Trump pulls troops from northern Syria as Turkey readies offensive

The United States began withdrawing American troops from Syria’s border with Turkey early Monday, in the clearest sign yet that the Trump administration was washing its hands of an explosive situation between the Turkish military and U.S.-allied Kurdish fighters.

President Trump, in a series of Twitter messages Monday, suggested that the United States was shouldering too much of the burden — and the cost — of fighting the Islamic State. He rebuked European nations for not repatriating citizens who had joined the extremist group, claiming that the United States was being played for a “sucker.” And he chided his own Kurdish allies, who he said were “paid massive amounts of money and equipment” to fight the militants. 

“It is time for us to get out of these ridiculous Endless Wars, many of them tribal, and bring our soldiers home. WE WILL FIGHT WHERE IT IS TO OUR BENEFIT, AND ONLY FIGHT TO WIN,” he tweeted.

Trump later added a warning to Turkey. “As I have stated strongly before, and just to reiterate, if Turkey does anything that I, in my great and unmatched wisdom, consider to be off limits, I will totally destroy and obliterate the Economy of Turkey (I’ve done before!),” he tweeted.

“They must, with Europe and others, watch over the captured ISIS fighters and families,” Trump continued. “The U.S. has done far more than anyone could have ever expected, including the capture of 100% of the ISIS Caliphate. It is time now for others in the region, some of great wealth, to protect their own territory. THE USA IS GREAT!”

The withdrawal followed a late Sunday statement by the White House that the United States would not intervene in a long-threatened Turkish offensive into northern Syria. The announcement, which signaled an abrupt end to a months-long American effort to broker peace between two important allies, came after a call between Trump and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. 

Erdogan said in a speech Monday that the withdrawal began soon after their phone call.

A U.S. official confirmed to The Washington Post that American troops left observation posts in the border villages of Tel Abyad and Ras al-Ayn at 6:30 a.m. local time.

In an initial reaction to the pullout, Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.), a strong Trump supporter, indicated on Twitter that he was seeking more information on the president’s decision. But he added, “If press reports are accurate this is a disaster in the making.”

The fast-moving developments threatened a fresh military conflagration in a large swath of northern Syria, stretching from east of the Euphrates River to the border with Iraq. Syrian Kurds had established an autonomous zone in the area during more than eight years of Syria’s civil war.

Ankara, however, has been increasingly unnerved by the Kurdish presence, and by the close ties between U.S.-allied Syrian Kurdish fighters and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, a militant group that has fought a long insurgency against the Turkish state.

For months, Erdogan has been threatening an imminent invasion, as Trump administration officials attempted to work out an accommodation that would satisfy Turkish demands for border security while providing a measure of protection for the U.S.-allied Syrian-Kurdish force.

But on Sunday, the United States appeared to throw up its hands. White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said the Turkish leader would “soon be moving forward” with dispatching troops to battle the Kurdish forces, known as the Syrian Democratic Forces, or SDF. Ankara views the group as a terrorist-linked entity, but the SDF has fought closely alongside the U.S. military as a primary partner against the Islamic State. 

“The United States armed forces will not support or be involved in the operation, and United States forces, having defeated the ISIS territorial ‘caliphate,’ will no longer be in the immediate area,” Grisham said in a statement. ISIS is another name for the Islamic State, the militant group whose rise drew the U.S. military into Syria. 

The SDF, in a statement critical of the United States, said the American troops have begun pulling out.

“The United States forces have not fulfilled their obligations and withdrew their forces from the border area with Turkey,” the statement said. “This Turkish military operation in north and east Syria will have a big negative impact on our war against Daesh and will destroy all stability that was reached in the last few years.” Daesh is an Arabic acronym for the Islamic State.

It added that the group reserves the right to defend itself against Turkish aggression.

Erdogan, who has portrayed a Turkish incursion as necessary to protect his country’s borders, has spoken in recent weeks of resettling millions of Syrian refugees in Turkey in a “safe zone” in northern Syria, a plan that has been criticized by refugee advocates as well as local Syrian Kurds who could be displaced by such a proposal.

On Saturday, Erdogan said the invasion, dubbed Operation Peace Fountain, could begin “as soon as today or maybe tomorrow.”

