President Donald Trump will be “impeached” and “removed from office,” promised Hollywood director and left-wing activist Rob Reiner at an impeachment rally in Los Angeles on Tuesday night.
The rally, sponsored by the left-wing and partisan Democrat organization MoveOn, was attended by approximately 500 protesters before Wednesday’s scheduled vote in the House of Representatives on articles of impeachment against Trump.
“Fact, he has abused his power by attempting to bribe a foreign country for his own personal political benefit. Fact, he has obstructed Congress in covering up all of his wrongdoing, and fact, tomorrow, he will be the third president in the United States ever to have been impeached,” Reiner Said.
“We all care about the rule of law. We care about our Constitution. We care about our 243 years of self-rule, and we care about it. We will make sure that not only is he impeached, but he will be removed from office. Thank you. I love you all for coming. Thank you,” Reiner said.
Actress and fellow left-wing activist Alyssa Milano was also a featured speaker at the event. “We will vote them all out,” she promised, while describing herself as “premenopausal” and “angry.” Milano led attendees in a chant of, “THIS IS WHAT DEMOCRACY LOOKS LIKE!”
Breitbart News reported on signs held by the rallygoers, including messages such as: “Impeach and Remove”; “Trump Is Not Above the Law”; Impeach 45″; “Fuck Cheeto Voldemort”; and “Make the Asshole Go Away.”
A rubber prop depicting Trump’s head was seen on the end of a pike held by a man at the event. He told Breitbart News he wished it were Trump’s actual head.
Reiner derided Trump as “the most criminally corrupt president in our nation’s history” via Twitter prior to his rally address.
For all those who believe in the Rule of Law, The Constitution & our 243 yrs. of Self Rule, join me tonight at LA City Hall for one of the over 500 rallies around the country calling for the Impeachment & Removal of the most Criminally Corrupt President in our Nation’s history.
Reiner regularly frames Trump and Republicans as agents of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“Every elected Republican knows that this President is guilty of countless Impeachable offenses. But they, along with many White Evangelicals & White Supremacists have made a pact with Putin,” Reiner said in November. “But unlike a pact with the Devil, this one can be unsigned.”
MANCHESTER, N.H. — Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., isn’t running for president, but she’s still a hot topic on the campaign trail, at least for President Trump.
In October, Trump, who has called for Omar’s resignation, blasted her as a “disgrace” and an “America-hating socialist” at one of his rallies in her home state. Trump also suggested Minnesota’s Somali immigrant community, which Omar is part of, has had a negative impact on the state.
It was not the first time Trump focused on Omar. The president has previously tweeted that she and the other progressive congresswomen of color, known as “the Squad,” should go back to their countries of origin. That remark sparked a House resolution condemning Trump for “racist comments,” a characterization he vehemently disputed.
In a wide-ranging interview with Yahoo News on Friday, Omar said she believes Trump has an unhealthy fixation on her.
“It seems like a serious obsession, and for all the things he should seek help for, that should be one,” Omar said of Trump’s focus on her.
At the same time, Omar, who was in New Hampshire campaigning for presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., said she is not surprised to have Trump’s attention.
“This has been a president that has used his energy in the most xenophobic, racist ways to mobilize a base that is understandably frightened about the kind of America they might have if we continue to build the kind of connected communities we’re all excited about,” she said.
The level of presidential attention she has received is highly unusual for a 37-year-old freshman lawmaker. But then again, many things are unusual about Omar.
In addition to her youth and position as one of the more progressive members of the House, Omar is one of the first two Muslim women to serve in Congress. Omar, who emigrated to the U.S. as a child after her family fled the civil war in her country and spent time in a refugee camp, is also the first Somali-American and the first naturalized citizen from Africa to serve in Congress. But along with being a pioneering presence on Capitol Hill, Omar has also become a polarizing one, and has been dogged by accusations of anti-Semitism, which she fiercely denies.
But Omar is willing to be branded a political “radical,” and she made that the theme of her speech in support of Sanders at Southern New Hampshire University on Friday. “The media and many political pundits have labels they place on Sen. Bernie and myself, and sometimes we get the same titles, and one that they like to use is ‘radical,’” Omar said.
Omar rattled off a series of policy positions that she and Sanders share, including support for Medicare for All, free public education, elimination of student debt, the opinion that climate change is “an existential threat to humanity,” and the view that it is a “moral outrage” for the fossil fuel industry to receive “corporate welfare.”
“If that belief is radical, then I am so proud to be radical,” Omar said after each point and the crowd applauded.
“The truth is, the only radicalism we are motivated by is radical love,” Omar continued. “Bernie Sanders has been motivated by radical love his whole life, and he has never wavered. This is the same agenda that motivated Dr. Martin Luther King.”
Omar suggested Sanders shares Dr. King’s desire to focus on “three evils facing America;” racism, poverty, and war. She framed this as the “only way we can defeat the dark cloud of hate hanging over America.”
