Posts Tagged ‘Trump’

Trump: I sent weapons to Ukraine, Obama ‘sent pillows and blankets’

October 15, 2018

President Trump claims his administration has been tougher on Russia than his predecessor’s, arguing that former President Obama allowed Russia to annex Ukraine and only offered them “pillows and blankets.”

“I’m the one that gave Ukraine offensive weapons and tank killers. Obama didn’t. You know what he sent? He sent pillows and blankets. I’m the one — and he’s the one that gave away a part of Ukraine where Russia,” Trump said in a “60 Minutes” interview that aired Sunday evening on CBS.

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“I’m the one that gave Ukraine offensive weapons and tank killers. Obama didn’t. You know what he sent? He sent pillows and blankets,” Trump said.

Trump received a great deal of criticism for failing to denounce Russia’s efforts to influence the 2016 presidential election while standing on the same stage as Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki in July.

“I think I’m very tough with him personally. I had a meeting with him. The two of us. It was a very tough meeting and it was a very good meeting,” Trump told “60 Minutes.”

Trump said he believes that Russia tried to “meddle” in the 2016 election, but stopped short of directly answering other questions regarding Putin’s regime, like alleged contracted hits on Russian dissidents. He did concede, however, that Putin “probably” is involved in poisonings and assassinations of his political rivals.


Republicans Rally Around Kavanaugh Nomination — Mitch McConnell calls the allegations a “smear campaign”

September 25, 2018

McConnell, Trump reiterate support for high-court pick after a new allegation emerges

Protestors rallied against Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh in Washington, D.C., on Monday.
Protestors rallied against Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh in Washington, D.C., on Monday. PHOTO: DREW ANGERER/GETTY IMAGES

WASHINGTON—Republicans rallied around embattled Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, vowing Monday to push his confirmation through the Senate even as a new allegation of sexual misconduct emerged days before a hearing on an earlier assault claim.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) took to the Senate floor to call the allegations a “smear campaign” and promise a vote on the Senate floor to confirm the judge “in the near future.” President Trump, in New York for a United Nations meeting Monday, reiterated his support for his second Supreme Court pick, saying, “I am with him all the way.”

The judge and his wife, Ashley Estes Kavanaugh, also took part in a Fox News interview Monday evening, using the forum to combat depictions of him as a predatory high school and college student, telling the network that he was a virgin into his 20s.

“We’re talking about an allegation of sexual assault,” he said. “I’ve never sexually assaulted anyone. I did not have sexual intercourse or anything close to sexual intercourse in high school or for many years thereafter.”

Christine Blasey Ford, a California college professor, has accused him of sexually assaulting her when they were in high school during the 1980s. Judge Kavanaugh again denied the accusation but didn’t question why Dr. Ford hadn’t raised the issue publicly before now—something President Trump has done.

“I am not questioning and have not questioned that perhaps Dr. Ford at some point in her life was sexually assaulted by someone in some place,” Judge Kavanaugh said. “But what I know is I’ve never sexually assaulted anyone in high school or at any time in my life.”

He said he wasn’t worried about losing Mr. Trump’s backing. The president called him on Monday, he said, and told him “he’s standing by me.”

White House officials cast Judge Kavanaugh’s Fox interview as part of a weeklong campaign to build momentum for his nomination that has been losing ground in public opinion. They plan to deploy high-ranking female officials in TV appearances, including press secretary Sarah Sanders and Kellyanne Conway, counselor to the president, a White House official said Monday.

A WSJ/NBC survey released last week found that 38% of registered voters oppose the Kavanaugh nomination, up from 29% in a Journal/NBC poll last month. Some 34% said they support his nomination, which is about the same as in last month’s poll. More than a quarter of voters say they don’t know enough to have an opinion

Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee renewed their call for postponing a hearing scheduled for Thursday that will feature testimony from Judge Kavanaugh and Dr. Ford.

Judge Kavanaugh, in a letter to Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles Grassley (R., Iowa), said he “will not be intimidated into withdrawing” his name from consideration for the vacancy created by the retirement of Justice Anthony Kennedy.

A letter from Dr. Ford to Mr. Grassley was also released Monday in which she agrees to appear before the committee despite death threats and being tailed while driving. “While I am frightened, please know, my fear will not hold me back from testifying and you will be provided with answers to all of your questions. I ask for fair and respectful treatment,” she wrote, saying also that Judge Kavanaugh’s alleged actions “have had a lasting impact on my life.”

Democrats are also urging Mr. Grassley to investigate allegations from Deborah Ramirez, who told the New Yorker in an article published Sunday that she recalled Judge Kavanaugh exposing himself to her at a drunken party when they were both students at Yale University in the 1980s.

Her allegations couldn’t be independently verified by The Wall Street Journal. Ms. Ramirez’s attorney declined to comment on Monday.

While some people cited in the article backed up parts of Ms. Ramirez’s account, others disputed it and Mr. Kavanaugh denied it. GOP lawmakers and aides said Monday that without stronger corroboration, Ms. Ramirez’s account wouldn’t derail Judge Kavanaugh, although a GOP aide said the Judiciary Committee reached out to Ms. Ramirez’s attorney after the allegations surfaced and hadn’t received a response.

