Day: October 20, 2019

Donald Trump Jr.: provocateur, master preacher for father

SAN ANTONIO — The shout of “2024!” from the crowd was unmistakable. It stopped Donald Trump Jr. cold.

President Donald Trump’s eldest son had been in the midst of a humour-laced screed in which he decried Joe Biden as too old and Elizabeth Warren as too liberal and insisted his father’s 2016 campaign was too disorganized to possibly collude with the Russians. As many in the crowd of several hundred laughed, Trump Jr. held a dramatic pause before exclaiming his response:

“Let’s worry about 2020 first!” he yelled.

The son has become the prime warmup act for the father at political rallies, often appearing more than an hour before the president speaks, another bombastic provocateur who revels in the tribal loyalty of the supporters who pack Trump rallies. It is a call to arms to a fawning crowd and Donald Jr. has become a master preacher.

His speeches are laced with the same incendiary, sometimes false rhetoric as his father’s, at times even questioning whether Democrats can call themselves Christians. But in these venues, his word is gospel.

The “2024” call from the audience at a San Antonio convention centre room on Tuesday underscored the rising stardom of the president’s eldest son, who has become the swaggering embodiment of the “Make America Great Again” ethos.

By far the presidential scion with the closest connection to conservative voters, Trump Jr. is already playing a key role in his father reelection effort, especially in strongly Republican districts. But where he was once under the scrutiny of special counsel Robert Mueller, now he is drawing criticism for seemingly hypocritical attacks on another son of a famous politician.

And he doesn’t seem to care at all.

“In 2016, my father said something very serious. He goes: ‘What do you have to lose?’ And he was right,” said Trump Jr, broadening a pitch the president first made to black voters to reach the entire electorate. “So America, you gave him a chance and he has delivered on those promises. Now, what do you have to lose? A lot.”

And then Trump Jr, who was the headliner on this warm October day, gleefully skewered one of the president’s Democratic foes. “Joe Biden, when on the campaign trail, his whole thesis was that government has failed. No s–t, Joe!”

Trump Jr. was one of the campaign’s potent tools in 2016, frequently sent out to small towns and rural areas where the Republican candidate looked to turn out disaffected voters who hadn’t cast ballots in years. An even more aggressive campaign schedule is in the works for 2020.

“He’s the future,” said Annie Davidson, 65, of Alamo Heights. “He’s just like his father and I can’t wait to vote for him someday too.”

By far the most outspoken of his siblings, Trump Jr. has never shied away from a political fight, even when it leads some to question his own sense of self-awareness.

He has been one of the loudest critics of Biden’s son Hunter, suggesting that Hunter Biden only had opportunities in other countries, including Ukraine, because of family connections.

“When you’re the father and your son’s entire career is dependent on that, they own you,” Trump Jr. told Fox News this past week.

Some critics could not resist noting that Donald Trump Jr. shares both the first and last names of a man who gave him his high-paying corporate job and elevated his standing during the 2016 presidential campaign. It was the president’s push for Ukraine to investigate the Bidens that prompted House Democrats to launch an impeachment investigation.

“We’re left with a situation where every presidential action is under a cloud of suspicion for corruption, and that suspicion increasingly seems justified,” said Noah Bookbinder, executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington.

Trump Jr. has pushed back, suggesting that his criticism of Hunter Biden was not for having a famous father, but rather for trading access to his father’s office to enrich himself. There is no evidence of wrongdoing by either Biden

Hunter Biden told ABC this past week that while his decision to take the job was not unethical, it showed “poor judgment.” But he also made clear that “Trump Jr. is not somebody that I really care about.”

Moreover, despite a pledge to immediately cease all international business once the president took office, the Trump Organization has continued to work on previously struck agreements and profited from the presidency. Congress has called for investigations into foreign officials being steered to stay at the Trump hotel in Washington and Air Force crew members spending nights at Trump’s Scotland golf resort.

Trump Jr.’s eyebrow-raising attacks on another political son came just days after he had to distance himself from a headline-grabbing tempest when it was revealed that he had recently attended a Florida conference for Trump supporters where a parody video was screened that depicted the president killing members of the news media and political opponents.

Trump Jr. said he never saw the video, which aired as part of a three-day conference at the president’s golf club outside Miami. But Trump Jr., who prides himself in his ability to use social media to poke at liberals, was quick to draw an equivalency on Friday. He used Twitter to point out an apparel company’s Midtown Manhattan billboard that depicted the president being assaulted.

“Since you had time to thoroughly cover a stupid and tasteless meme seen by 8 people with incredible outrage, I figured you should dedicate the same time and outrage to THIS BILLBOARD IN TIMES SQUARE you hypocrites!” he tweeted. “Unless of course you’re just full of s–t.”