Sanders’s staunch progressivism has drawn predictable fire from conservatives, but it’s also sparked fear from Democrats who worry he could alienate moderate and independent voters in a pivotal election year. Omar dismissed the idea that Sanders is too far left to win the election. As evidence, she pointed to the fact Sanders lost the Democratic primary in 2016 to a more centrist candidate, Hillary Clinton, who was then defeated.
“In 2016, we made the same argument, we ended up choosing a candidate, and we still got Trump,” said Omar. “It is really about finding candidates that resonate with folks, and I don’t know anyone better than Bernie who does that.”
After the introduction from Omar in Manchester, Sanders delivered his stump speech. But first, he offered praise for the congresswoman.
“You’re looking at one of the extraordinary people in American politics,” Sanders said of Omar.
Much of the anger directed toward Omar has stemmed from her criticism of American support for the Israeli government in light of its treatment of Palestinians.
Opponents have accused Omar of using anti-Semitic rhetoric in some of her comments, including a 2012 tweet in which she said Israel had “hypnotized” the world and statements she has made since entering Congress. In February, Omar offered an “unequivocal” apology after a tweet she that characterized congressional support for Israel as being “all about the Benjamins,” which many critics saw as a clear allusion to stereotypes of conspiratorial Jewish financial control over public life.
In her apology, Omar said she meant to highlight the “problematic role of lobbyists” including pro-Israel groups. Omar further said “allies and colleagues” were “educating” her on the “painful history of anti-Semitic tropes.”
The debate continued as Omar campaigned for Sanders in New Hampshire. Ahead of her events on Friday, Judy Aron, a Jewish Republican legislator in the state, wrote a note on Facebook criticizing Democrats for “bringing noted anti-Semite and opponent of Israel Rep. Ilhan Omar to New Hampshire.” Aron’s statement was subsequently circulated by the state Republican Party.
Yet, in supporting Sanders, Omar is pushing for the election of a man who would be the first Jewish president. Asked whether she saw the moment as a milestone given the history of tension between the Jewish and Muslim communities, Omar pointed to data showing the two groups are actually particularly close allies in the United States.
“There’s a public narrative that gets manipulated and exploited, and then there’s the reality of our lived experiences,” Omar said. “For me, Bernie has always been someone who has reached out and connected on a multitude of things, who’s been serious about building a relationship more so than anyone else outside of, you know, obviously, my Squad sisters.”
Omar said Sanders’s efforts to work with her led to a unique bond between them.
“That is the kind of stuff that transcends, you know, religious differences and differences in upbringing, country of origin, and all of that,” said Omar, adding, “I feel connected to him in ways that I don’t feel connected to a lot of people I serve with.”
When asked about her past comments that were seen as allusions to anti-Semitic stereotypes, Omar framed it as a case of needing to increase her awareness as someone who grew up outside of American culture.
“That’s, I think, just exposure,” Omar said.
As an example, Omar noted that Somalis do not use last names in the same way as English speakers do. She described having to learn how to address people in this way and educating herself on which names indicate different ethnicities.
“There are many times where people will say that’s an Irish last name, that’s a Jewish last name,” Omar explained. “And that’s not something I’m familiar with. I didn’t grow up in a culture where last names are a thing.”
Omar’s appearances for Sanders in New Hampshire were part of a push to drum up youth support in the key early primary state. New Hampshire also is home to some Somali refugees, and a Sanders campaign source said Omar met with members of the community during her visit.
In addition to her speech in Manchester, Omar knocked on doors of local residents, appeared with the senator at an awards ceremony hosted by the New Hampshire Young Democrats, and made remarks at a campaign rally for him in Nashua.
A group of five young women who came to the rally from a nearby high school said they were still undecided about whom to support, but they added that Omar’s endorsement made them more drawn to Sanders. One of the girls, Ruthie Zolla, said she appreciated Omar for being “unafraid” to tackle serious issues and “corruption.”
“I like that she’s fearless in everything she believes in,” said Zolla.
Three of the young women, who identified themselves as Jewish, said the accusations of anti-Semitism against Omar are unfair. One of them, Ella Weintraub, attributed the allegations to “fear of change and Islamophobia.”
“She just has to put up with so much more being a Muslim woman in this position of power,” Weintraub said of Omar.
The young women all said it was meaningful to them to see Omar and her fellow Squad members, who are all women of color, line up behind Sanders.
“When I heard that ilhan Omar and [Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y.] supported Bernie, that was really a big turn-on for me,” said Regan O’Brien, one of the students.
Indeed, the endorsement from the Squad has been a turning point for Sanders, who faced an impression that he could not appeal to women and minorities during his unsuccessful presidential bid in 2016. Since mid-October when Sanders earned the endorsement of Omar, Ocasio-Cortez, and Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., he has surged to a second place average in national polls behind former Vice President Joe Biden.