How Ford’s Kavanaugh Allegation Came to Light

An allegation of decades-old sexual misconduct is threatening Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the Supreme Court. WSJ’s Shelby Holliday explains how the allegation came to light at the 11th hour. Photo: AP

Democrats said the Federal Bureau of Investigation could provide answers that politicians could not in questioning witnesses at the Senate hearing. The White House and the GOP have opposed having the FBI look further into the allegations.

“There is only one way to get to the bottom of these allegations against Judge Kavanaugh and prevent the nation from being thrown into further turmoil: an independent background check investigation by the FBI,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.) said Monday.

The typical FBI background check—even for the most sensitive government positions—doesn’t take into account much information before a nominee was 18, aside from verifying basic biographical information such as birthplace and birth date, according to people familiar with the process.

For a high-profile nominee, the background check typically takes a couple of weeks, and previous administrations made sure it was complete before the president announced a nominee. Judge Kavanaugh had several previous background checks when he held sensitive positions at the White House and was nominated to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals.

The White House could ask the FBI to reopen its review of Judge Kavanaugh. When President George H.W. Bush in 1991 learned of sexual-harassment allegations against now-Justice Clarence Thomas by Anita Hill, a professor who formerly worked for him, he made such a request. The FBI investigation took three days. The White House described the results as finding the charges unfounded, and Justice Thomas was confirmed.

While the GOP rallied behind its president’s nominee, Senate Republicans said it wasn’t clear if there will be enough support to confirm Judge Kavanaugh, with undecided Republican senators—including Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Jeff Flake of Arizona—waiting to assess his performance on Thursday. Republicans have a 51-49 Senate majority, so Judge Kavanaugh can afford no more than one defection, assuming all Democrats vote against him.

Meanwhile, unease was growing over the effect the ugly, high-profile fight may have on November’s elections. In their effort to retain control of the House after the midterms, Republicans have been specifically courting women, who hold less favorable views of Judge Kavanaugh than men, according to the latest Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll.

“It’s very difficult at the moment to assess,” said Rep. Ryan Costello (R., Pa.), who is retiring from a swing district. “There are many women who have been mistreated, so there’s an understandable sensitivity on this issue,” he said. “At the same time, many women have husbands and sons and allowing an allegation without corroboration from 30 plus years ago to destroy one’s reputation and career” alarms both men and women, he said.

The new allegation from Ms. Ramirez surfaced just as lawyers for Dr. Ford, a 51-year-old psychology professor at Palo Alto University, reached an agreement with Judiciary Committee Republicans to appear at a hearing Thursday.

Some details are still being negotiated, including the rounds of questions, after days of wrangling and partisan positioning, but it appeared set to happen as of Monday evening.

Democrats plan to go beyond Dr. Ford’s specific allegation to press Judge Kavanaugh, 53, on his teenage drinking habits. Dr. Ford has said she believes he was drunk when he pinned her to a bed, groped her and tried to remove her clothing when she was 15 and he was 17.

Republicans are insisting that outside lawyers, in addition to senators, be allowed to question the two witnesses. Dr. Ford’s lawyers have said this would create an inappropriate trial atmosphere.

Republican lawmakers and White House officials say privately they are worried about the optics of the 11 male GOP senators on the Judiciary Committee questioning a woman who is alleging she was sexually assaulted.

 What we are witnessing is the total collapse of the traditional confirmation process for a Supreme Court nominee. 

—Sen. Lindsey Graham (R., S.C.)

Write to Natalie Andrews at and Kristina Peterson at

Appeared in the September 25, 2018, print edition as ‘GOP Forges Ahead on Court Pick.’

Revolution and financial crisis will wrack US says Bannon

September 5, 2018

America is heading for a revolution which will “cut like a scythe through grass”, Donald Trump’s former chief advisor Steve Bannon predicts in a revealing new film.

The man credited with putting Trump in the White House warns in a documentary that premiered at the Venice film festival Wednesday that “if you don’t allow for some way to spread the wealth, there will be a revolution in this country.”

“We are going to have another financial crisis — anyone who is smart sees it’s coming,” Bannon told Errol Morris in a series of long interviews for “American Dharma”.

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The film was shown in Venice as critics reeled from “22 July”, a harrowing reconstruction of the 2011 attacks in Norway carried out by far-right extremist Anders Behring Breivik, in which 77 people were slaughtered.

“I believe you need radical restructuring,” Bannon declared. “It can’t be a pillow fight. You need killers to get change.

“That is why Trump is president,” he told Morris, who won an Oscar for his confessional film “The Fog of War” about the architect of the Vietnam war, Robert McNamara.

“It was clear as daylight that someone like Trump was coming,” Bannon added.

The political strategist claimed a “superstitious” Trump was heading for a crushing defeat in the 2016 election when he took the reins of the campaign.

