You are browsing the archive for Trump.

Trump: I don't know 'anything' about alleged Sondland call

November 14, 2019 in Trump

Trump: I don't know 'anything' about alleged Sondland call

Source link

Trump calls impeachment hearings a sham

November 14, 2019 in Trump

Trump calls impeachment hearings a sham

Source link

‘The instructions are coming from the president’

November 14, 2019 in Trump

The strategy underscores that Democrats believe their best case to Americans is the one that puts Trump — rather than anonymous bureaucrats and State Department lifers — at the center of the action.

Zeroing in on the president’s movements, no matter how much his most senior allies have sought to shield them from the impeachment probe, makes it easier for Democrats to make their case that Trump should become the third president in U.S. history to be impeached.

Their effort to focus on Trump received a major boost when William Taylor, the top American diplomat in Ukraine, delivered damning new evidence to lawmakers.

A day after Trump’s July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky — during which Trump pressed his counterpart to launch investigations into his political rivals, including Joe Biden — a close aide overheard Trump asking another diplomat about the status of his desired investigations, Taylor said.

“This is obviously very important because there is an effort apparently to, by the president’s allies, … throw anybody under the bus in an effort to protect the president. But what this call indicates, as other testimony has likewise indicated, is that the instructions are coming from the president on down,” House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) said Wednesday after Taylor and George Kent, a deputy assistant secretary of State, testified for more than five hours.

Taylor testified that his aide overheard Trump asking Gordon Sondland — the U.S. ambassador to the European Union and a top donor to Trump’s presidential campaign — about “the investigations” during a phone call. According to Taylor, the aide said Sondland responded to the president by indicating the Ukrainians were ready to move forward with the investigations.

“Following the call with President Trump, the member of my staff asked Ambassador Sondland what President Trump thought about Ukraine,” Taylor added. “Ambassador Sondland responded that President Trump cares more about the investigations of Biden, which Giuliani was pressing for.”

Schiff, the lead impeachment investigator, later asked Taylor whether he understood Sondland’s response to mean that Trump cares more about the Biden probes than he does about Ukraine.

“Yes, sir,” Taylor responded.

The exchange was among the hearing’s most powerful moments — in part because it was a brand-new development — and it punctuated Democrats’ efforts to keep the camera on Trump.

But even before Wednesday’s revelation, Democrats believed they had enough evidence to connect Trump to the behind-the-scenes effort — and they spent the hearing hammering on those examples.

Lawmakers pointed to Trump’s July 25 phone call with Zelensky, during which Trump asked his counterpart for a “favor” and mentioned Biden specifically.

They have also noted Mick Mulvaney, the acting White House chief of staff who takes his orders straight from Trump, admitted during an Oct. 17 news conference that $400 million in military aid was conditioned on Ukraine launching Trump’s preferred investigations. Mulvaney later walked back those remarks.

And Democrats are set to bring in Sondland himself on next Wednesday and ask him on national television about his direct conversations with Trump — which Sondland now says he views as part of an effort by Trump to withhold Ukraine’s military aid unless the country launched investigations targeting Trump’s political rivals.

Source link

Trump exposed: A brutal day for the president

November 14, 2019 in Trump

At the Trump White House on Wednesday, press secretary Stephanie Grisham assured reporters that Trump was too busy to dignify the impeachment inquiries by paying attention: “Not watching. He’s working.” Trump, meanwhile, did manage to squeeze in a few moments to fire off a new barrage of tweets denouncing the proceedings. “New hoax. Same swamp,” he wrote.

This contradiction, too, fits into a long presidential tradition.

“One year of Watergate is enough,” Nixon pronounced piously at his State of the Union address in January 1974. Congress, the federal courts, the news media, and, ultimately, the public decided that it wasn’t quite enough—they wanted seven more months until the 37th president faced the inevitable and resigned.

Clinton had the opposite outcome—his public approval rose so steadily that Jay Leno joked that Clinton was doing so well in the polls, “he is already planning his next sex scandal.”

His ultimate success in the impeachment drama of 1998 and 1999 reflected both a forgiving public appraisal of his behavior and his ability to project that he was “a compartmentalizer,” in the phrase his aides invoked at that time. Clinton supposedly left the defense to his lawyers and focused on public business, and for the most part avoided the relentless drive against him by Republicans in Congress.