While Sanders is running behind Biden in national polls, his numbers in key early states look far better. Sanders’s recent surge has brought him to first place in New Hampshire, and he’s in second place in Iowa, where Biden is polling third, behind Sanders and South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg. His strength in early states has clearly made Sanders one of the three frontrunners in the race, along with Biden and Buttigieg.
Sanders has also made gains as another progressive candidate, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., has seen her numbers dip. Warren has the endorsement of the fourth Squad member, Rep. Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass., who appeared on the senator’s behalf at the Nashua event where Omar campaigned for Sanders.
The Squad members who have backed Sanders have faced questions about why they didn’t choose to support another woman or person of color. Omar told Yahoo News her decision was based on Sanders’s platform.
“For me, it’s really never been a particular leader,’ Omar said. “It’s always about the agenda.”
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The closest thing to a shout-out to trade policy came from Sen. Bernie Sanders — the sixth and final candidate to speak — who asserted he would “stand up for workers abroad” and “stand up for workers in the United States of America.”
It’s par for the course in the Democratic primary. If the presidential contenders say anything at all about trade policy, it’s typically criticism of Trump’s go-it-alone approach in fighting China, a passing acknowledgment that farmers are hurting from the president’s approach or a caution that the replacement deal for NAFTA needs to be strongly enforceable.
They aren’t even tackling the issue in their broader messaging. Out of the dozens of television ads Democrats have taken out in Iowa, not a single one has focused on trade.
Trump, meanwhile, has made trade a central focus of his presidency. The self-styled “Tariff Man” characterizes his fight against China as a wildly successful move that has crippled its economy, and lauded his own efforts to fix the long-criticized trade deal with Mexico and Canada as huge accomplishments enabled by his deal-making savvy.
Just this week the president, who argues his confrontational approach is ending “the war on American workers,” announced a preliminary trade deal with China. And his administration landed a deal with House Democrats to replace the 25-year-old NAFTA.
The Democratic field has been noticeably quiet on both issues here, leading some Iowa Democrats to worry it could cost the party here and in the battleground states they hope to claw back from Trump in 2020.
“It’s certainly a missed opportunity,” Sean Bagniewski, chair of the Polk County Democrats, said.
“I think trade is the area to show you care about what’s hurting rural voters. But now with the caucus less than two months away, you could say the cake is already in the oven,” Bagniewski added. “It’s a little too late.”
Trump has imposed tariffs on more than $360 billion worth of Chinese goods, a move that resulted in harsh retaliation from Beijing, particularly on U.S. agricultural products like soybeans and pork. The pain has been felt acutely in Iowa, the nation’s number one pork producing state and second-leading soybean producer.
Iowans are quick to acknowledge that sales are down and farm communities — from farmers to equipment manufacturers to the banks they put their money in — are struggling due to Trump’s actions.
But in countless trips to Iowa by 2020 Democrats, they aren’t spending much time talking in depth about an issue that’s essential to the health of the state economy.
“We’d expect them to speak up more,” said Quentin Hart, mayor of Waterloo, Iowa.
Democrats at the local level, ranging from state and county leaders to Reps. Abby Finkenauer and Cindy Axne, have made trade a more central issue because they know Iowans are hurting, Hart said.
“It’s particularly important in places like Waterloo, but it hasn’t been a main leading point in these conversations,” Hart said recently after his city hosted a presidential forum attended by five candidates, none of whom mentioned trade policy.
At the Iowa Farmers Union annual meeting in Grinnell in early December, it was a similar story: Democrats made quick references to Trump’s trade wars, without offering much detail on what their approach on trade would be.
“Donald Trump is treating farmers like poker chips in one of his bankrupt casinos,” Sen. Amy Klobuchar said to an audience of more than 100 farmers and agricultural industry members.
Klobuchar is often credited on Capitol Hill as one of the most trade-savvy lawmakers given that she represents Minnesota, a farm state that largely relies on trade, particularly with Canada, its neighbor to the north. Klobuchar is also a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, where she has been vocal in pressing the Trump administration to expand U.S. exports abroad.
Still, Sen. Elizabeth Warren is the only major candidate to roll out a comprehensive trade plan, which in some ways more closely resembles Trump’s agenda than Barack Obama’s. Her plan would overhaul how Democratic administrations have handled trade in the past and create a list of nine separate criteria a country would have to meet before negotiating a trade deal with the U.S
“For decades, big multinational corporations have bought and lobbied their way into dictating America’s trade policy,” Warren wrote, calling the policies across Republican and Democratic administrations a “failed trade agenda.”
But after announcing her vision days before the July Democratic debate in Detroit, Warren rarely makes reference to her grand plan for trade.
“It would be a good thing for her to emphasize more,” said Jeff Link, a longtime Iowa-based Democratic strategist.