– Black arts and “jujutsu” –

He admitted he relied on some PR “jujutsu” to rescue Trump after the leak of his “grab them by the pussy” remarks to Billy Bush threatened to sink the campaign.

This included bringing women who had accused Bill Clinton of rape and sexual impropriety to a crucial television debate.

But Bannon refused to say whether he had a hand in the WikiLeaks dump of Hillary Clinton’s emails minutes after the so-called “Access Hollywood” tape of Trump’s remarks was released.

Bannon, in Venice for the film premiere, said he didn’t know Trump before the campaign, but saw his potential.

The then-head of the right-wing news website Breitbart said he had simplified the campaign to a series of populist slogans: “Build the wall” (with Mexico), destroy the Islamic State, confront China and “get the hell out of Iraq and Afghanistan”.

He urged the president to “drop the hammer” as soon as got into office with a flurry of executive orders including the hugely divisive “Muslim ban”.

“If you hit the media with five things at a time, three will go through. They can only handle so much,” he said.

– Told Trump not to sack Comey –

Bannon revealed that Trump could be naive — “he thought the New York Times would wish him well when he won” — and fired FBI chief James Comey against his advice.

“Sacking Comey was a mistake. The institution of the FBI is going to bleed you out after that.”

He added: “From the beginning there has been a nullification project against the 2016 election. It is not the Deep State, it is there on the surface.”

With a wry smile, Bannon denied penning Trump’s highly-contentious “American carnage” inauguration speech. “No, he wrote that himself.”

Nor was Trump corrupt, he insisted. The multiple financial scandals he has been embroiled in “is just the real estate business”.

But the former Goldman Sachs financier said he won the election for the billionaire property tycoon by portraying Clinton as “the head of a corrupt, creaking elite and Trump the agent of change like Obama.”

Clinton lost because “she walked into the trap — she campaigned against me and Breitbart. If she preaches identity politics and we preach jobs and hope, you have it,” he said.

– Modern ‘serfs’ –

Bannon admitted that he is a product of the same “scientific-engineering-management-financial elite” he blames for bleeding the American “common man” of hope and jobs.

But he was now “on a mission to turn the Republican Party into a workers’ party. You may have better food and clothing than an 18th-century Russian serf, but you are the same. They have you hung up on credit card debt… and their algorithms control your life.”

He is also helping what he calls the “patriotic right” in Europe, claiming that “Brexit wouldn’t have happened — Nigel Farage said — without Breitbart in London.”

“Neo-Nazis are an invention of the oppositional media, they are totally meaningless. The left-wing media is giving the neo-Nazis a platform,” he argued.

Bannon said he is not bitter about being sacked by Trump in August 2017 in the fall-out from protests over a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.

“I didn?t take it personally,” he said. “It was the order of things” — part of his belief in dharma, the Hindu concept of duty and destiny that order the Universe.

After Trump’s election, Bannon said, he was “just another advisor in the White House (but one) with a big bark.”


Trump, France’s Macron discuss Iran, Middle East and trade

August 11, 2018

U.S. President Donald Trump spoke on Friday with French President Emmanuel Macron and they discussed trade, Iran and the Middle East, the White House said.

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FILE PHOTO – French President Emmanuel Macron and U.S. President Donald Trump talk during a bilateral meeting on the sidelines of the NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) summit in Brussels, Belgium, July 11, 2018. Ludovic Marin/Pool via REUTERS

“Had a very good phone call with @EmmanuelMacron, President of France. Discussed various subjects, in particular Security and Trade,” Trump, who is vacationing at his New Jersey golf club, said on Twitter.

The two leaders discussed “a broad range of trade and security issues, including the situation in Iran and the broader Middle East,” the White House said in a statement.

The Elysee Palace said in a brief statement the two leaders discussed Syria, Iran and the Israel-Palestinian conflict, but did not mention trade.

Trump and Macron last met at a NATO summit in Brussels in July, where the U.S. president chastised members of the alliance that have not met its defense spending targets.

At the summit, Macron said France would met the NATO goal of spending 2.0 percent of GDP on defense by 2024. Trump caused an uproar when he pressed alliance members to reach the target by January.

On trade, the United States and the European Union are embroiled in a spat after Trump imposed tariffs on imports of aluminum and steel from France and other countries. The EU responded with retaliatory tariffs on some U.S. goods.

Trump had also threatened to impose tariffs on EU auto imports but reached an agreement to hold off on taking action after meeting with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker at the White House last month.

Macron and Trump are at odds over the U.S. decision to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal and reimpose sanctions on Tehran. Trump tweeted this week that companies doing business in Iran will be barred from doing business in the United States.

Among large European companies that have suspended plans to invest in Iran after the U.S. action are France’s oil major Total and its big carmakers PSA and Renault.

In the Middle East, France opposed Trump’s decision to move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv.


