club.

Checks of official biographies and legal sources reveal a maze of professional connections that, while not unethical, show that the Washington establishment thrives inside the Justice Department. What President Trump called “the swamp” is often controlling legal maneuvers — and possibly his fate.

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Robert Mueller

“Personnel is power in D.C., and Trump advocated an Andrew Jackson takeover [of] the government with half measures and bad hiring,” said a former Justice Department lawyer who asked not to be named for career reasons.

When defense counsel Eric A. Dubelier filed an argument Dec. 20 for his Russian client, he attacked special counsel Robert Mueller, the top Russia investigation prosecutor and longtime Washington figure, by harking back to a major Justice Department conviction that failed.

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Eric A. Dubelier

On the surface, the reference to the defunct accounting firm Arthur Andersen appeared to be pure legal arguing.

But a closer look shows that the U.S. District Court judge to whom Mr. Dubelier was arguing, Dabney Friedrich, has a connection to the Andersen case. Her husband, Matthew W. Friedrich, was one of the lead prosecutors. He persuaded the jury to convict Arthur Andersen of obstruction of justice in the Enron financial scandal.

His co-counsel was Andrew Weissmann, who today is one of Mr. Mueller’s senior prosecutors.

The Arthur Andersen case ended in failure for the Friedrich-Weissmann, et al., task force. In 2005, the Supreme Court threw out the conviction in a 9-0 ruling, essentially saying there was no crime.

In his Dec. 20 argument, Mr. Dubelier chastised the Mueller team for withholding evidence on national security grounds from his client, Concord Management and Consulting. Judge Friedrich, one of Mr. Trump’s early District Court nominees, so far has sided with Mr. Mueller.

Mr. Dubelier accused Mr. Mueller of trying to gain a temporary political victory without worrying about an appeals reversal. He specifically cited the ghost of Arthur Andersen. In essence, he was criticizing the judge’s husband, Mr. Friedrich, now a corporate lawyer, and Mr. Weissmann, without mentioning their names.

The Judge Friedrich connection is an example of how the lives of Justice lawyers intersect.

Russia investigation connections

⦁ U.S. District Chief Judge Beryl A. Howell oversees the Mueller grand jury. She recently granted the special counsel’s request to extend the jury another six months.

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U.S. District Chief Judge Beryl A. Howell

Appointed by President Barack Obama in 2010, Judge Howell worked alongside Mr. Weissmann in Brooklyn in the early 1990s when both were assistant U.S. attorneys.

Writing of the Howell-Weissmann friendship in 2017, the Daily Beast said, “Federal prosecutors often form close, life-long relationships with their fellow assistant U.S. attorneys.”

They not only prosecuted together, but they also wrote together. Judge Howell and Mr. Weissmann co-authored a New York Law Journal article in June 2006 on obstruction of justice.

Judge Howell would have to approve for release any report the grand jury writes.

⦁ FBI Director Christopher A. Wray, a Trump appointee, is an integral player in the Mueller investigation. His agents do the groundwork, trying to create cases for perjury, obstruction of justice or Russia election interference. Agents recommend to Mr. Mueller whether to prosecute.

Mr. Wray also played an important role in Mr. Weissmann’s career.

In 2004, as assistant U.S. attorney general, Mr. Wray promoted Mr. Weissmann to chief of the Enron task force. In a press release, Mr. Wray praised Mr. Weissmann for winning convictions against Arthur Andersen and five Merrill Lynch executives. The Merrill Lynch case, like Arthur Andersen, also lay in shambles once appellate judges were finished. The same legal problem: There wasn’t a crime.

⦁ Mr. Wray is a longtime friend of Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, another Trump appointee. Mr. Rosenstein, a former U.S. attorney for Maryland, is the man who created the Robert Mueller express train when he appointed him special counsel in May 2017. Mr. Rosenstein didn’t consult first with the White House.

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Rod Rosenstein

Mr. Wray signed an endorsement letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee for Mr. Rosenstein as deputy. Mr. Rosenstein backed Mr. Wray to succeed FBI Director James B. Comey, who was fired by Mr. Trump.

Mr. Wray’s FBI general counsel is Dana Boente, who came from Mr. Rosenstein’s office as an assistant attorney general.