Link pointed out that trade policy is coming up a lot more in congressional races, such as in Iowa’s 4th District where Democrat J.D. Scholten is running for Rep. Steve King’s seat. But he noted that stems from Scholten’s ability to travel to towns with less than 1,000 people and really “pick up a lot of material on trade from speaking to small towns.”
Some Iowa Democrats believe candidates are steering clear from talking about trade because it’s a complicated subject and they don’t want a blunder on the campaign trail to get amplified on social media. (Trump, by contrast, never shies from talking about trade at rallies.)
“There’s a palpable fear of saying something wrong,” Bagniewski said.
Democratic strategists argue that it’s likely trade policy will loom larger once the crowded field of candidates shrinks and the prospect of confronting Trump directly draws nearer.
Link observed that Buttigieg has more recently weaved trade into his stump speech in Iowa — a move that comes as he has surged in the polls in the Hawkeye state.
“It’s an unavoidable issue because it’s a signature issue for Trump,” said Bill Reinsch, a former Clinton administration official and trade expert with the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “They’re going to have to deal with it, and they would be smart to practice in Iowa, but guess not.”
The president’s chief economic adviser Larry Kudlow said Sunday, “President Trump showed us how to bargain,” reacting to the U.S. and China’s agreement to a “Phase One” trade deal two days before.
The deal would reduce tariffs on some Chinese goods and could be a boon to American farmers who have been hard hit by the 19-month trade war.
Speaking on “Sunday Morning Futures,” Kudlow told host Maria Bartiromo President Trump’s “tough” stance on economic matters seems to be working.
Kudlow also referenced the fact that House Democrats handed President Trump a breakthrough political victory by finally approving the historic United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) to replace the North American Free Trade Agreement.
The approval came shortly after House Democrats unveiled two articles of impeachment against Trump.
US WILL DOUBLE EXPORTS TO CHINA UNDER ‘PHASE ONE’ DEAL: LIGHTHIZER
“China Phase One and USMCA cover more or less over two trillion dollars’ worth of trading activity,” Kudlow told Bartiromo on Sunday.
He added, “Not only is this positive for economic growth, but it does show that President Trump’s example of being a tough, hard-nosed bargainer on trade and economic matters works.”
After months of mixed signals that had the media and the public wondering if China and the U.S. would ever stay at the table long enough to make any kind of deal, U.S. Trade Rep. Robert Lighthizer told CBS’ “Face the Nation” on Sunday that a “Phase One” trade deal was “totally done.”
He said that the U.S. will double its exports to China under the “Phase One” trade deal and it would keep in place “$380 billion worth of tariffs to defend, protect U.S. technology.”
ANDY PUZDER: TRUMP’S CHINA TRADE DEAL BRINGS US GREAT BENEFITS, FULFILLS CAMPAIGN PROMISE
China’s government says it will postone planned punitive tariffs on U.S.-made automobiles and other goods following the interim trade deal with Washington.
“He [Trump] has been accused of being an isolationist, and every other name around. The fact is, he has accomplished stuff here in the trading area that no one, and I mean no one in our memory, has been able to achieve,” Kudlow told Bartiromo on Sunday morning.
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“So you know what? I kind of like tough myself and I think tough is working and, incidentally, tough is going to increase our economic growth rate next year and the years ahead.”
Fox Business’ Evie Fordham contributed to this report.
Trump spoke just about an hour after the House Judiciary Committee voted.
December 13, 2019, 8:30 PM
8 min read
Just about an hour after the House Judiciary Committee Friday approved two articles of impeachment against him, President Donald Trump accused them of “trivializing” the constitutional process for political gain.
Before a meeting with Paraguay’s president at the White House, Trump told reporters he had been working on a China trade deal but “got to see enough of it.”
“You’re trivializing impeachment, and I tell you what, someday they’ll be a Democrat president and they’ll be a Republican House, and I suspect they’re going to remember it. Because when you do — when you use impeachment for absolutely nothing other than to try and get political gain.”
“I think it’s a horrible thing to be using the tool of impeachment, which is supposed to be used in an emergency and, it would seem, many, many, many years apart – to be using this for a perfect phone call where the president of that country said there was no pressure whatsoever, didn’t even know what we were talking about, it was perfect,” he said, referring to his July 25 phone call in which he pressured Ukraine’s president to investigate his political rivals.
Democrats accuse him of “abuse of power” for doing so and “obstruction of Congress” for blocking their efforts to find out what happened.
“To use the power of impeachment on this nonsense is an embarrassment to this country,” Trump said.
Asked if he preferred a short or long Senate trial – if impeachment made it to that body – Trump praised GOP Sens. Lindsey Graham and Mitch McConnell’s views that a shorter trial is preferable, saying both he’d do “whatever I want’ and “whatever they want.”