Reporting by Eric Beech in Washington and Nicolas Delame in Paris; editing by Clive McKeef

Iran: It’s Trump, Netanyahu and Saudi prince who are ‘isolated,’ not us

August 6, 2018

Hours before US sanctions to be re-imposed on Islamic Republic, Foreign Minister Zarif accuses Washington of ‘bullying and political pressure’

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif holds talks with Chinese State Councillor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi (not pictured) at the Diaoyutai state guesthouse in Beijing on May 13, 2018. (AFP Photo/Pool/Thomas Peter)

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif holds talks with Chinese State Councillor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi (not pictured) at the Diaoyutai state guesthouse in Beijing on May 13, 2018. (AFP Photo/Pool/Thomas Peter)

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said Monday that the leaders of the United States, Saudi Arabia and Israel were isolated in their hostility to Iran.

“Today, the entire world has declared they are not in line with US policies against Iran,” Zarif said in a speech, according to the semi-official ISNA news agency.

“Talk to anyone, anywhere in the world and they will tell you that [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu, [US President Donald] Trump and [Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed] bin Salman are isolated, not Iran,” he said.

Zarif suggested it was hard to imagine negotiating with Trump after he had torn up the 2015 nuclear deal, on which Iran and world powers had spent the “longest hours in negotiating history.”

“Do you think this person (Trump) is a good and suitable person to negotiate with? Or is he just showing off?” Zarif said.

Trump in May pulled the US out of the accord reached between Iran and world powers meant to curb Tehran’s nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief.

US President Donald Trump (right) welcomes Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to the White House on March 5, 2018, in Washington, DC. (AFP Photo/Mandel Ngan)

He has frequently called the pact the “worst deal ever,” and has vowed to negotiate a better one, but Iran has shown no interest in returning to the table and has called on the accord’s remaining partners to stick to it, while also threatening to ramp up its enrichment program again.

With US sanctions set to against Iran set to snap back at midnight on Monday, Zarif acknowledged there were difficult times ahead.

“Of course, American bullying and political pressures may cause some disruption, but the fact is that in the current world, America is isolated,” he said.

US allies Saudi Arabia and Israel are among the only countries to strongly support the re-imposition of American sanctions.

Earlier on Monday, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the new sanctions would be rigorously enforced and would remain in place until the Tehran government radically changes course.

Speaking to reporters aboard his plane on his way home from a three-nation trip to Southeast Asia, Pompeo said the re-imposition of sanctions is an important pillar in US policy toward Iran. He said the Trump administration is open to looking beyond sanctions but that would “require enormous change” from Tehran.

US President Donald Trump and Saudi Crown Prince and Defense Minister Mohammed bin Salman speak to the media in the Oval Office at the White House, on March 14, 2017. (AFP/ Nicholas Kamm)

“We’re hopeful that we can find a way to move forward but it’s going to require enormous change on the part of the Iranian regime,” he said Sunday. “They’ve got to behave like a normal country. That’s the ask. It’s pretty simple.”

Pompeo called the Iranian leadership “bad actors” and said Trump, who has declared his willingness to meet Iran’s leader, is intent on getting them to “behave like a normal country.”

The European Union meanwhile, it said “deeply regretted” the US re-imposition of sanctions, and said the other European parties to the 2015 nuclear agreement — Britain, France and Germany — would work to keep “effective financial channels” open with Iran.


CNN’s Acosta: I’m worried Trump’s rhetoric toward media ‘will result in somebody getting hurt’ — Trump supporters chant “CNN Sucks” at Tampa rally

August 1, 2018

CNN senior White House correspondent Jim Acosta expressed concern on Tuesday with the way President Trump‘s supporters heckle members of the press, warning that the president’s rhetoric could “result in somebody getting hurt.”

Acosta posted a video from Trump’s rally in Tampa, Fla., on Tuesday showing supporters shouting down members of the press. At one point, one man in the crowd looks into the camera and yells, “stop lying.”

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President Trump speaks to his supporters at a rally in Tampa on July 31, 2018. CHRIS URSO, Tampa Bay Times

“Just a sample of the sad scene we faced at the Trump rally in Tampa,” Acosta tweeted. “I’m very worried that the hostility whipped up by Trump and some in conservative media will result in somebody getting hurt. We should not treat our fellow Americans this way. The press is not the enemy.”

Trump has made his ongoing feud with media outlets that cover his administration critically a centerpiece of his brand of politics, often referring to coverage he deems unfavorable to him as “fake news.”

He has also repeatedly called reporters the “enemy of the people.” That particular accusation was the subject of a meeting earlier this month between Trump and A.G. Sulzberger, the publisher of The New York Times.

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Jim Acosta

Trump revealed the existence of the off-the-record meeting in a tweet on Sunday, writing that the two “spent much time talking about the vast amounts of Fake News being put out by the media & how that Fake News has morphed into phrase, ‘Enemy of the People.’ ”

That prompted a response from Sulzberger, who said in a statement that he had met with the president to urge him to tone town his attacks on the media at large.

“I told him that although the phrase ‘fake news’ is untrue and harmful, I am far more concerned about his labeling journalists ‘the enemy of the people,’ ” Sulzberger said.

“I warned that this inflammatory language is contributing to a rise in threats against journalists and will lead to violence.”