Trump would have been better served air-dropping random Kansans into D.C.,” said the former Justice Department lawyer. “Instead, he empowered Rod and Rod’s cronies.”

⦁ One of Mr. Mueller’s first moves was to bring in Mr. Weissmann, who then led Justice’s fraud division. The special counsel quickly assigned Mr. Weissmann the job of prosecuting former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort and getting him to talk.

Mr. Mueller has a long working relationship with Mr. Weissmann. As FBI director, he appointed him as FBI special counsel and then general counsel in the 2000s.

Mr. Mueller also coaxed Jeannie Rhee from Wilmer Hale, his just-vacated law firm.

She, like Mr. Weissmann, has ties to Mr. Trump’s 2016 opponent, Hillary Clinton. Ms. Rhee defended the Clinton Foundation and Mrs. Clinton in two civil cases. She contributed the maximum amount to the Democrat’s campaign. Mr. Weissmann attended what was supposed to be Mrs. Clinton’s victory party in New York.

⦁ Former FBI agent Peter Strzok, who wrote a string of anti-Trump messages to his lover, provided a peek into how some agents view judges. He suggested in one missive that he invite U.S. District Judge Rudolph Contreras to a “cocktail” party. Mr. Strzok sent the July 25, 2016, text just as he was opening an investigation into suspected Russian collusion with the Trump campaign.

Image result for Manuel Balce Ceneta, photo, peter strzok

Photo by: Manuel Balce Ceneta

Mr. Strzok’s messaging included a discussion that Judge Contreras sits on the panel that approves wiretaps, known as Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrants. “Rudy is on the FISC! Did you know that?” texted his lover, then-FBI lawyer Lisa Page.

“We talked about it before and after,” Mr. Strzok responded. “I need to get together with him.”

Mr. Strzok told the Justice Department inspector general that no such party was held.

Judge Contreras, without explanation, suddenly recused himself from the Michael Flynn perjury case in December 2017 after he was assigned as Flynn’s judge and accepted his guilty plea.

⦁ Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz investigated how the department handled the Clinton email scandal. He now is investigating how the FBI relied on a Democratic Party-financed dossier to target the Trump campaign and obtain wiretaps.

Mr. Horowitz sat from 2003 to 2008 on the U.S. Sentencing Commission, which issues guidelines to judges and can be a springboard to judgeships and other top appointments. Among his fellow commissioners: Judges Beryl A. Howell and Dabney Friedrich.

⦁ Mr. Trump’s pick to head the Justice Department, William Barr, has expressed complete confidence in Mr. Mueller.

He should know the special counsel well. They are “best friends,” the Daily Mail reported.

“Their wives attend the same Bible study together, and Mueller has attended the weddings of two of Barr’s daughters,” the Mail said.

The former Justice Department lawyer, who knows many of its players and who spoke to The Washington Times, was asked to assess the personal and professional connections.

“As an outsider, Trump needed to turn this town upside down but failed to do so and made money for all the wrong people,” the lawyer said. “The result of his bad hiring is a huge, gaping self-inflicted wound, with collateral damage to loyalists that has made him look weak and vulnerable to the insiders of the place he said he was going to drain.”

FriedrichDubelierArthur Andersen

Judge Friedrich and her husband were Justice Department prosecutors when they met and married in 2001. Both traveled in blue-blood Republican circles. Judge Friedrich had a stint in the George W. Bush White House.

“I have spent a large portion of my career as a federal prosecutor,” she told the Senate Judiciary Committee in her confirmation hearing.

Mr. Friedrich left the Justice Department in 2009. He is now general counsel for the technology firm Cognizant.

PHOTO: Then-FBI Director James Comey testifies before the House Oversight Committee to discuss Hillary Clintons email investigation, at the Capitol in Washington, July 7, 2016.

Then-FBI Director James Comey testifies before the House Oversight Committee to discuss Hillary Clinton’s email investigation, at the Capitol in Washington, July 7, 2016. J. Scott Applewhite/AP, FILE

That the Concord Management and Consulting case is being contested is surprising. Legal pundits suggested that none of the Russian individuals or firms indicted by Mr. Mueller’s grand jury would appear in Washington to face charges.