“I can do – I’ll do whatever I want,” Trump said. “Look, there is – we did nothing wrong. So, I’ll do long or short. I’ve heard Mitch, I’ve heard Lindsey – I think they are very much an agreement on some concept. I’ll do whatever they want to do, it doesn’t matter. I wouldn’t mind a long process, because I’d like to see the whistleblower, who’s a fraud.”
He went on to criticize, as he often does, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Rep. Adam Schiff as “crooked,” “a corrupt politician,” and “a disgrace” – and then mocked U.S. Army Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, the National Security Council Ukraine expert who listened to the July 25 call, became alarmed, and reported his concerns..
“Now, had I not had a transcript – I’m lucky we had this transcript, which by the way has now been verified by the lieutenant colonel – lieutenant colonel, OK? He’s another beauty.”
Vindman was awarded a Purple Heart after being wounded by an IED while serving in Iraq.
The president also said he also watched Thursday’s House Judiciary Committee markup session – “I got to see quite a bit of it yesterday” – and that he “watched these Democrats on the committee make fools out of themselves, absolute fools out of themselves.
He said people “are absolutely disgusted” but he was benefiting.
“It’s a very sad thing for our country, but It seems to be good for me politically,” Trump said.
On Friday morning, one of the key players in the impeachment investigation — the president’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani — was caught on camera arriving at and then leaving the White House. While it wasn’t immediately clear why he was there, Trump has said Giuliani would be delivering a report to Congress and Attorney General William Barr on what he’s found while in Ukraine.
“I hear he has found plenty,” Trump added, speaking about it last weekend.
“The American people have already made up their mind on this #ImpeachmentScam,” Giuliani tweeted Friday.
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A Democratic-controlled House of Representatives committee on Friday took Republican President Donald Trump to the brink of impeachment when it approved two charges against him stemming from his efforts to pressure Ukraine to investigate Democratic political rival Joe Biden.
A deeply divided House Judiciary Committee voted 23-17 to approve articles of impeachment charging Trump with both abusing the power of his office over Ukraine and obstructing House Democrats’ attempts to investigate him for it.
If the full House votes next week to impeach Trump, as expected, the Republican will become the third U.S. president to be impeached. But the chances of him being removed from office are close to zero because the Senate, which is dominated by Republicans, will have the final say.
In congressional hearings that have gripped Washington, Democrats have accused the president of endangering the U.S. Constitution, jeopardizing national security and undermining the integrity of the 2020 election by asking Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy in a July phone call to investigate Biden.
“Today is a solemn and sad day,” the committee’s Democratic chairman, Jerry Nadler, said. “For the third time in a little over a century and a half, the House Judiciary Committee has voted articles of impeachment against the president.”
Republicans have defended Trump and accused Democrats of a politically motivated farce aimed at overturning his surprise 2016 presidential election victory.
“A sad, ridiculous sham in the U.S. House of Representatives. This needs to come to a quick end,” Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham, a Republican who is often a staunch defender of Trump, wrote on Twitter.
If impeached, Trump will go on trial in the Senate early next year, just as the 2020 presidential campaign begins to pick up speed.
Biden, a former U.S. vice president, is a leading Democratic candidate to face Trump in November’s general election. Trump has alleged that Biden was involved in corruption in Ukraine and should be investigated but the president has offered no evidence. The Democrat denies any wrongdoing.
The abuse of power charge against Trump also accuses him of freezing nearly $400 million in U.S. security aid to Ukraine and offering a possible White House meeting to Zelenskiy to get him to publicly announce investigations of Biden and his son Hunter, who was on the board of a Ukrainian gas company.
Trump also asked Ukraine to investigate a debunked theory that Ukraine, not Russia, interfered in the 2016 U.S. election.
Vote tally sheets showing that two articles of impeachment against U.S. President Donald Trump have been approved by the House Judiciary Committee lie on the clerk’s desk after the committee voted to approve the articles of impeachment and send them on to the full House of Representatives for consideration on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., December 13, 2019. REUTERS/Erin Scott
The obstruction charge against Trump is based on his directives to current and former administration officials such as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo not to cooperate with the impeachment inquiry, even if that meant defying subpoenas.
A senior Democratic aide said the House tentatively plans to hold an impeachment debate next Wednesday ahead of a vote on whether to impeach Trump and send him for trial.
Trump and Republicans say the president did nothing improper in his call with Zelenskiy, and that there is no direct evidence he withheld aid or a White House meeting in exchange for a favor. Democrats counter that by saying that Trump stopped top aides from testifying.
Signaling investors’ lack of concern at political upheaval, U.S. stocks hit fresh record levels on Friday on optimism over a possible trade deal between China and the United States.
As the committee was voting, China announced progress and said Beijing would cancel tariffs scheduled to take effect, pushing the Dow Jones Industrial Average up 0.38%. Trump followed up by tweeting a that trade deal had been reached. Shares later gave up some of the gains but remained near record levels.