‘CNN sucks’: Trump supporters jeer media at rally in Tampa, Florida



Abbas says Palestinians Planning “Fateful and Dangerous Decisions”

July 29, 2018

Abbas was apparently referring to previous recommendations by the Central Council and the Palestine National Council, the PLO’s parliament, to sever ties with Israel.

 JULY 29, 2018 00:34
Abbas: Palestinians planning ‘fateful and dangerous decisions’

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas waves in Ramallah, in the West Bank May 1, 2018. (photo credit: REUTERS/MOHAMAD TOROKMAN)

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said on Saturday that the Palestinians were planning to make “fateful and dangerous decisions on important issues in the next two months.”

He did not specify the nature of the decisions being considered. However, Abbas said that they would be presented to the PLO Central Council for approval.

Abbas was apparently referring to previous recommendations by the Central Council and the Palestine National Council, the PLO’s parliament, to sever ties with Israel.

Palestinian leader Abbas says Trump’s ‘crime’ over Jerusalem precludes US peace role (Reuters)

Abbas, who was speaking at a meeting of the PLO Executive Committee in Ramallah on Saturday, again voiced his strong rejection of US President Donald Trump’s yet-to-be-unveiled plan for peace in the Middle East, which is known as the “deal of the century” or the “ultimate deal.”

“We have rejected – and will continue to reject – this deal,” Abbas said. “As far as we’re concerned, this deal is finished, and we no longer care about it.”

Referring to Friday’s incident at the Temple Mount, which began when Palestinians threw stones at Israel Police forces, Abbas said that Israel’s “measures at al-Aqsa Mosque were no longer tolerable.”

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His remark apparently referred to visits by Jews to the Mount, which Abbas and the PA have condemned as “provocations” and “assaults” on al-Aqsa.

Abbas also repeated his rejection of the new Nation- State Law that was recently approved by the Knesset, saying the Palestinians were considering their response to the law and other Israeli measures. “This is an issue that we can’t accept,” he said in reference to the law.

At the end of Saturday’s meeting, the PLO Executive Committee issued a statement in which it claimed that the Nation-State Law was a “fulcrum” and an “integral part” of Trump’s upcoming peace plan. The committee called on the international community to hold Israel accountable for the “racist” law.

The committee said Abbas briefed its members on his efforts to foil Trump’s “deal of the century” which, it charged, was “aimed at liquidating the Palestinian cause and the Palestinian national project, and destroying the two-state option.”

The committee vowed to continue payments to Palestinian security prisoners and families of “martyrs.”

The PLO meeting was called to discuss previous recommendations by Palestinian bodies to “redefine” or terminate relations with Israel, including security coordination in the West Bank.

With regards to the ongoing dispute between Abbas’s ruling Fatah faction and Hamas, Abbas said that he was planning to send a delegation to Cairo on Sunday for further talks with Egyptian officials on ways of ending the rift.

“The delegation will carry the Palestinian position [to the Egyptians],” he said. “It’s not a response, because we’re not responding to anyone. We’re talking about our position, which we took on October 12, 2017. This is our fixed position.”

Abbas was referring to the Egyptian-sponsored agreement that was signed in Cairo between Fatah and Hamas, which calls for Hamas to give the Ramallah-based PA government full civilian control of the Gaza Strip in return for easing the economic blockade on the coastal enclave. The deal also stipulates that presidential, parliamentary and municipal elections should be held within one year of its signing. Hamas and Fatah agreed to form an interim government before the vote.

However, the two parties have since failed to implement the accord and continue to bicker over the interpretation of its details. Abbas has accused Hamas of failing to allow his government to assume its full responsibilities, including security control, in the Gaza Strip. Hamas, for its part, has accused the PA government of failing to lift the economic sanctions it had imposed on the Strip last year.

The two sides also continue to argue over the future of Hamas’s weapons in the Gaza Strip. The PA insists that Hamas relinquish security control over the Strip and disarm, arguing that there should be only one official security apparatus there. Although Hamas has agreed to allow hundreds of PA policemen to redeploy there, it remains opposed to dismantling any of its security forces or militias.

Earlier this month, the Egyptians reportedly presented the two rival parties with yet another proposal for ending the dispute. Hamas leaders said they have accepted the proposal, while Fatah’s position remains unclear.

In response, senior Hamas official Khalil al-Haya on Saturday accused Fatah of failing to make a decision on the Egyptian proposal. “Fatah is trying to gain time on the issue of national reconciliation,” he charged. “Hamas does not know what Fatah’s motives are.”

Abbas said that protests against Israel’s decision to evict the Bedouin shantytown of Khan al-Ahmar, located between Ma’aleh Adumim and Kfar Adumim, would and should continue “under the leadership of the PLO and all Palestinian factions.”

The protests that the Palestinians have taken thus far against the decision to evict the residents of Khan al-Ahmar are good, but insufficient, he added. “We need to continue [with the protests] because Israel will continue with its measures to divide the West Bank and carry out the ‘canton plan’ which was planned for the Palestinians since the [1917] Balfour Declaration.”