In that sense, his approach was the exact opposite of Trump’s. But make no mistake: Compartmentalization was largely an illusion. Behind the scenes in the Oval Office and West Wing, Clinton was often distracted by fear, embarrassment over his private failings and rage over what he regarded as a supremely illegitimate effort to make them public in a campaign to reverse the results of an election.

Someday, if Trump and Clinton ever repeat the golf outings they used to share, they will have plenty to talk about in their shared experiences.

One thing they both know: Impeachment is not merely an inquiry into presidential misconduct. It is a violent intrusion into intimate regions of presidential psychology. There is no way to compartmentalize that.

Source link

Diplomacy, disrupted – POLITICO

November 14, 2019 in Trump

ne hundred years ago, in the days when diplomatic summits followed wars, carved up continents and sometimes lasted months (today’s attendees complain if they run past midnight), Harold Nicolson attended the Paris Peace Conference as a junior U.K. diplomat. His conclusion: “Amateurish diplomacy leads to improvisation.”

“Nothing could be more fatal than the habit (the at present persistent and pernicious habit) of personal contact between the Statesmen of the World,” the Bloomsbury-set diarist and author wrote in his account of the 1919 talks. “Diplomacy is the art of negotiating documents in a ratifiable and therefore dependable form. It is by no means the art of conversation.”

Fast-forward a century, and things could not be more different from what Nicolson prescribed.

Global leaders are carrying out foreign policy by Twitter and WhatsApp. U.S. President Donald Trump is improvising summits with North Korea’s Kim Jong-un, writing crudely worded letters to Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and proclaiming in the home of multilateralism, the U.N. General Assembly, that “the future does not belong to globalists.” Across the Atlantic, meanwhile, French President Emmanuel Macron is scrapping G7 communiqués because “no one reads them,” even as he freelances on Iran, China and NATO (calling it “brain dead”).

For career foreign policy staffers, it’s a diplomatic Ice Age. Those schooled in what the satirist Ambrose Bierce described as “the patriotic art of lying for one’s country” are feeling increasingly sidelined by the era of mano a mano diplomacy — or, worse still, singled out by political leaders as part of a “deep state” that wants to subvert the will of the electorate.

“People say it is all becoming transactional at diplomatic level. Trust is being undermined. And this is not good for the international system” — Jan Melissen, Dutch academic

“Traditional diplomacy is becoming archaic,” said a veteran U.S. State Department official, acknowledging that not everybody in Washington, London or Brussels might believe that that’s a bad thing. “It’s like the coal industry — should we really rescue it?”

The question matters because, at its best, diplomacy promotes shared values and shared prosperity, and prevents conflict. As Winston Churchill said, “Jaw to jaw is better than war,” so the quality of the jaw-jaw is important.

Trump in a china shop

he State Department official was speaking as Trump’s hand-picked ambassador to the EU, Gordon Sondland, was being hauled before Congress to explain his role in shady diplomatic dealings in Ukraine.

There was a touch of Schadenfreude in that spectacle — nowhere more so than in Brussels, still bristling at the hotel magnate’s reported remark that his mission was “to destroy the European Union.” (“That’s the opposite of the job description,” muttered a German diplomat with a more traditional view of an ambassador’s role.)

The contrast between Sondland’s methods and the pushback from foreign policy professionals has highlighted the downside of Trump’s instinct to sideline career diplomats in favor of political appointees who are less likely to question his commands.

The American Foreign Service Association (a sort of diplomats’ union) says that approximately 45 percent of the 166 ambassadors named by Trump are political appointees, versus 55 percent career diplomats. That’s compared to about 30 percent political to 70 percent career in the Obama, Clinton and both Bush administrations. The association warns that the work of the foreign service must “not be politicized.”

The warning has likely come a little late. Trump’s first Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, took the machete to the State Department’s budget to such an extent that Chris Murphy, a Democrat who sits on the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, has said America spends “20 times as much money on the military and intelligence agencies as we do on diplomacy” (which he described as malpractice).

Tillerson’s successor Mike Pompeo came to office in 2018 promising to restore “swagger” to the State Department and hands out #swagger badges with key words like “cool,” “respected” and “patriotic.” But the situation hasn’t got any better for the department’s career staffers. According to some long-serving diplomats who have let loose upon retirement, U.S. foreign policy is in “desperate straits.”

William Burns, a former deputy secretary of state who is now president of Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, lambasted the Trump administration’s “profoundly self-destructive shock and awe campaign against professional diplomacy” in “The Back Channel,” his memoirs published in June.