Trump would be the third U.S. president to be impeached. Democrat Bill Clinton was impeached in 1998 for perjury for lying about a sexual relationship with a White House intern, but he was acquitted in the Senate. Democrat President Andrew Johnson was impeached in 1868 but not convicted in the Senate.
Republican President Richard Nixon resigned in 1974 before he was impeached over his involvement in the Watergate scandal.
Slideshow (9 Images)
Trump is running for re-election in 2020, a contest expected to be a bitter, partisan battle with a Democratic nominee who will be chosen next year.
The impeachment inquiry was launched in September after a whistleblower complaint about the July 25 call between Trump and Ukraine’s Zelenskiy.
Reporting by Susan Cornwell and David Morgan; Additional reporting by Mohammad Zargham, Lisa Lambert and Susan Heavey; Writing by Alistair Bell; Editing by Jonathan Oatis
(Bloomberg) — Donald Trump warned Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Tuesday against interference in U.S. elections, the White House said in a statement after an Oval Office meeting between the two men.
The meeting came hours after House Democrats unveiled articles of impeachment alleging the president sought to coerce a foreign leader to help his bid for re-election, and it was the first encounter between Trump and Lavrov May 2017, when the U.S. president boasted to the Russian about firing then-FBI Director James Comey and reportedly shared classified information.
Tuesday’s meeting, in which Secretary of State Michael Pompeo also participated, was even more loaded with tension. Earlier in the day, House Democrats announced articles of impeachment that include a finding Trump damaged U.S. national security by withholding military aid to Ukraine, which is battling Russia-backed separatists, in hopes of forcing its government to undertake an investigation into former Vice President Joe Biden.
Immediately before the White House meeting, Pompeo and Lavrov sparred in front of reporters over U.S. findings that Russia interfered in the 2016 election.
In a summary of the meeting, the White House said Trump also urged Russia to resolve the conflict with Ukraine. Trump expressed support for an arms control agreement that would include both Russia and China, and asked for Russian support in preventing Iran from developing nuclear weapons and ensuring that North Korea reduces its own stockpile.
Biden and other Democrats routinely criticize the U.S. president for showing deference to Vladimir Putin. They frequently reference a news conference in Helsinki in which Trump said he believed the Russian leader’s claims more than the findings of his own intelligence services.
Separately, the Justice Department inspector general released a report on Monday finding no political bias in the FBI investigation into allegations of Russian collusion, a conclusion that counters Trump’s contention that he and his campaign had been unfairly targeted. The report, however, cited significant missteps by the bureau as it sought a warrant to surveil a former Trump campaign adviser.
And just last week, Trump attended a NATO summit in London, where other leaders expressed concern about Russia — not just its annexation of Crimea but also its tightening grip on Syria after Trump ordered the withdrawal of U.S. troops.
Revealing Intel Source
The 2017 meeting came just a day after Trump fired Comey over frustration with the probe into his campaign’s ties to Russia. It darkened the cloud of controversy related to Russia that still looms over Trump’s presidency, even after federal investigators found no evidence he was involved in Moscow’s efforts to influence the U.S. elections.
Lavrov arrived at the White House at about 2:20 p.m. in Washington and left about an hour later. The meeting was closed to reporters and none of the participants made any public remarks.
After their first meeting, the Russian state news agency Tass released pictures of Trump and Lavrov laughing in the Oval Office. White House officials then rushed members of the American media into the room, but the Russian delegation had already departed.
Only official U.S. government photographers were allowed into Tuesday’s meeting, according to a White House official who asked not to be identified because it was private.
The White House said after the 2017 meeting that it had been misled by Russian officials and believed the Tass photographer was there on behalf of the Kremlin.
In the following days, the Washington Post reported that Trump revealed highly classified information during the meeting and may have jeopardized a source considered crucial to the battle against Islamic State. Subsequent reports identified the source of that intelligence as Israel. Trump denied ever explicitly revealing the source to Russia, but concerns remained that he had given the Russian officials enough information to determine it for themselves.
“Just so you understand, I never mentioned the word or the name Israel,” Trump said during a 2017 trip to Jerusalem. “Never mentioned it during that conversation. They’re all saying I did, so you have another story wrong. Never mentioned the word Israel.”
Putin met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy in Paris on Monday. That summit led to an agreement to exchange prisoners and the withdrawal of some troops, but no permanent resolution to the ongoing conflict in the disputed Donbas region. More than 13,000 people have died in the conflict over the 500-kilometer (310-mile) contact line over the past four years.
North Korea, Venezuela
Trump is also eager to enlist Russia to help pressure North Korea to abandon its nuclear weapons program amid worrying signs that his efforts may be failing.