U.S. officials depicted the impending offensive, and the U.S. troop withdrawal, as a dramatic turn after their prolonged attempt to hammer out an arrangement that would allay the Turks’ concerns about Syrian Kurdish forces close to their border, while also averting a battle they fear will be bloody for Kurdish fighters whom the Pentagon sees as stalwart allies. 

Military officials point out that Kurdish assistance is still required to avoid a return of the Islamic State in Syria and to guard facilities where Islamic State militants and their families are being held. 

A senior U.S. official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss an evolving situation, said the U.S. government “has no idea” what the Turkish operation would look like, whether it would be a small, symbolic incursion or a major offensive intended to push as far as 25 miles into Syria. 

 U.S. officials said an operation deep into Syria could further jeopardize the security of prisons holding Islamic State fighters. “There are many potential disastrous outcomes to this,” the official said.

The White House announcement comes only two days after the Pentagon completed its most recent joint patrol with Turkish forces, a central element of the U.S. effort to build trust in northern Syria. But similar patrols and other measures overseen from a joint U.S.-Turkish military hub in southern Turkey have not reduced Ankara’s impatience to establish the buffer zone it has envisioned. 

Speaking to reporters on Friday, Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper described ongoing U.S.-Turkish cooperation in northern Syria, saying that his Turkish counterpart had agreed in a call last week “that we need to make the security mechanism work.”

In negotiations, the United States had said it would agree to a strip along the border to be cleared of Syrian Kurdish fighters and jointly patrolled by the United States and Turkey on the ground and in the air. That strip is about five miles wide, only about a quarter of what the Turks have demanded.

The joint patrols are taking place in only about a third of the border length, with the idea of gradually expanding them. In addition to not liking U.S. terms for the agreement, Erdogan believes the United States is dragging its feet in implementing it.

“Mr. Trump gave the order; he ordered to pull out. But this came late,” Erdogan told reporters in Ankara on Monday. “We cannot accept the threats of terrorist organizations.”

Erdogan’s plan to send up to 3 million Syrian refugees into the 140-mile-long strip also runs counter to what the United States says was part of the agreement they had reached to allow only the 700,000 to 800,000 refugees who originally fled the area to resettle there. Turkey currently hosts more than 3.6 million Syrian refugees, but the government has recently begun deporting hundreds back to Syria as public sentiment turns against the migrants.

Ibrahim Kalin, a spokesman for Erdogan, wrote on Twitter that Turkey has no interest in occupying or changing the demographics in northeastern Syria and that the “safe zone” would serve two purposes: secure Turkey’s borders and allow refugees to return home.

After months of warning about the turmoil such a move could create, U.S. officials said they are now watching Turkey’s actions closely to inform their own decisions about how quickly they must move the hundreds of troops expected to be affected. 

“We’re going to get out of the way,” another U.S. official said. 

There are about 1,000 U.S. troops in northeastern Syria. 

The SDF also predicted that Islamic State fighters would break out of prison camps the SDF manages in different areas of Syria.

The potential for greater risk to Islamic State prisons and camps comes after months of unsuccessful efforts by the Trump administration to persuade countries in Europe and elsewhere to repatriate their citizens.

The White House statement said that “Turkey will now be responsible for all ISIS fighters” in that area. “The United States will not hold them for what could be many years and great cost to the United States taxpayer,” Grisham said. 

Erdogan said Monday that Turkey has “an approach to this issue” of ISIS, without specifying what it was.

The United Nations is also concerned about the impact that any Turkish operation would have on the protection of civilians in northeastern Syria, Panos Moumtzis, U.N. regional humanitarian coordinator for Syria, said in a telephone interview.

“We want our message to all governments and actors on the ground to be to make sure that this latest development does not have an impact first of all on a new displacement of people,” he said.

The United Nations already provides services to approximately 700,000 people every month in the northeast. Moumtzis emphasized the importance of freedom of movement of civilians and ensuring the continuation of access to humanitarian groups. He stressed that any movement of Syrians must be done voluntarily and with safety and dignity.

“We have not had any specific instructions on” the safe zone, he said, adding that the United Nations has a contingency plan depending on how wide and deep the safe zone would be.