Trump Jr. has long relished posting button-pushing tweets. His Twitter feed has traded in conspiracy theories and hardline messages about immigration and gun control and he has a book on the way that hits the same themes. He once circulated a post that compared Syrian refugees to a bowl of Skittles candy that contained some that “would kill you.”

Trump Jr. declined a request for an interview for this story.

He is unbowed and unapologetic, and his approach appears to mirror his father’s combative defiance toward the controversies that swirl around the White House and the Trump family.

Though he runs the Trump Organization with his brother, Eric, Trump Jr.’s political obligations frequently keep him far from his office on the 25th floor of Trump Tower. The more politically minded of the two brothers, Trump Jr. has embraced his role as a popular emissary for his father, crisscrossing the country on campaign trips, showcasing his relationship with former Fox News host Kim Guilfoyle and headlining Republican fundraisers.

Though he grew up in Manhattan and Florida’s gilded coast, Trump Jr. has established deep ties among rural Republicans and has become an outspoken defender of the Second Amendment. He is viewed by many close to the president as a more logical political heir apparent than his sister, the far more cosmopolitan and refined Ivanka Trump. Where Ivanka Trump, a senior White House aide, has taken to promoting women’s and economic issues while hovering in diplomatic circles at international summits, Trump Jr.’s Instagram feed is filled with hunting and fishing photos.

In 2018, he did more than 70 events for GOP candidates and state parties and will easily eclipse that next year when his father’s name is on the ballot. Those close to him say he may run for office someday, but probably not until after his five children are considerably older.

His front-and-centre role for the campaign is a relatively unusual one for recent presidential offspring. Presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton had children too young to campaign. And while President George H.W. Bush’s adult children — including a future president — were in Washington at times, they did not assume the star presence of Trump Jr.

He has not shied away from the spotlight or criticism, having been battle-hardened by the pressure he faced during special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation, which looked into a 2016 meeting Trump Jr. had with a Kremlin-connected lawyer seeking damaging information on Hillary Clinton. No charges were brought against him.

On the campaign trail, Trump Jr. derides the impeachment inquiry and credits his father’s business acumen for economic gains, declaring in San Antonio: “It’s nice to have someone running the country who has signed the front of a paycheque and not just the back.”

The crowd roared and Guilfoyle applauded. After the rally, the eldest Trump son headlined a big-dollar dinner in Texas and, days later, was barnstorming in West Virginia for more Republican candidates.

There was more talk of, someday, a possible Trump political dynasty.

“I expect Don to be a player in the conservative movement for years and years to come,” said Andrew Surabian, a Republican strategist who advises Trump Jr.

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Follow Lemire on Twitter at http://twitter.com/@JonLemire

Jonathan Lemire, The Associated Press




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AP News in Brief at 12:04 a.m. EDT

Defence chief: US troops leaving Syria to go to western Iraq

ABOARD A U.S. MILITARY AIRCRAFT (AP) — Defence Secretary Mark Esper says that under the current plan all U.S. troops leaving Syria will go to western Iraq and the military will continue to conduct operations against the Islamic State group to prevent its resurgence.

Speaking to reporters travelling with him to the Middle East, Esper did not rule out the idea that U.S. forces would conduct counterterrorism missions from Iraq into Syria. But he said those details will be worked out over time.

His comments were the first to specifically lay out where American troops will go as they leave Syria and what the counter-IS fight could look like. Esper said he has spoken to his Iraqi counterpart about the plan to shift the more than 700 troops leaving Syria into western Iraq.

The developments made clear that one of President Donald Trump’s rationales for withdrawing troops from Syria was not going to come to pass any time soon. “It’s time to bring our soldiers back home,” he said Wednesday. But they are not coming home.

As Esper left Washington on Saturday, U.S. troops were continuing to pull out of northern Syria after Turkey’s invasion into the border region. Reports of sporadic clashes continued between Turkish-backed fighters and the U.S.-allied Syria Kurdish forces despite a five-day cease-fire agreement hammered out on Friday between U.S. and Turkish leaders.

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UK’s Johnson asks for Brexit delay, but argues against it

LONDON (AP) — Prime Minister Boris Johnson grudgingly asked the European Union late Saturday to delay Brexit after the British Parliament postponed a decision on whether to back his divorce deal. But the defiant Johnson also made clear that he personally opposed delaying the U.K.’s exit, scheduled for Oct. 31.