But Concord, which is accused of financing Russian social media trolling during the election, did appear — in the person of defense attorney Eric A. Dubelier.

Mr. Dubelier has launched an aggressive courtroom strategy against Mr. Mueller — and the judge.

Like Judge FriedrichMr. Dubelier is an alumnus of the Justice Department’s prosecutor class. He is incensed that the judge is backing Mr. Mueller’s position that he can keep hidden sensitive pieces of evidence so it won’t fall into the hands of Moscow.

Mr. Dubelier has a flair for injecting colorful prose into otherwise legalistic motions. In his Dec. 20 brief, he cited the specter of Arthur Andersen by accusing Mr. Mueller of playing politics with Concord.

“Specifically, the short-term political value of a conviction far outweighs a reversal by a higher court years from now,” he said. “This tactic, though rare, is not new.”

His Jan. 4 filing triggered Judge Friedrich’s anger. He called her evidence decisions “onerous and unprecedented.” He quoted a line from the frat-boy comedy “Animal House” to describe motives for what he believes is possible misconduct by Mr. Mueller’s team.

At a Monday hearing, Judge Friedrich vented — and defended Mr. Mueller.

“Meritless personal attacks on the special counsel, his attorneys, other members of the trial team, and firewall counsel will play no role in my decision on your motion, nor will inappropriate and what you clearly believe to be clever quotes from movies, cartoons, and elsewhere,” the judge said. “Your strategy is ineffective. It’s undermining your credibility in this courthouse. I will say it plain and simple: Knock it off.”

Mr. Dubelier didn’t back off. The next day, he filed a brief accusing Judge Friedrich of triggering a wave of hate messages in emails and voicemails against him and his co-counsel.

“For a reason unknown to undersigned counsel, the court [judge] took it upon itself to defend the special counsel, creating at a minimum an appearance of bias or prejudice in favor of the government,” he said.

Pompeo vows US will fight Isis in Middle East despite Syria move

January 10, 2019

Secretary of state says Trump’s decisiion is not a ‘change of mission’

Heba Saleh in Cairo

Pompeo meets the Egyptian president ahead of his wide ranging speech on US Middle East policy in Cairo. (AFP)

Mike Pompeo, the US secretary of state, has reaffirmed the country’s commitment to fighting Isis in the Middle East, despite the administration’s December decision to pull out forces from Syria.

Speaking from Cairo, Mr Pompeo said the decision to withdraw was not a “change of mission” and that the US would continue to conduct air strikes against the group “as targets arise” and to “hunt down terrorists in Libya and Yemen.”

On broader US strategy in the Middle East, Mr Pompeo reserved his tougher words for Iran saying: “We must confront the Ayatollahs, not coddle them.”

Without naming the former US president, Mr Pompeo rebuked Barack Obama for his stance on Iran, “our common enemy,” and implementing policies which he says weakened the role of the US in the region.

Mr Pompeo is on a tour of the Middle East, making stops in Jordan, Iraq and Egypt. He plans to continue to Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Oman and Qatar.



Pompeo: US seeks to ‘expel every last Iranian boot’ in Syria

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo vowed Thursday the United States and its allies would chase all Iranian troops from Syria, and urged Middle East nations to forge a common stand against Tehran.

“It’s time for old rivalries to end, for the sake of the greater good of the region,” said Pompeo at a keynote address in Cairo.

America “will use diplomacy and work with our partners to expel every last Iranian boot” from Syria and bolster efforts “to bring peace and stability to the long-suffering Syrian people,” he added.

The top US diplomat was in Egypt on the latest leg of a whistle-stop regional tour aimed at shoring up Washington’s Middle East policy following President Donald Trump’s shock decision to withdraw 2,000 US troops from Syria.

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Secretary Pompeo


I had a productive meeting with @AlsisiOfficial in Cairo today. The U.S. stands firmly with in its commitments to protecting and in the fight against terrorism that threatens all of our friends in the Middle East.

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Pompeo stressed the pullout would go ahead, despite comments in recent weeks appearing to walk back Trump’s decision, but that the US would remain engaged.

The “decision to withdraw our troops has been made. We will do that. We will withdraw our forces, our uniformed forces, from Syria and continue America’s crushing campaign,” Pompeo told reporters at a joint press conference with his Egyptian counterpart Sameh Shoukry.