Kim Yong Chol, Chairman of the Korea Asia-Pacific Peace Committee, called Trump a “heedless and erratic old man” in a statement to the state-run Korean Central News Agency earlier this week. On Sunday, Trump warned that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un risked voiding “his special relationship with the President of the United States” amid reports that North Korea had conducted a key test at a missile site.
“Kim Jong Un is too smart and has far too much to lose, everything actually, if he acts in a hostile way,” Trump tweeted.
Trump has also said he wants to broker a replacement deal for the New START treaty, which limits the production of nuclear weapons and expires in February 2021. Trump said last week he’s eager to expand the deal to include other nations like China, and want to see “a cessation on nuclear and nuclear creation.”
“It’s — in my opinion — the biggest problem the world has today,” Trump said.
The White House didn’t say whether Trump raised concerns over Russia’s backing of Venezuelan leader Nicolas Maduro. Vice President Mike Pence led a meeting last week with other White House officials to re-examine the administration’s push to empower Juan Guaido, the National Assembly leader and Maduro opponent who declared himself interim president of Venezuela with American backing earlier this year.
But Guaido has failed to push out Maduro, and Trump is losing confidence that the opposition leader will ever topple the regime. The administration officials have instead discussed a possible partnership with Russia to ease the leader out of power.
–With assistance from Jordan Fabian.
To contact the reporter on this story: Justin Sink in Washington at [email protected]
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WASHINGTON/SEOUL, Dec 8 (Reuters) — U.S. President Donald Trump said on Sunday that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un risks losing “everything” if he resumes hostility and his country must denuclearize, after the North said it had carried out a “successful test of great significance.”
“Kim Jong Un is too smart and has far too much to lose, everything actually, if he acts in a hostile way. He signed a strong Denuclearization Agreement with me in Singapore,” Trump said on Twitter, referring to his first summit with Kim in Singapore in 2018.
“He does not want to void his special relationship with the President of the United States or interfere with the U.S. Presidential Election in November,” he said.
North Korea’s state media KCNA reported earlier on Sunday that it had carried out a “very important” test at its Sohae satellite launch site, a rocket-testing ground that U.S. officials once said North Korea had promised to close.
The reported test comes ahead of a year-end deadline North Korea has imposed for the United States to drop its insistence on unilateral denuclearization. Pyongyang has warned it could take a “new path” amid the stalled talks with the United States.
“North Korea, under the leadership of Kim Jong Un, has tremendous economic potential, but it must denuclearize as promised,” Trump said on Twitter.
The KCNA report called it a “successful test of great significance” but did not specify what was tested.
This could be a very credible signal of what might await the world after the New Year.
Missile experts said it appeared likely the North Koreans had conducted a static test of a rocket engine, rather than a missile launch.
“If it is indeed a static engine test for a new solid or liquid fuel missile, it is yet another loud signal that the door for diplomacy is quickly slamming, if it isn’t already,” said Vipin Narang, a nuclear affairs expert at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the United States.
“This could be a very credible signal of what might await the world after the New Year.”
Tensions have risen ahead of a year-end deadline set by North Korea, which has called on the United States to change its policy of insisting on Pyongyang’s unilateral denuclearization and demanded relief from punishing sanctions.
On Saturday North Korea’s ambassador to the United Nations said denuclearization was now off the negotiating table with the United States and lengthy talks with Washington are not needed.
“The results of the recent important test will have an important effect on changing the strategic position of the DPRK once again in the near future,” KCNA reported, using the initials of North Korea’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
Asked in a CBS “Face the Nation” interview if North Korea might be preparing to resume nuclear tests, U.S. National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien said that “would be a mistake on the part of North Korea.”
Pyongyang’s last nuclear test, its sixth and most powerful, took place in September 2017.
“It doesn’t end well for them if they do.. If North Korea takes a different path than the one it’s promised… we’ve got plenty of tools in the toolkit,” O’Brien said on Sunday.
Recent days have also seen a return to the highly charged rhetoric that raised fears of war two years ago.
In 2017, Trump and Kim famously engaged in a war of words, with Trump calling Kim “Rocket Man” and North Korea calling Trump, now 73, a “dotard.”
On Tuesday, Trump once again called Kim “Rocket Man” and said the United States reserved the right to use military force against North Korea. Pyongyang, in response, said any repeat of such language would represent “the relapse of the dotage of a dotard.”
The test is the latest in a string of statements and actions from North Korea designed to underscore the seriousness of its year-end deadline.
North Korea has announced it would convene a rare gathering of top ruling-party officials later this month, and on Wednesday state media showed photos of Kim taking a second symbolic horse ride on the country’s sacred Mt. Paektu.
Such meetings and propaganda blitzes often come ahead of major announcements from North Korean authorities.
While North Korea has not specified what its “new path” could be, observers have suggested the launch of a space satellite is a possibility, allowing Pyongyang to demonstrate and test its rocket capabilities without resorting to overt military provocation such as an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) launch.