Alaw passed by Parliament last month set a late-night deadline for the government to send a letter asking the EU for a three-month postponement if lawmakers had not approved an agreement with the bloc by Saturday. An hour before the deadline, European Council President Donald Tusk tweeted: “The extension request has just arrived. I will now start consulting EU leaders on how to react.”

Johnson made clear he was making the request under duress. The letter requesting an extension was not signed. It was accompanied by a second letter, signed by Johnson, arguing that delay would “damage the interests of the U.K. and our EU partners.”

Earlier in the day, Johnson told lawmakers that “further delay would be bad for this country, bad for the European Union and bad for democracy.”

French President Emmanuel Macron seemed to agree. Macron’s office said he spoke to Johnson by phone and insisted on the need for “quick clarification of the British position on the accord.” The president’s office said Macron indicated to the British prime minister that “a delay would be in no one’s interest.”

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Analysis: Confronted by impeachment, Trump adds to the chaos

WASHINGTON (AP) — The impeachment investigation into President Donald Trump has thrust Washington into a political crisis. And Trump keeps adding to the chaos.

In the four weeks since House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., launched the investigation, Trump has taken steps that have drawn more criticism, not less, repeatedly testing the loyalty of his stalwart Republican allies. His actions have both intensified the questions at the centre of the inquiry and opened new areas of concern.

Trump angered GOP leaders and U.S. allies by clearing the way for Turkish attacks on Syrian Kurdish fighters, key American partners in the fight against the Islamic State group. He brazenly announced plans to hold next year’s Group of Seven summit at one of his own Florida properties, prompting an outcry from ethics experts and members of both parties that led him to reverse course late Saturday. And Trump and his advisers have repeatedly muddied their defence on the Democratic-led impeachment, initially denying some of the central allegations against the president only to acknowledge them, out loud and on camera.

“It is his persona to surround himself with chaos,” said Alice Stewart, a Republican strategist who advised Texas Sen. Ted Cruz’s 2016 presidential campaign.

Chaos has indeed been a hallmark of Trump’s presidency. Each controversy bleeds into the next — often so fast that the public doesn’t have time to absorb the details of any one issue. Whether that is a deliberate Trump strategy or simply the consequence of Americans electing a highly unconventional, nonpolitician as commander in chief remains one of the fundamental questions of his presidency.

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Turkey wants Syrian forces to leave border areas, aide says

ISTANBUL (AP) — Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan wants Syrian government forces to move out of areas near the Turkish border so he can resettle up to 2 million refugees there, his spokesman told The Associated Press on Saturday. The request will top Erdogan’s talks next week with Syria’s ally, Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Arrangements along the Syrian-Turkish border were thrown into disarray after the U.S. pulled its troops out of the area, opening the door to Turkey’s invasion aiming to drive out Kurdish-led fighters it considers terrorists.

Abandoned by their American allies, the Kurds — with Russia’s mediation — invited Damascus to send troops into northeastern Syria as protection from Turkish forces. That has complicated Turkey’s plan to create a “safe zone” along the border, where it can resettle Syrian refugees now in Turkey. Most of those refugees fled Syria’s government.

Erdogan’s spokesman, Ibrahim Kalin said Ankara does not want either Syrian forces nor Kurdish fighters in the border area because refugees would not go back to areas under their control.

Turkey has said it wants to oversee that area.

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Trump drops plan to host G-7 at Doral

WASHINGTON (AP) — Responding to stinging criticism, President Donald Trump on Saturday abruptly reversed his plan to hold the next Group of Seven world leaders’ meeting at his Doral, Florida, golf resort next year.

Trump announced a rare backtrack Saturday night after facing accusations that he was using the presidency to enrich himself by hosting the international summit at a private resort owned by his family.

“Based on both Media & Democrat Crazed and Irrational Hostility, we will no longer consider Trump National Doral, Miami, as the Host Site for the G-7 in 2020,” Trump tweeted. He said his administration “will begin the search for another site, including the possibility of Camp David, immediately.”

The striking reversal raises further doubts about the position of the president’s acting chief of staff, Mick Mulavney, who held a press conference Thursday announcing the choice of Doral for the summit. He insisted his staff had concluded it was “far and away the best physical facility.” Mulvaney said the White House reached that determination after visiting 10 sites across the country.

In the same press conference, Mulvaney acknowledged a quid pro quo was at work when Trump held up U.S. aid to Ukraine in exchange for Ukraine’s investigation of Democrats and the 2016 elections. Mulvaney later claimed his comments had been misconstrued, but not before drawing the ire of the president and frustration from other senior aides.

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AP FACT CHECK: Trump’s Syrian mission-accomplished moment

WASHINGTON (AP) — As President Donald Trump describes it, the U.S. swooped into an intractable situation in the Middle East, achieved an agreement within hours that had eluded the world for years and delivered a “great day for civilization.”