He also met earlier with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, after arriving in Cairo late Wednesday on his longest trip since taking office last year which has already taken him to Jordan, Baghdad and the Iraqi Kurdish regional capital Arbil.

In his address entitled “A Force for Good: America Reinvigorated in the Middle East” at the American University in Cairo, Pompeo also took aim at former president Barack Obama without naming him.

Trump’s predecessor had “grossly underestimated the tenacity and viciousness of radical Islamism,” Pompeo said.

And parroting Obama’s words in his landmark 2009 speech in Cairo, Pompeo vowed that now was really “a new beginning” in ties between the US and the Middle East.

Pompeo’s tour is aimed at urging regional allies to continue to confront the “significant threats” posed by Iran and extremists.

Even though Daesh have been largely eradicated from Iraq, after capturing a vast swathe of territory in 2014, some still control a few pockets in war-torn Syria.

Pompeo will also visit Gulf countries including Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Kuwait and Oman.

As he arrived in Egypt, the State Department described the country as a “steadfast partner in the anti-terror fight, and a courageous voice in denouncing the radical Islamist ideology that fuels it.”

But there are rising concerns that US policy is getting bogged down. A long-promised Trump plan for a peace deal between Israelis and Palestinians has so far failed to materialise.

And many of the Trump administration’s decisions have stoked confusion and angered many regional allies.

Turkey and the United States are now at loggerheads over the future of Syrian Kurdish forces, considered by Ankara as “terrorists,” after the troop pullout.

Turkish officials had a tense meeting this week with Trump’s national security adviser John Bolton in Ankara aimed at coordinating the pullout process after Bolton set conditions that appeared to postpone it indefinitely.

The terms included total defeat of Daesh – still active in some Syrian regions – and ensuring that Kurdish fighters who fought alongside the Americans against the jihadists will be protected.

On Thursday, Turkey renewed its threat to launch an offensive against Kurds.

“If the (pullout) is put off with ridiculous excuses like Turks are massacring Kurds, which do not reflect the reality, we will implement this decision,” Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told NTV television.


US to expel every last Iranian boot from Syria – Pompeo

January 10, 2019

The US will work with allies to “expel every last Iranian boot” from Syria, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says.

Mr Pompeo warned there would be no US reconstruction aid for areas controlled by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad until Iran and its proxies had left.

He also criticised ex-President Barack Obama’s Middle East policy, saying he had made “dire misjudgements”.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Cairo, Egypt (10 January 2019)

Mr Pompeo was speaking in Cairo three weeks after President Donald Trump said US troops were pulling out of Syria.

The announcement had shocked US allies and sparked strong criticism in Washington.

Mr Pompeo, who has been seeking to reassure allies following Mr Trump’s surprise announcement, said: “America will not retreat until the terror fight is over. We will labour tirelessly alongside you to defeat Isis [the Islamic State group], al-Qaeda and other jihadists that threaten our security and yours.”

He said that the US was a “force for good” in the Middle East, adding: “Where America retreats, chaos follows.”

Why did Pompeo mention Iran?

Iran, alongside Russia, has been supporting the Syrian government in the Syrian civil war, providing arms, military advisers, and reportedly combat troops.

The US is deeply suspicious of Iranian activity in the Middle East and views it as a destabilising force in the region.

It is also an ally of Israel and Saudi Arabia, two of Iran’s foes.

On Thursday, Mr Pompeo said “we will not ease our campaign to stop Iran’s malevolent influence and actions against this region and the world.”

He added that American sanctions against Iran were “the strongest in history and will keep getting tougher”.

Iran’s foreign minister Javad Zarif mocked Mr Pompeo’s speech, saying that wherever the US interferes, “chaos, repression and resentment follow”.

Presentational white space

What is the US’s approach to Syria?

The US, along with Turkey, Gulf Arab states, and Jordan, has been supporting some rebel groups.

Some 2,000 US military personnel are reported to be in Syria, and have been involved in fighting Islamic State militants.

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U.S. Troops in Syria

In December, Mr Trump said he was withdrawing all remaining troops because IS had been “defeated”, adding “they’re all coming back and they’re coming back now”.