Not all career diplomats are completely averse, however, to the well-established practice of political appointees. Some point out that, subject to proper vetting, it can inject “fresh blood” into the profession.

People with a business background like Sondland and Pompeo (who ran an aviation business) are better qualified than career civil servants — the argument goes — to shake up foreign policy and ensure that multilateral institutions like the U.N. are, in the words of one senior administration official, “delivering outcomes” that benefit ordinary Americans.

The current U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo | Natacha Pisarenko/AFP via Getty Images

“Spending 20 years in the rarified atmosphere of the [U.K.] Foreign Office or the State Department isn’t necessarily going to give you better skills to be the public face of government than someone who has skills in business or culture and close ties to the national leadership,” said the State Department official.

What’s certainly true is that envoys like Sondland and U.S. Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell, who appear to relish rubbing their hosts up the wrong way, are a more faithful reflection of Trump’s approach to foreign policy than suave old-school diplomats.

Grenell, who speaks openly of wanting to “empower” conservatives in Europe, “is not playing to the traditional crowd but to Trump, who wants that kind of message,” said the State Department official. “If it smashes the china, that’s okay — he’s being a disruptor.”

Sondland described himself a few months back as a “disruptive diplomat,” though he probably didn’t know at the time quite how much disruption he would cause.

Here come cowboys

n Europe, the disdain for Trump appointees like Sondland and Grenell betrays a hint of snobbery. They are regarded as an invasive species from North America, louder and more aggressive than the native breed and likely to wipe it out. “The rules-based post-war order is being broken by those who made it,” said one EU diplomat. “It’s becoming the Wild West, and they’re sending in the cowboys.”

For European tastes, too much boardroom-style quid pro quo in diplomacy undermines trust, according to Jan Melissen, founder and co-editor of the Hague Journal of Diplomacy: “People say it is all becoming transactional at diplomatic level. Trust is being undermined. And this is not good for the international system.”

U.S. Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell has been a controversial figure | Sean Gallup/Getty Images

It’s an open question whether the Trumpian brand of diplomacy is proving effective. “Current American diplomacy is less effective in defending U.S. interests than the current administration appears to believe,” said one senior German diplomat.

Grenell can, however, point to numerous successes, including his campaign to get Germany to ban Iranian airline Mahan Air over its links to the Revolutionary Guards, and signs that Berlin is yielding to U.S. pressure to reach the NATO defense spending target of 2 percent of GDP (albeit by 2031).

One U.S. official rubbished talk that Grenell gets no access, citing his regular meetings with Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Cabinet and staff, and lawmakers from across the Bundestag, adding: “People criticize his style, which is different — he’s not a ribbon-cutter. He’s much more political than other ambassadors. But to say he has no accomplishments is crazy. He’s a foreign policy guy.”

Best of British

or Tony Gardner, Sondland’s predecessor as U.S. ambassador to the EU, the Trump administration is simply “ripping apart the relationship in a needlessly destructive way. If they think they are promoting U.S. interests in the EU, they are delusional,” he told POLITICO.

Gardner is just as aghast at what could happen to diplomacy in the U.K., his adopted home, as it faces its greatest foreign policy challenge of the post-war period — Brexit. “Britain will lose a world-class asset if it allows the civil service to become politicized or dogmatized,” said Gardner, whose memoir, “Stars with Stripes,” comes out next year.

Gardner’s view is shared by some U.K. politicians including Tom Tugendhat, a Conservative MP who chairs the House of Commons’ Foreign Affairs Committee. “The Foreign Office is in exactly the same place [as the State Department], and that’s why it has lost influence,” Tugendhat said, adding that the FCO is “the shadow of its former self.”

“Lots of people are deeply concerned about the collapse of U.K. influence around the world,” he added.

Illustration by Lorenzo Petrantoni for POLITICO

Another Tory MP, the former Foreign Office minister Alistair Burt, said diplomats were too “positive and enthusiastic” to complain but “are incredibly stretched” by a lack of investment, which was bound to become even more evident after Brexit. “The political will to be a ‘Global Britain’ is very strong, but it has to be more than a slogan,” he said.

One former U.K. diplomat said Downing Street under Conservative Prime Ministers Theresa May and Boris Johnson has tended to see civil servants as “binary thinkers” who are more likely to point out problems than provide solutions. “They only want gung-ho types,” said the former diplomat.