It was a mission-accomplished moment that other Republican leaders, Democrats and much of the world found unconvincing.

Trump spent much of the past week trying to justify his decision to pull U.S. troops away from America’s Kurdish allies in Syria, leaving those Kurdish fighters vulnerable on several fronts and already reeling from attacks by Turkish forces.

In the process, Trump exaggerated the scope of a deal bringing a temporary cease-fire to Turkish-Kurdish hostilities and mischaracterized the history of the conflict and even the geography of it.

A look at his rhetoric on that topic and other subjects over the past week as well as a sampling of statements from the latest Democratic presidential debate:

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Trump outstripping Obama on pace of executive orders

WASHINGTON (AP) — It wasn’t too long ago that Donald Trump derided presidential executive orders as “power grabs” and a “basic disaster.”

He’s switched sides in a big way: In each year of his presidency, he has issued more executive orders than did former President Barack Obama during the same time span. He surpassed Obama’s third-year total just recently.

Back in 2012, Trump had tweeted: “Why Is @BarackObama constantly issuing executive orders that are major power grabs of authority?”

That criticism continued once he entered the presidential race.

“The country wasn’t based on executive orders,” Trump said at a South Carolina campaign stop in February 2016. “Right now, Obama goes around signing executive orders. He can’t even get along with the Democrats, and he goes around signing all these executive orders. It’s a basic disaster. You can’t do it.”

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Hong Kong activist stabbed as protesters gird for march

HONG KONG (AP) — A man distributing leaflets near a wall with pro-democracy messages was stabbed and wounded, as Hong Kong anti-government protesters prepared to hold an unauthorized march Sunday to press their demands.

Police said they arrested a 22-year-old man Saturday in connection with the knife attack that wounded a 19-year-old.

On Wednesday, a leader of the nearly 5-month-old pro-democracy movement, Jimmy Sham, was attacked by assailants wielding hammers and knives as the unrest rocking semi-autonomous Hong Kong turns increasingly violent.

Later Saturday, supporters waving U.S. and British flags held a prayer rally to call for outside help for their cause. The protest march is planned for Sunday, with organizers vowing to hold the event even though it failed to win approval from police, who cited risks to public order.

Protesters are trying to keep the pressure on the government to respond to their demands, including full democracy and an independent inquiry into alleged police brutality. They’re also using Sunday’s rally to raise a more recent demand for the government to scrap a ban installed this month on face masks at public gatherings.

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In many parts of Mexico, government ceded battle to cartels

EL AGUAJE, Mexico (AP) — The Mexican city of Culiacan lived under drug cartel terror for 12 hours as gang members forced the government to free a drug lord’s son, but in many parts of Mexico, the government ceded the battle to the gangs long ago.

The massive, rolling gunbattle in Culiacan, capital of Sinaloa state, was shocking for the openness of the government’s capitulation and the brazenness of gunmen who drove machine-gun mounted armoured trucks through the streets.

But in state after state, the Mexican government long ago relinquished effective control of whole towns, cities and regions to the drug cartels.

“They are the law here. If you have a problem, you go to them. They solve it quickly,” said a young mother in the town of El Aguaje, in western Michoacan state. El Aguaje is so completely controlled by the Jalisco New Generation Cartel that the young wife of lime-grove worker – who would not give her name for fear of reprisals – can’t turn to police: They are too afraid to enter the town.

When a convoy of Michoacan state police did make a rare appearance in El Aguaje last Monday, they were ambushed and slaughtered by Jalisco cartel gunmen. Thirteen state police officers were shot or burned to death in their vehicles.

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Impeachment inquiry puts spotlight on Perry, who shunned it

WASHINGTON (AP) — Long after more flamboyant colleagues flamed out of President Donald Trump’s favour amid ethics scandals, low-profile and folksy Rick Perry survived in the Cabinet in part by steering clear of controversy.

Until now.

The former Texas governor said Thursday he was quitting as energy secretary by year’s end. The announcement came as the House impeachment investigation highlighted his work in Ukraine, where he promoted U.S. natural gas and where Trump hoped to find dirt on Democratic rival Joe Biden.

Trump said that Perry, one of his longest serving Cabinet members, had planned for months to leave. But the timing of the announcement of Perry’s departure fits a Trump pattern, said governance expert Kathryn Dunn Tenpas of the Brookings Institution. Her work shows there has been more turnover in Trump’s Cabinet than under any president since at least Ronald Reagan.

“The more important the issue is to the president, the more likely you’re on the chopping block,” Tenpas said.

The Associated Press

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By The Wall of Law October 20, 2019 Off