Turkey’s latest possible incursion comes nearly two years after Ankara launched a military offensive on Afrin, in northern Syria, in an operation that was also criticized as a distraction from the fight against the Islamic State.  

The contested legacy of Turkey’s Afrin offensive has hovered over Erdogan’s latest military plans. Ankara has argued that its past foray into Syria brought stability to parts of the north and provided a safe haven for hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees. But over the last year, human rights groups have documented abuses by Turkish-backed militias in Afrin — mistreatment that they say has included kidnappings and arbitrary detentions.

And many of the refugees who returned to Afrin — which has suffered from mysterious militant attacks, including car bombs — ended up fleeing back across the border into Turkey, according to advocates for the refugees.

Kurdish leaders have accused Turkey of trying to settle Arabs in historically Kurdish lands. Arab residents, in turn, have accused the Kurds of carrying out ethnic cleansing in areas they control.

“We thank the Americans for their decision to withdraw from northern Syria, not because we hate the U.S. but because we are fed up with the SDF,” said Abu Musafir, a member of the Manbij Tribal Council, a confederation of Arab tribes in the region.

“We are fed up with the SDF’s racism, detentions, kidnappings and compulsory conscription of underaged boys and girls,” he said. “The situation was bad, and the area was on the verge of imploding.” 

[Washington Post]

Trump administration warns California its tailpipe deal could violate federal law

The Trump administration sent a warning to California officials Friday, stating that a recent agreement the state made with automakers over tailpipe pollution could violate the law.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Department of Transportation offered the warning in a joint letter to the head of the California Air and Resources Board (CARB) that said its “framework” agreement with four car manufacturers could be a problem.

“The purpose of this letter is to put California on notice that this framework agreement appears to be inconsistent with federal law,” the letter from DOT and EPA’s chief counsels wrote.

The administration is arguing that the state lacked authority under the Clean Air Act to set fuel economy standards in conjunction with the car makers.

“Congress has squarely vested the authority to set fuel economy standards for new motor vehicles, and nationwide standards for [greenhouse gas] vehicle emissions, with the federal government, not with California or any other state,” the letter read.

Mary Nichols, the CARB chairwoman, announced in July that the state had reached an agreement with BMW, Ford, Volkswagen and Honda over the emissions standards for future cars. The news came as the Trump administration is working to finalize a national fuel economy standard that is expected to weaken tailpipe emissions standards.

California has long argued that under the Clean Air Act, it has an exemption to set higher emissions standards due to the state’s history of poor air quality. More than a dozen other states have adopted California’s heightened standards.

CARB did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom compared the Trump administration’s tactics to those of a bully.

“The Trump Administration has been attempting and failing to bully car companies for months now. We remain undeterred. California stands up to bullies and will keep fighting for stronger clean car protections that protect the health and safety of our children and families,” Newsom said in a statement provided to The Hill.

Trump administration officials argue in the letter that the deal with automakers likely goes beyond the scope of those rights.

“CARB’s actions in furtherance of the framework appear to be unlawful and invalid. We recognize California’s disagreements with the Federal government’s policy proposals in this area, but those policy disagreements cannot justify CARB’s pursuit of a regulatory approach that would violate federal law,” reads the letter.

The administration’s warning comes amidst reports that the White House is considering splitting its forthcoming emissions rule into two parts in order to finalize it more quickly. The first part of the rule would include stripping California of its waiver, according to sources with knowledge of the administration’s plans. Any rule put forward by the administration is likely to be challenged in court by California and environmentalist groups that argue the law forbids agencies from weakening pollution standards.

President Trump has made no secret of his frustration with the Golden State over its negotiations with the four automakers.

“Henry Ford would be very disappointed if he saw his modern-day descendants wanting to build a much more expensive car, that is far less safe and doesn’t work as well, because execs don’t want to fight California regulators. Car companies should know that when this Administration’s alternative is no longer available, California will squeeze them to a point of business ruin. Only reason California is now talking to them is because the Feds are giving a far better alternative, which is much better for consumers!” Trump tweeted late last month.

[The Hill]

Trump attacks actress Debra Messing after she pushed to out his donors

President Donald Trump on Thursday amplified accusations of McCarthyism leveled at actress Debra Messing after the “Will & Grace” star made a public plea for a list of Trump donors in Hollywood and disparaged black Trump voters. 