Abbas and other Palestinians believe that Israel is planning to divide the West Bank into cantons (empowered provinces) to prevent the establishment of an independent and sovereign Palestinian state.


    Republicans Rebuke Trump for Siding With Putin as Democrats Demand Action

    July 17, 2018

    For nearly two years, Republicans have watched uncomfortably, and often in silence, as President Trump has swatted away accusations that Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential race, attacked his own intelligence agencies and flattered President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia.

    On Monday, even for members of his own party, Mr. Trump apparently went too far.

    The president’s extraordinary news conference with Mr. Putin in Helsinki, Finland, stunned Republicans across the ideological spectrum and the party’s political apparatus, leaving them struggling to respond after the president undermined his national intelligence director, blamed both the United States and Russia for poor relations between the two countries and seemingly agreed to Mr. Putin’s suggestion that Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel, cooperate with Russia.

    Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona, declared, “No prior president has ever abased himself more abjectly before a tyrant.” Newt Gingrich, the former House speaker and Trump adviser, declared the news conference “the most serious mistake of his presidency.” Mitt Romney, the 2012 Republican presidential nominee and current Senate candidate from Utah, called it “disgraceful and detrimental to our democratic principles.”

    Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky and the majority leader, said that “the Russians are not our friends,” after President Trump’s joint news conference on Monday with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia. Credit Erin Schaff for The New York Times

    The effect extended far beyond official Washington. One local official — Chris Gagin, the chairman of the Republican Party in Belmont County, Ohio — resigned his post, announcing on Twitter that he “did so as a matter of conscience, and my sense of duty.” Neil Cavuto, a Fox Business Network host, called Mr. Trump’s performance “disgusting,” adding, “I’m sorry, it’s the only way I feel. It’s not a right or left thing to me, it’s just wrong.”

    Read the rest:


    With Trump strategy unclear, U.S. allies turn to Moscow to secure their interests in Syria

    July 15, 2018

    As President Trump began a six-day trip to Europe, due to culminate Monday in a meeting with Russian President Vladi­mir Putin, Putin was having some meetings of his own.

    In Moscow on Wednesday, he hosted Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a frequent visitor, who said he wanted to talk to the Russian leader “without intermediaries.” Hours later, Putin sat down with Ali Akbar Velayati, the foreign policy adviser to Iran’s supreme leader.

    The main subject of the meetings was Syria, also a top item on Trump’s agenda.

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    Russian President Vladimir Putin shakes hands with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during their meeting Wednesday, July 11, at the Kremlin to discuss Syria.

    “Of course I’m going to bring that up” with Putin, Trump said Friday during a stop in Britain. “I’m not going in with high expectations,” he said, “but we may come out with some surprising things.”

    By Karen DeYoung and Joby Warrick
    The Washington Post

    As Trump and Putin prepare to meet in Helsinki, both allies and adversaries in the Middle East are turning to Putin for reassurance and understanding of how such surprises might affect them. For Iran, which has partnered with Russia to keep Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in power and decimate his U.S.-backed opposition, keeping Moscow close is a no-brainer.

    But for many of America’s allies in the region, who say they have little understanding of Trump’s long-term strategy in Syria, there is growing anxiety about what he is prepared to offer Putin in exchange for help in attaining what he says is his primary goal of expelling Iran.

    Russian President Vladimir Putin, center, shakes hands with Ali Akbar Velayati, a senior adviser to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, as Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, stands at right, at Novo-Ograyovo outside in Moscow on July 12, 2018. (Alexei Druzhinin, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)

    Among the possibilities raised by senior officials in a number of regional governments, some of which also concern administration officials, are that Trump will agree to a partial or complete withdrawal of U.S. forces from Syria — as both Syria and Russia have demanded — or even to recognize Russia’s annexation of Crimea and drop U.S. sanctions.

    Trump signed Wednesday’s NATO communique declaring that it would never accept Russia’s “illegal and illegitimate” takeover of Crimea. If he breaks ranks, it would be his most direct slap yet at the alliance, at a moment when NATO unity already hangs in the balance.

    Removing the 2,200-strong U.S. military contingent in Syria, however, is seen as a more realistic possibility. Trump’s suggestion earlier this year that the United States would withdraw troops from Syria “very soon,” widely interpreted to mean six months, continues to create confusion within the U.S. military as well as among Washington’s regional partners.

    U.S. military officials see the changing dynamics in southwest Syria, as Assad strengthens his control over remaining rebel-held areas, as disconnected from their ongoing campaign against the Islamic State. But they also see the situation as a signal of Syria’s new reality — one in which Assad will remain in power, aided by Russia and Iran. Although the officials said Friday that they have seen no plans to begin to remove troops, they said they are bracing for such a decision.

    Israel, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and others, according to senior Middle Eastern officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity of name and country to avoid publicly questioning Trump, agree that such a step would be disastrous, eliminating whatever leverage the United States still has to push for an acceptable outcome in Syria.