The announcement shocked allies and several US defence officials, including Defence Secretary James Mattis, resigned shortly afterwards.

Since then, US officials have appeared to row back slightly on the decision. Mr Trump said the troops would be pulled out “slowly”, while National Security Adviser John Bolton said the withdrawal would depend on certain conditions.

National Security Adviser John Bolton

National Security Adviser John Bolton

Analysts have described the administration’s Syria policy as “messy” and confusing for allies.

Mr Pompeo’s Thursday speech appeared to be an attempt to reassure partners, while also reiterating Mr Trump’s decision to pull out troops.

“President Trump has made the decision to bring our troops home from Syria… but this isn’t a change of mission. We remain committed to the complete dismantling of the Isis [IS] threat,” he said, adding that the US also wanted its partners to “do more”.

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Barack Obama and his Secretary of State John Kerry

How did Pompeo criticise Obama – and why?

Mr Pompeo did not directly name Barack Obama, Mr Trump’s predecessor.

However, he referred frequently to a key speech Mr Obama gave in Cairo in 2009, where he had called for “a new beginning” for the US and the Middle East.

Mr Pompeo said: “It was here, here in this very city, another American stood before you. He told you that radical Islamist terrorism does not stem from ideology… He told you that the United States and the Muslim world needed ‘a new beginning.’ The results of these misjudgements have been dire.”

“We were timid about asserting ourselves when the times – and our partners – demanded it,” he said.

The Trump administration has been critical of Mr Obama’s decision to strike a deal to limit Iran’s nuclear activities, and had accused him of being too soft on Islamist terrorism, and a poor ally to Israel.

National Security Action, a think tank involving many of Mr Obama’s former policy advisers, criticised Mr Pompeo’s speech.

“That this administration feels the need, nearly a decade later, to take pot-shots at an effort to identify common ground between the Arab world and the West speaks not only to the Trump administration’s pettiness, but also to its lack of a strategic vision for America’s role in the region,” it said in a statement

“Together with the broader administration he represents, Pompeo sees Islam as an enemy, human rights as a side concern, and autocrats worthy of embrace,” the group added.

Mr Pompeo’s Middle East tour will also see him stopping in countries including Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar, and the UAE.

BBC News

Democrats’ Cynical ‘No’ on Immigration

January 10, 2019

They could strike a deal for reform but would rather posture for political points.


House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer in Washington, D.C., Jan. 8.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer in Washington, D.C., Jan. 8. PHOTO: JONATHAN ERNST/REUTERS

Will Democrats ever say yes to immigration reform? They now have an opportunity to do so as President Trump demands funding for additional miles of physical barrier along the southern border.

But rather than providing Mr. Trump money in return for immigration changes they say they want, congressional Democratic leaders are rebuffing the request with focus-group-tested rhetoric: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called a border wall “immoral, ineffective, expensive.” Presumably having seen the same data, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer labeled the wall “expensive, ineffective.” At least he reversed the order.

Other congressional Democrats are even more dismissive. Sen. Kamala Harris denounced the wall as “a vanity project,” while Rep. Max Rose of New York said it’s “a fifth-century solution to a 21st-century problem.”

If they believe the wall is an immoral, ineffective, expensive, fifth-century vanity project, why were Mrs. Pelosi, Majority Whip James Clyburn and Democratic Caucus Chairman Hakeem Jeffries among 111 Democrats (and 256 House members) who voted last March for a Homeland Security appropriation that included $1.6 billion for a border wall?

And why were Mr. Schumer, Minority Whip Dick Durbin and seven of the other nine members of Senate Democratic leadership among the 40 upper-chamber Democrats who also voted for that appropriation with its wall funding? Were they immoral?

Was Sen. Barack Obama mistaken in 2006, when he praised the passage of legislation providing for “better fences and better security along our borders”? Was President Obama engaged in a “vanity project” in 2009 as he oversaw construction of roughly 133 miles of fence, barriers and wall along the border?

Were Presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton wrong when, frustrated by rising numbers of illegal border crossings in San Diego, they constructed most of what is now 46 miles of fence and wall along the California-Mexico border?