Foreign Office morale was particularly damaged by the resignation of two ambassadors whose advice was not welcome, though in different ways. Britain’s man in Brussels, Ivan Rogers, resigned in January 2017 criticizing politicians’ “muddled thinking” on Brexit; Washington envoy Kim Darroch quit in July over leaked cables in which he called the White House “diplomatically clumsy and inept.”

Johnson’s failure to support Darroch (whom Trump described as a “pompous fool”) was a cold bath for the diplomatic service, whose head, Simon McDonald, told a parliamentary hearing about the leak: “People are shaken. The basis on which we have worked all our careers suddenly feels challenged.”

Diplomatic relaunch

he demoralization of the U.K. diplomatic service comes just as it is working to renew itself. Many in its ranks have long grasped the need to adapt in order to remain relevant in an age when the proliferation of digital communication means  — in the words of Tom Fletcher, a former British ambassador to Lebanon — that “anyone can be a diplomat.”

Fletcher’s 2016 book “The Naked Diplomat” calls for a radical update of a profession weighed down by “procedural method — summits and communiqués — [that] was designed in 1815 for an age of monarchies and great states.”

“Now is a good moment to stand up for diplomatic values, and diplomacy as a civilizing force” — Jan Melissen, Dutch academic

His ideas — which also appeared in a 2016 report called “Future FCO” — became the seeds of an overhaul designed to drag British diplomacy into the 21st century, such as opening up some senior overseas posts to non-diplomats, which had previously been very much the exception.

In June, FCO chief McDonald tweeted out a job ad for the top posts in Gibraltar, Luxembourg, Kuwait and South Korea, saying: “We want the best to represent the UK.” (One of the first responses was “sorry I didn’t go to Eton.”) At the time of publication, the jobs had not been filled, though the salaries on offer (£70,000 a year for an ambassador to Luxembourg) may not be enough to tempt top British business leaders.

Don’t shout about it

iewed from Brussels’ European Quarter, where it can sometimes seem that every other person is a diplomat (the EU capital has more accredited diplomats than London and Washington), warnings of a crisis in the foreign service may seem far-fetched.

After all, predictions of the “death of diplomacy” have come thick and fast for decades, in parallel with the steady decline in the relative clout and budget of foreign ministries in relation to other international portfolios like trade and, more recently, technology.

European Commission President-elect Ursula von der Leyen has pledged to boost spending on foreign policy, aid and development by 30 percent in the EU’s next long-term budget — music to the ears of the External Action Service, charged with managing the bloc’s international relations, even if inflation may eat up a chunk of that increase. One EU diplomat said it demonstrates that “the EU remains ambitious in foreign policy.”

So if it is true that, as one British official put it, “what happens in America always finds its way to the U.K. first and then to Europe,” then signs of disquiet spreading to the EU’s diplomatic corps are more subtle.

French President Emmanuel Macron has caused a diplomatic furore in the last week | Ludovic Marin/AFP via Getty Images

But they can be detected. French President Emmanuel Macron caused some queasiness by warning French ambassadors in August not to act as a “deep state.” The statement was regarded by many as further evidence that in Europe, as in the United States, there is little political capital to be gained from defending an élite breed who, in the popular imagination, live in exotic palaces and spend their time at polite receptions, and whose successes are generally invisible to the public.

“Now is a good moment to stand up for diplomatic values, and diplomacy as a civilizing force,” said Melissen, the Dutch academic. “But in an electoral sense, it’s not something you want to shout too loudly.”

Morale in the External Action Service has also taken a few knocks in its decade of existence, with its signature success — the Iran nuclear deal — unravelling, and its place in EU hierarchy sliding. The EU’s first high representative for foreign affairs, Catherine Ashton, was the Commission’s second-in-command, but her successors have been progressively downgraded: Federica Mogherini is third in the ranking and her successor Josep Borrell will be fifth in the pecking order.

“Look at the Irish — they are brilliant. On the Hill [Capitol Hill] they know every senator” — Tom Tugendhat, Conservative MP

At the same time, the Commission and the European Council, which represents national governments, are gradually clawing back tasks they had delegated to the External Action Service when it was being set up.

In Brussels, there is a widely held view that Brexit has provided the EU with a diplomatic victory, of sorts. While the remaining members of the EU failed to convince the U.K. to stick around, they did hold the line against successive British prime ministers’ attempts to buddy up with individual national leaders on Brexit.