    In the lead-up to the Trump-Putin summit, Russia has continued to defend Iran’s presence in Syria and demand complete U.S. withdrawal, charging that its military deployments are a sham.

    “Let me remind you that they talked about defeating ISIL at first, [and] declared the prevention of ISIL’s rebirth as their goal later,” Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu told an Italian newspaper on Thursday, using an acronym for the Islamic State. Now, he said, the Americans “say [their] presence in Syria should continue to deter the hypothetical ‘Iranian influence.’ ”

    President Vladimir Putin with the French leader Emmanuel Macron in St. Petersburg, Russia, in May.CreditPool photo by Dmitri Lovetsky. MAcron is meeting with Putin on Sunday, July 15, 2018.

    “If our American colleagues are pursuing any course of action in Syria, it is too contradictory to be called a strategy,” Shoigu said.

    U.S. regional allies share the objective of preventing Iran from establishing an unhindered corridor through Syria from Tehran to Beirut. But they worry that Trump may be too willing to accept guarantees that Putin has neither the desire nor ability to deliver.

    Security officials in several countries in the region are skeptical that the Russians could force an Iranian withdrawal, even if they wanted to. “Assad owes everything to Iran, and he’s playing a game between the Russians and Iranians,” said one official in the region.

    At the same time, another senior official from the region said, “the Russians play good chess. Putin wouldn’t make a move without thinking 10 moves ahead.”

    Confused by apparently conflicting administration messages, and doubtful that the United States has a plan for achieving its own long-term goals in Syria, regional allies have reached out to Russia. “For years, there has been a growing disappointment with the U.S. posture in the region,” a third official said. “Countries are beginning to make their own calculations.”

    Assad’s recent offensive in southwestern Syria, bordered by Jordan and the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, is a case in point. The area had been largely peaceful since last summer, when Putin and Trump endorsed a cease-fire deal that froze Russian-backed Syrian government forces and U.S.-backed opposition fighters in place along a demarcation line patrolled by Russian police.

    Late last month, however, Assad’s forces, aided by Russian airstrikes and Iranian-directed militias, began heading south from Damascus for an announced takeover of the area. As the offensive got underway, the administration publicly denounced Russia for violating the cease-fire agreement, even as it privately told regional allies that it would not oppose the move and messaged opposition forces that they would get no assistance and were better off giving up.

    The administration apparently asked Russia for nothing in return. As refugees from ground attacks and Russian bombing fled to nearby borders, and humanitarian organizations warned of catastrophe, Israel and Jordan turned to Moscow to ensure that their interests would be protected.

    For Jordan, whose foreign minister traveled there shortly after hearing the news from Washington, Russia came through. Early this week at the Naseeb border crossing into Jordan, where days earlier tens of thousands of refugees were crowded in dire conditions against the closed border, only several hundred remained under the watch of Syrian soldiers who had arrived with a small Russian-flagged convoy.

    While the Russians kept a discreet presence at the border, their impact has been palpable, and Jordan, despite its not-so-secret support for the rebel groups in the past, welcomed the outcome. “Now, I believe that even within a week, most of the [rebel] groups will agree on terms, and some will be integrated back into their communities,” Brig. Gen. Khaled Massaid, the head of Jordan’s northern military district, said in an interview at his command center a few dozen yards from the crossing.

    As Syria’s civil conflict has dragged on for years, Jordan’s economy has come under increasing strain, including the costs of coping with an estimated 1.3 million refugees. “The Naseeb border has reopened, and the regime is in charge again,” Massaid said. “It is better for Jordan if Syria is able to control its own border.”

    While Israel, like the United States, continues to demand Iran’s complete withdrawal from Syria, its immediate concern is keeping the Iranians at least 50 miles or more away from its border. Netanyahu left Moscow last week — his third visit in recent months — with what the Israeli media reported was a deal with Russia, both to keep Iran and its militias away from the border area and to continue turning a blind eye to Israeli airstrikes against Iranian targets in Syria — the latest of which occurred last week.

    “It’s very clear that Russia and Israel are cooperating on Syria. The Saudis and Russia are cooperating,” said a senior international diplomat closely involved in the conflict, who spoke on the condition of anonymity and described those contacts as a “good thing” to the extent that they “helped cool things down.”

    “The Americans,” the diplomat said, now consider “Syria . . . a Russian thing.”

    But Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.), a strong proponent of keeping U.S. troops in Syria and a skeptic of Russia, tweeted a warning to Netanyahu. “To our friends in Israel,” he wrote, “be very careful making agreements with Russia re Syria that affect U.S. interests. I don’t trust Russia to police Iran or anyone else in Syria.”

    Warrick reported from the Naseeb border crossing in Jordan. Missy Ryan in Washington contributed
    to this report.


    Israel is s

    ‘Fake News’ Goes Global as Trump, in Britain, Rips the Press

    July 14, 2018

    He shouted down a question from CNN, calling the network “fake news.” He knocked NBC News for “such dishonest reporting.” He falsely accused the London tabloid The Sun of cherry-picking quotes from an interview and complained about a photograph in The New York Times that, he said, made it look like he had a “double chin.”