According to U.S. Customs and Border Protection, illegal crossings in San Diego have dropped 92% in the 23 years since the wall went up there. Illegal traffic dropped 95% in the 22 years following Mr. Clinton’s wall in El Paso, Texas. After the Tucson, Ariz., sector wall was finished, illegal traffic dropped 90% over 15 years. And once the Yuma, Ariz., sector wall was in place under President George W. Bush, illegal traffic dropped 95% over nine years.

Physical barriers—walls, fences and bollards—are a necessary part of border security. They aren’t needed everywhere, but they are essential, especially in urban areas, in stopping people from jumping the border and fading into neighborhoods. Much more is needed, including personnel, air assets, and more and better technology on the border and at ports of entry. But walls help stop illegal border crossings.

Yet if Democrats believe their own messaging, they have a moral obligation not only to stop spending money on border barriers, but also to remove existing ones. Don’t hold your breath for them to introduce and pass it, though. Not even House Democrats are that suicidal.

Democrats appear more eager to use immigration as a political weapon than to resolve the policy issue. Why else did so many Democrats help gut the 2007 bipartisan immigration reform championed by President Bush and Sens. Ted Kennedy and John McCain? Why else did Democrats fail to pass comprehensive immigration reform during Mr. Obama’s first two years in office, when his party’s congressional majorities were massive?

Such Democratic posturing on immigration—rather than action—helps explain why Mr. Obama worried about Latino turnout in the 2012 presidential election, why Mr. Trump did better than expected among Hispanics in 2016, and why a third of Hispanics back the GOP today.

Democrats have the opportunity to resolve the status of Dreamers—young people brought to the U.S. illegally as children—but they must stop opportunistically insisting on total political victory and instead give Mr. Trump some money for his wall.

Similarly, Team Trump shouldn’t fear repercussions if the president doesn’t get the full $5.7 billion he requested. After all, he has already dropped his 2016 campaign notion of building a wall along the entire U.S.-Mexico border. And his base didn’t revolt when he received only $1.6 billion in wall funding last year.

Mr. Trump will receive most of the blame for the shutdown. Yet Democratic inaction exposes the party’s cynicism. Democrats and the White House should recognize that both parties can win if they compromise.

Mr. Rove helped organize the political-action committee American Crossroads and is the author of “The Triumph of William McKinley” (Simon & Schuster, 2015).

Appeared in the January 10, 2019, print edition.

The furore over the border wall distracts from President Trump’s effectiveness elsewhere

January 9, 2019

US posture towards China has changed for good

By Janan Ganesh

How much does Donald Trump weigh? On the scales of history, that is.

A US president must mount them for a provisional judgment at the two-year mark. It was clear by George W Bush’s biennial, in 2003, that he was to be a leader of vast if messy consequence. The 9/11 attacks saw to that. It was almost as plain by Bill Clinton’s, in 1995, that Republican spoilers in Congress would make his a welterweight presidency at best.

As for Mr Trump, current form suggests a certain flimsiness.

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On Tuesday, his first televised address from the Oval Office was devoted to a wall that he is powerless to build. He lacks the funds because he lacks the congressional votes. Outside his undampably loyal following there is little public clamour for his signature policy.

When he seemed open to a compromise, blowhards on his own side discouraged him from re-opening the shuttered federal government. A man with such a fine nose for human weakness must smell that he himself presently reeks of the stuff. All the same, historians must beware recency bias when assessing the president. The non-materialisation of the wall is embarrassing for Mr Trump. It might even cost him re-election.

The mistake is to see it as proof of general presidential weakness.

If only.

In ways domestic and foreign, this is the most consequential administration since the end of the cold war. At home, Mr Trump has cut taxes at the top of the business cycle, deregulated sectors of the economy, populated the judiciary with conservatives and, as Michael Lewis maps out in his recent book The Fifth Risk, filled lots of executive offices with non-entities or no one at all.

Taken in isolation, each of these results will affect American lives for some time. Together, they amount to a coherent theme: the draining of the state. Even the judicial nominees, so often assumed to be part of the American Kulturkampf, are chosen as much for their stingy construal of the state’s regulatory ambit.

Seen from this libertarian angle, the federal shutdown is not an accident.

It is the natural terminal point of the American right’s anti-government impulse, where conservatism meets a kind of nihilism.