That’s not completely good news for the EU’s career diplomats. Just as the FCO was sidelined by the Pythonesque-sounding Department for Exiting the EU, the cool hand guiding the EU27’s Brexit task force has been French politician and former Commissioner Michel Barnier — not the External Action Service. Strictly speaking, however, the service’s remit is dealing with third countries, and Britain is still an EU member.

Top of the Hill

f Brexit has burnished any country’s diplomatic credentials, it is Ireland. Dublin has emerged from the first three years of tortuous negotiations as a sort of poster child for ambassadorial elbow-grease.

“Look at the Irish — they are brilliant,” enthused Tugendhat in Westminster, citing Dublin’s remarkable ability to persuade the EU27 to hold the line on Brexit, and to rally top U.S. politicians to the defense of the Good Friday Agreement. “On the Hill [Capitol Hill] they know every senator.”

Such results “didn’t come out of thin air,” said Dan Mulhall, Ireland’s veteran ambassador to Washington, who previously ran the Irish missions in London and Berlin. “It was the product of concerted effort at political and diplomatic level.”

Mulhall said he had been in constant contact with the Irish-American delegation in the U.S. Congress, whose message was “amplified” by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi when she said on a visit to London that there was “no chance whatsoever” of a U.S.-U.K. trade deal if Brexit weakened the Good Friday Agreement that brought peace to the island of Ireland.

Ireland’s concerted diplomatic effort on Brexit in Brussels has been a huge success | Kenzo Tribouillard/AFP via Getty Images

Outspoken in his opposition to Brexit while he was ambassador to the U.K. during the 2016 referendum, Mulhall has been equally public in his criticism of U.S. support for Brexit and attacks on the EU. The Trump administration’s position, he said, is “shortsighted, as the EU and the U.S. have so many values and interests in common.”

Mulhall combines old-fashioned glad-handing with modern public diplomacy, speaking in public five or six times a week while addressing more than 22,000 followers on Twitter. “There is a sense of ambition now that I haven’t seen in my 40 years in the foreign service,” he said, adding that Ireland has opened up eight new embassies in the last year and plans 26 more.

Mulhall is a scholar of W.B. Yeats, whose portrait has pride of place in his office on Washington’s Embassy Row. Asked about the Irish poet, he enthusiastically recites the 1919 poem “The Second Coming.” His emphasis is not on the most often quoted passage, “Things fall apart; the center cannot hold.” It’s on the later lines: “The best lack all conviction, while the worst/Are full of passionate intensity.”

Asked if that’s a comment on the state of world affairs, he smiles. Diplomatically.

Source link

Roger Stone’s defense: MAGA, God and Donald Trump

November 14, 2019 in Trump

But when it came time to mount a formal defense, Stone’s lawyers kept things simple.

They had the jury listen to about 50 minutes of audio from the September 2017 House deposition central to the charges against their client. That brought more of Stone’s voice into the trial, but jurors never heard directly from the normally voluble counter-puncher.

And so it was left to Stone’s lawyers to speak on his behalf. Their argument? Stone’s election-year behavior was de rigueur in politics. Candidates use opposition research all the time, they said.

“This is what happens in campaigns,” Rogow said.

Why would Stone have lied to lawmakers, Rogow asked the jury, given that he offered to speak publicly to the House panel and he even appeared without a subpoena?

“There’s no motive for Mr. Stone to do this,” he said.

It was the most Stone’s defense team had directly addressed the government’s arguments in months. Before last week, Stone and his attorneys had mostly pushed a narrative that Stone was the victim of a political hit job, carried out with the help of the media and the deep state.

They filed pleadings slamming the media and accusing prosecutors of trying to crimp Stone’s speech at the same time he was the subject of tens of thousands of hostile articles and a mocking Steve Martin on impression on “Saturday Night Live.”

Ultimately, Jackson banned Stone in July from using Facebook, Twitter or any social media to trumpet this narrative.

Her decision came after an initial warning over a Stone Instagram post that appeared to show a gun’s crosshairs above a picture of Jackson’s head. Stone took the witness stand to apologize for the incident, saying he didn’t fully control his Instagram account.

With Stone silenced, some of his supported picked up the torch, and pushed the limits even further.

InfoWars founder Alex Jones last week erroneously reported the name of a juror in the Stone trial based on the description that one woman gave identifying herself in open court as a former Obama-era communications aide for the Office of Management and Budget. Jones called her a “minion.”