    President Trump was in Britain on diplomatic business. But on Friday, he often appeared focused on a topic that comes more naturally to the showman president: the news media.

    Image may contain: 2 people, people standing

    US President Donald Trump with British Prime Minister Theresa May, July 13, 2018

    Nonstop denigration of journalists has become an indelible part of the Trump presidency, so routine that it threatens to recede into the background noise of this chaotic administration, a low hum lost in the racket.

    But in taking his act on the road, Mr. Trump gave a fresh audience a front-row seat to his treatment of the press. The spectacle of a president bashing his nation’s news organizations on foreign soil — in scenes broadcast live around the world — was a reminder of how Mr. Trump’s conduct with journalists can still shock.

    By  Michael M. Grynbaum
    The New York Times

    Read it all:


    The Associated Press

    President Donald Trump found time to attack CNN, NBC and the British tabloid The Sun, and offer fashion advice to a fourth news organization, while talking to reporters Friday with British Prime Minister Theresa May.

    The leaders faced sharp questions at a news conference following their talks, which came between a reportedly contentious meeting of NATO representatives and Trump’s upcoming summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

    Frequent Trump foil Jim Acosta of CNN tried to ask a question at one point and was rebuffed by the president.

    “CNN is fake news,” Trump said. “I don’t take questions from CNN.

    “Let’s go to a real network,” Trump said, pointing to John Roberts of Fox News Channel. Roberts asked if there was any way that relations with Russia would improve as long as the country occupied Crimea.

    A day earlier, Trump took a question from CNN’s Jeremy Diamond following the NATO meeting. And as Friday’s session with May was breaking up, Acosta shouted, “Mr. President, will you ask Putin to stay out of U.S. elections?”

    Trump turned around and answered yes.

    Roberts, a veteran of CBS News and CNN, took some withering criticism online for not standing up for Acosta in the moment or, perhaps, ceding the microphone to his colleague.

    CNN anchor Jake Tapper tweeted that he was “old enough to remember when other networks came to the defence of Fox News WH correspondents during the Obama years. Such did not happen here. Lesson for the kids out there: no one should ever try to do the right thing with the expectation that it will ever be reciprocated.”

    Media solidarity has become an issue with White House briefings lately, as some journalists suggest that reporters should band together to prevent press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders from changing the subject to avoid answering questions. It hasn’t happened to any appreciable degree.

    Roberts said later that he paused when Acosta and Trump went back and forth, and asked his own question when it became clear the president would not entertain one from CNN.

    He noted he used to work at CNN. “There are some fine journalists who work there and risk their lives to report on stories around the world,” Roberts said. “To issue a blanket condemnation of the network as ‘fake news’ is … unfair.”

    Roberts also said it was similarly wrong for Trump to call Kristen Welker of NBC News dishonest. “She is as honest as the day is long,” he said.

    Trump took offence Friday when Welker asked him, “Are you giving Russian President Vladimir Putin the upper hand heading into your talks given that you are challenging the alliances that he is seeking to break up and defeat?”

    Trump called it dishonest reporting. “Of course it happens to be NBC, which is possibly worse than CNN,” he said. Welker was cut off when she tried to reply.

    NBC News had no comment on the exchange. Margaret Talev, president of the White House Correspondents Association, said that “asking smart, tough questions, whether in a presidential press conference or interview, is central to the role a free press plays in a healthy republic.”

    “Saying a news organization isn’t real doesn’t change the facts and won’t stop us from doing our jobs,” Talev said.

    All of the cable news networks, along with ABC, CBS and NBC, carried the news conference live. Mika Brzezinski of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” promised the show would fact-check the session live, much as it had done the day before following a NATO meeting. Co-host Joe Scarborough frequently broke in while Trump talked on Thursday, calling some of his claims untrue.

    But MSNBC didn’t break in to the Trump-May session Friday. There was no indication whether the live fact-check was considered a failed experiment, or whether it would be repeated on “Morning Joe” or any other show.

    Trump was questioned Friday about critical statements he had made about May in an interview this week with The Sun, where he said she hadn’t taken his advice about Brexit negotiations and he praised her political rival. He criticized the newspaper for not printing the positive things he said about May, although he later softened his stance when it was pointed out that the Sun released audio portions of the interview.

    “I said very nice things about her,” he said. “They didn’t put it in the headline. I wish they’d put it in the headline.”

    The Sun’s headline: “Trump’s Brexit Blast: Donald Trump told Theresa May how to do Brexit ‘but she wrecked it’ — and says the US trade deal is off.”

    In a statement, the Sun said it stood by its reporting. “To say the president called us ‘fake news’ with any serious intent is, well … fake news.”

    During one awkward moment in the news conference, Trump called attention to Reuters reporter Jeff Mason’s hat. Roberts, sitting next to him, playfully doffed the hat to reveal Mason’s bald head.

    “I like you better without the hat,” Trump said.

    Mason took it off and asked his question.