How the president thinks this will win him another term is a mystery.

After all, it was as a slayer of Ayn Rand-reading nerds that he won the 2016 Republican nomination in the first place. But the politics is a separate matter. Historic significance is the test here. On this score, his domestic impact is, so far, up there with any president of the past generation, wall or no wall.

His domestic policies are, at least, reversible by a successor.

Less so is his confrontation with America’s one rival for mastery of the century.

The only proposition that unites a riven Washington is this: the US posture towards China has changed for good. It might soften a bit. Mr Trump seems close to a trade truce. But the bilateral relationship of old, with its polite hypocrisies and blind-eye turning, is not coming back.

Nor is it just US diplomats who are sold on the harder line. American businesses are too.

Because we are living through this geopolitical rupture in real time, we can miss its significance. Mr Trump has altered the relationship between the two most important countries in the world in a way that will outlast his presidency, and possibly his time on Earth.

Almost two years have passed since his inauguration. At the time, liberal Americans, to say nothing of the outside world, nursed one consolation: his probable incompetence.

The shrewdest case against his impeachment was the elevation of a more effectual rightwinger, namely vice-president Mike Pence, what with his outlandish ability to finish a briefing note.

The empty space where a wall is meant to be has come to symbolise Mr Trump’s long-predicted impotence.

In truth, it distracts from his devastating effectiveness elsewhere. None of which is actually to praise the substance of his foreign or domestic reforms.

Some of us were happy with the world of 2016, thanks, and still hope the west will return to that status quo ante. No, this is about the scale, not the wisdom, of Mr Trump’s doings.

He is a more historic president than his present flailing suggests. And he can “achieve” more, even after his loss of the House of Representatives.

Deregulation is often a matter of executive fiat. Judicial and bureaucratic nominees are confirmed by the Senate, where Republicans have a majority. As for foreign policy, the constitution gifts him wide powers. We need not picture what an effectual populist would be like. We are living under one.

Imagine his historical weight at the four-year mark.

Joe Scarborough: Americans are ‘stupid’ for believing there’s a border crisis

January 8, 2019

You can’t go to an NFL game or a college football game unless you go through “the gate.” You can’t board an aircraft at any civilized airport without going through a gate. Why is it when the President wants a wall to move people toward the legal entry point or gate on the border of Mexico people think that he’s stupid. Angela Merkel tried open borders in Germany and Europe and it didn’t work. Without legal entry points and rule of law we have no law. We have illegal aliens killing legal immigrant police officers. That lawlessness. You can’t knock on Barack Obama’s door because there is a wall and they want you to enter through the gate.

Peace and Freedom


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MSNBC host Joe Scarborough said Tuesday that Americans are “stupid” if they believe there’s an immigration crisis on the southern U.S. border.

Scarborough made that remarks while arguing on his “Morning Joe” show that television networks shouldn’t broadcast President Trump’s speech on immigration Tuesday night, because he would use that to tell “lies” to Americans.

“Why in the world would the networks run Donald Trump’s address tonight when we know that Donald Trump is going to be using it to spread these lies?” Scarborough asked.

“He is going to be telling nothing but lies and falsehoods, and he’s going to be twisting reality … And at this point I’ve got to say, how stupid are Americans who still believe there’s a crisis on the southern border?”

Scarborough and other guests on his show argued that the Trump administration has incorrectly said hundreds of terrorist suspects are being caught at the southern border, when border officials only catch a handful each year. Scarborough said Trump has been “lying” about the threat, which his administration’s own data shows is not as serious as Trump says.

“All to justify the president going on tonight making up an emergency so he can build his wall along the southern border,” Scarborough said. “It’s outrageous.”

He also accused Trump of lying about the caravan during the election, and of trying to scare people into thinking they’d be accosted by illegal immigrants at their local Cracker Barrel.

“They played you for suckers, they played you for fools, and I know that makes you angry,” Scarborough said to Trump’s supporters.


 (Calling Trump voters “deplorables” didn’t work for Hillary)

  (Maybe, but it did have a lot to do with not going through the gate..)

PHOTO: Officer Ronil Singh of the Newman Police Department, California, is pictured in this undated photo released by Merced Police Department.
Ronil Singh — Merced Police Department