Kim Dong-yub, a former South Korean Navy officer who teaches at Kyungnam University in Seoul, said North Korea may have tested a solid fuel rocket engine, which could allow North Korea to field ICBMs that are easier to hide and faster to deploy.
“North Korea has already entered the ‘new path’ that they talked about,” he said.
Trump told reporters in June 2018 after his first summit with Kim that North Korea had pledged to dismantle one of its missile installations, which U.S. officials later identified as Sohae.
Shortly after that summit, analysts said satellite imagery showed some key facilities at Sohae being dismantled.
However, in the wake of the second summit between Trump and Kim earlier this year, which ended with no agreement, new imagery indicated the North Koreans were rebuilding the site.
“Remember this is at the site that was supposedly dismantled as a ‘denuclearization step,’” Narang said. “So this is a first step at ‘renuclearizing.’ Reversible steps are being…reversed.”
North Korea has claimed it carried out a “very important test” this weekend at a long-range rocket launch site that was partially dismantled at the start of denuclearisation talks last year.
As hopes of new negotiations between North Korea and the US have dimmed, Pyongyang has threatened to seek “a new way” forward if it cannot make progress with talks.
In response to the news, Donald Trump sent a warning to North Korea that it “must denuclearise”.
“Kim Jong-un is too smart and has far too much to lose, everything actually, if he acts in a hostile way,” Mr Trump wrote in a tweet.
A spokesperson for North Korea’s Academy of National Defence Science said the test on Saturday at the Sohae Satellite Launching Ground will have “an important effect on changing the strategic position of [the country] once again in the near future”.
Although the statement did not say what was tested, Kim Dong-yub, an analyst at Seoul’s Institute for Far Eastern Studies, has said it is likely the country was testing a solid-fuel engine for an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM).
On Friday, CNN reported that a new satellite image indicated North Korea may be preparing to resume testing engines used to power satellite launchers and ICBMs at the site.
Seoul’s Defence Ministry has said it is closely monitoring the North’s activities with the US.
The North Korean test “is meant to improve military capabilities and to shore up domestic pride and legitimacy”, according to Leif-Eric Easley, a professor at Ewha University in Seoul.
“With the activity at Sohae, Pyongyang is also trying to raise international concerns that it may intensify provocations and walk away from denuclearisation talks next year,” he said.
The Sohae launching centre in Tongchang-ri, in western North Korea, is where banned satellite launches have been carried out in recent years, provoking worldwide condemnation and UN sanctions.
North Korea has claimed its satellite launches are part of a peaceful space development programme.
However, outside experts say ballistic missiles and rockets used in satellite launches share similar bodies, engines and other technology.
US-North Korea diplomacy has largely remained deadlocked since the second summit between Mr Trump and Mr Kim in Vietnam in February.
The deadlock has stemmed from disputes over how much sanctions relief the North must get in return for dismantling its key nuclear complex, with the US being warned it must abandon hostile policies by the end of this year.
In recent months, North Korea has carried out tests of short-range missiles and other weapons, and hinted at resuming tests for nuclear and long-range missiles.
Kim Song, North Korea’s UN ambassador, told the UN on Saturday that denuclearisation had “already gone out of the negotiation table”.
Mr Song accused the Trump administration of pursuing a “hostile policy” towards North Korea and described major European countries as playing “the role of pet dog of the United States in recent months”.
“We regard their behaviour as nothing more than a despicable act of intentionally flattering the United States,” the ambassador said.
Additional reporting by AP
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Laura Ingraham highlighted President Trump’s economic numbers Friday, saying Americans should be thankful for their president.
“Every day American workers should think, ‘Thank the Good Lord that we have a president who actually gets it,” Ingraham said on “The Ingraham Angle.”
“We have a tight labor market. That means wages are going up. We have more deregulation. That frees up businesses to grow and hire, gives them a lot of incentives. We have lower taxes. That means you keep more of your own money to spend it as you see fit.”
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Ingraham argued that Democrats don’t trust Americans and want more control over them and are more concerned with impeachment.
“The Democrats just don’t trust your judgment. They want more control over almost every major decision you make,” Ingraham said. “They’re also, of course, trying to impeach a president on … a nothing phone call, hearsay, conjecture. During one of our greatest economies in the past half-century.”
“The Democrats just don’t trust your judgment. They want more control over almost every major decision you make.”
— Laura Ingraham
Ingraham blasted Democrats for rooting against the president, saying Americans would stay focused on what reallly matters.
“The Democrats aren’t mad because President Trump’s policies aren’t working, they’re seething because they are,” Ingraham said. “How sad for them and their carnival act of a party.”
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“But for the rest of us, we’re gonna keep working hard and playing hard,” Ingraham added. “We’re gonna be counting our blessings and staying focused on what really matters, especially this time of year. Faith, family and our country.”