“We’ve got to have Obama’s former communications director hang Roger. Hell, if they give him the death penalty, maybe she can hang him and kick the lever and he’ll break his neck and she can piss all over his dead body,” Jones said.

When Jackson found out about the incendiary remarks emanating from the far-right mediasphere, she chastised the rhetoric as “uninformed” and “unfortunately false.”

“It puts the safety of all the people on both sides, including possibly the jury, at risk,” she said.

In court, however, the outside hyperbole has had to grapple with Stone’s previous words, including a mountain of emails and text messages that seem to drip with contempt for the House’s fact-finding effort and Mueller’s investigation.

“Tell him to go f— himself,” Stone wrote about Mueller in one text message to Credico.

It doesn’t matter what Stone is — or isn’t — saying now, prosecutors told the jurors. They have all the Stone commentary needed to render a verdict.

“The evidence here is written down for you,” prosecutor Michael Marando said in his closing argument Wednesday. “This is literally the defendant’s words.”

Source link

Court denies Trump appeal in fight with Democrats over financial records

November 14, 2019 in Trump

The ruling from the full D.C. Circuit wasn’t unanimous, however, with two separate dissenting opinions that argue in favor of a closer look at the issues of the separation of branches that are central to the president’s lawsuit.

Trump’s personal attorney Jay Sekulow seized on those outliers in a brief statement pledging an appeal. “In light of the dissents, we will be seeking review at the Supreme Court,” he said.

It’s not the only case the president is pushing to get before the nation’s highest court. Trump is also planning to ask for a Supreme Court review to block a grand jury in New York from getting his tax returns as part of a criminal investigation.

At issue is a subpoena from the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee from mid-April that sought financial records from Mazars USA for work it did for Trump both before and after he took office.

The president in May lost before a lower federal judge, who ruled that it wasn’t the District Court’s right to second-guess a House panel’s claims for the records. Trump appealed to the D.C. Circuit, which last month ruled 2-1 that presidents “enjoy no blanket immunity from congressional subpoenas.”

In Wednesday’s rulings, Judges David Tatel and Patricia Millett from the original panel voted against granting Trump’s request for a rehearing. Judge Neomi Rao, a Trump appointee who filed a dissent in the initial opinion, sided with the president.

Rao also penned a dissent on the decision for a rehearing en banc before the entire D.C. Circuit, calling the Oversight panel’s subpoena “unprecedented.”

“The Constitution and our historical practice draw a sharp line between the legislative and judicial powers of Congress,” wrote Rao, who was joined in her dissent by Judge Karen Henderson, an appointee of President George H.W. Bush. “By upholding this subpoena, the panel opinion has shifted the balance of power between Congress and the President and allowed a congressional committee to circumvent the careful process of impeachment.”

The other dissenting opinion on the en banc review came from Trump’s other appointee to the D.C. Circuit, Judge Greg Katsas.

“If the competing opinions here demonstrate anything, it is that this case presents exceptionally important questions regarding the separation of powers among Congress, the Executive Branch, and the Judiciary,” wrote Katsas, a former attorney in the Trump White House counsel’s office. He was also joined by Henderson.

Voting against a rehearing en banc were Judges Merrick Garland, Judith Rogers, David Tatel, Thomas Griffith, Sri Srinivasan, Patricia Millett, Cornelia Pillard and Robert Wilkins. All of the judges are appointees of Democratic presidents except Griffith, who was named to the court in 2005 by President George W. Bush.

Source link

Trump gives Turkish president a warm welcome despite lawmakers’ dissent

November 14, 2019 in Trump

But Trump made little mention of the split in attitudes between one end of Pennsylvania Avenue and the other, and steered clear of publicly criticizing Erdogan over human rights issues in Turkey.

Instead, he announced that both countries would begin work on a $100 billion trade deal, applauded Erdogan for upping Turkey’s contributions to NATO and thanked him for his country’s help in the fight against ISIS.

“Turkey, as everyone knows, is a great NATO ally,” Trump said in a joint news conference with Erdogan.

Despite the outcry from lawmakers last month, their dissent on Wednesday was less visible, or drowned out by the beginning of public impeachment hearings in the House.

While Trump ignored entreaties from a bipartisan group of House lawmakers to rescind his invitation to Erdogan, the Republican chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee said last week the panel wouldn’t be taking key action on legislation to sanction Turkey over the Syria incursion while Erdogan was in town.

When Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Vice President Mike Pence struck a ceasefire with Turkey last month, Senate Majority Mitch McConnell backed down from his threat to introduce a resolution demanding Trump withdraw his invitation to Erdogan for a visit. Even so, he expressed his discontent with an optimistic tone on the Senate floor Wednesday morning.

“Although I have expressed concerns about granting President Erdogan such an honor in light of his recent actions, I hope the meeting produces better behavior from this important NATO ally,” he said. “I know the vast majority of my colleagues share my concerns about Turkey’s recent behaviors.”

Trump briefly opened an Oval Office meeting with Erdogan and the senators to reporters, where they portrayed a tough stance.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), among the most outspoken about his opposition to Turkey’s recent moves, acknowledged how significant Wednesday’s meeting was. “I’ve never had an opportunity like this before,” he said. “I appreciate it. The purpose of this meeting is to have an American civics lesson for our friends in Turkey.”

Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.), meanwhile, said he was there to ensure hat “Turkey is heading in the direction of the United States, not heading in the direction of Russia,” while Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) said she was looking to “remain very strong allies in NATO.”

At his news conference later, Trump said the meeting included “a lot of very frank discussion” about “complex” issues.

Trump also made no mention of Turkey’s frequent jailing of journalists, but joked at one point when searching for a reporter to call on that he wanted to pick only a “friendly person from Turkey.”

When the Turkish reporter he called on asked about former President Barack Obama’s “flawed” foreign policy and Trump’s invitation to meet with the leader of the commander of the U.S.-backed Kurdish army in Syria, accusing the general of carrying out terrorist attacks, Trump questioned whether the journalist he called on was actually a reporter.

“You don’t work for Turkey with that question?” he joked.

Source link

Biggest moments of the impeachment hearings

November 13, 2019 in Trump

Biggest moments of the impeachment hearings

Source link

Trump aides retaliated against State staffer of Iranian descent, probe finds

November 13, 2019 in Trump

But it lands at a particularly sensitive moment: Trump faces an impeachment inquiry whose elements involve the mistreatment of career diplomats, in particular those dealing with Ukraine. On Wednesday, two senior State Department officials testified in the first public hearing of the House’s impeachment inquiry about the “irregular” foreign policy channel to Kyiv led by the president’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani. On Friday, former ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch is due to testify; her sudden recall last spring has angered many State Department diplomats, who feel Secretary Pompeo should have backed her in the face of a smear campaign orchestrated by Giuliani.

POLITICO was able to obtain the executive summary of the inspector general’s report and several additional pages on Wednesday.

The report focuses largely on events in 2017, under former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, and covers five distinct cases of individuals alleged to have been subject to unfair personnel decisions due to “politicized and other improper” practices.

According to the executive summary, in two cases, the inspector general said he found “no evidence that impermissible factors influenced the personnel decisions.” In the other two cases, the inspector general said the findings were inconclusive because he was unable to obtain the necessary information from key players.

The report was fueled in large part by Democrats’ demands after a whistleblower shared with Congress emails in which Trump political appointees and outside conservative figures appeared to plot to sideline Sahar Nowrouzzadeh, a career civil servant of Iranian descent.

Nowrouzzadeh, a U.S.-born staffer who joined government during the George W. Bush administration, was abruptly taken out of the Policy Planning division of the State Department in the wake of these conversations. One of the officials involved in her reassignment was Brian Hook, who led the Policy Planning division at the time and is now a top Iran aide to Pompeo.

Career government staffers are sworn to serve the public in a non-partisan manner, no matter which party controls the executive branch. But the Trump team took office suspicious of the career staffers, with some believing they comprised a “deep state” disloyal to Trump.

The suspicions were especially pronounced at the State Department, which many Trump aides view as a Democratic stronghold.

Under Tillerson, career staffers found themselves locked out of policymaking; many, including Nowrouzzadeh, were vilified by name in the conservative media, which referred to them as “Obama holdovers,” even though some had been in government for decades.

The inspector general’s report is the second of two on the topic of political retaliation against career staff at the State Department. The first, released in August, found that political appointees in State’s international organizations bureau engaged in political retaliation against career staffers, especially in 2018.

A separate investigation on the issue of political retaliation at the State Department is still underway by the Office of Special Counsel, another federal watchdog.

Elements of the inspector general’s findings were first reported by The Daily Beast in September.

The State Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Source link

Skip to toolbar