“Bad ‘actress’ Debra The Mess Messing is in hot water,” Trump wrote in a pair of tweets, claiming Messing wants to create a “‘Blacklist’ of Trump supporters, & is being accused of McCarthyism.”

Last week, Messing stoked controversy when she reposted a news article about an upcoming Trump fundraiser in Beverly Hills, Calif., asking for a list of attendees. Her “Will & Grace” co-star Eric McCormack echoed the call, saying he wanted to be aware of who he no longer wants to work with. 

Amid backlash from both sides of the aisle who argued that the pair were unfairly targeting private individuals and promoting intolerance of different political views, Messing defended her plea earlier this week. 

Noting that political donations are public, she denied ever calling for a blacklist of Trump donors in Hollywood but argued that “I as a consumer want to know where MY Money is going when I pay for entertainment” and that Trump voters similarly are free to choose not to watch her show. 

Trump also seized on a separate tweet from Messing that sparked a firestorm this week, one in which she applauded a sign in front of an Alabama church suggesting black voters who supported the president had mental illnesses. Messing on Wednesday apologized, tweeting that she regrets “recklessly” sharing the sign.

Her apology came as #RacistDebraMessing trended on Twitter. “The use of the term ‘mentally ill’ was wrong & hurtful,” she wrote of the church sign, though she doubled down on her criticism of incendiary rhetoric from Trump and his supporters. Trump on Thursday slammed the “terrible things she said about blacks and mental illness.”

The president also complained Wednesday that there was a double standard at play, invoking actress Roseanne Barr, a vocal supporter of the president who was fired from her eponymous sitcom reboot last year for making racist comments about a former Obama aide.

“If Roseanne Barr said what she did, even being on a much higher rated show, she would have been thrown off television,” Trump contended, noting Barr’s firing and asking whether “Fake News NBC allow a McCarthy style Racist to continue?”

[Politico]

Reality

Donald Trump promised his supporters greater transparency, but when actresses Debra Messing suggested releasing the names of his donors at a private Beverly Hills fundraiser filled with the same elites he claims to be against, he attacked Messing.

Trump admin asks Supreme Court not to extend sex discrimination ban to sexual orientation

The Trump administration is asking the Supreme Court not to extend a sex discrimination ban to include sexual orientation, arguing that the language for the law was not intended for that purpose. 

The Justice Department argues that the language in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prevents employment discrimination “because of sex,” does not apply to sexual orientation, in an amicus brief filed Friday. 

The Justice Department says the term “sex” is not otherwise defined in the law, arguing that it therefore means the “ordinary meaning of ‘sex’” which is refers to a person being “biologically male or female.”

“It does not include sexual orientation,” the department said in the brief. “Discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, standing alone, does not satisfy that standard.”

The filing relates to the cases of Gerald Bostock, a man who claims he was fired by Clayton County, Ga., for being gay, and Donald Zarda, who claims he was fired as a skydiving instructor at Altitude Express, for being gay. 

Bostock’s case was dismissed by lower courts. 

Trump vetoes Yemen War Powers Resolution, his 2nd veto since taking office

President Donald Trump issued the second veto of his presidency Tuesday, stopping a congressional resolution that would have sought to end US involvement in the Saudi-led war in Yemen.”

This resolution is an unnecessary, dangerous attempt to weaken my constitutional authorities, endangering the lives of American citizens and brave service members, both today and in the future,” Trump wrote to the Senate Thursday.Trump added that the resolution is “unnecessary” in part because there are no United States military personnel in Yemen “commanding, participating in, or accompanying military forces of the Saudi-led coalition against the Houthis in hostilities in or affecting Yemen.” Trump was expected to issue the veto as the resolution was seen as a rebuke of Trump’s Middle East policies.

Supporters of the War Powers Resolution argued the US shouldn’t be involved in the war without explicit permission from Congress. Opponents argued the US does not have “boots on the ground” and is offering noncombat technical assistance to Saudi Arabia, an ally.

Several supporters made clear their votes were also aimed at expressing their frustrations with Trump’s continued support for Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who has been implicated in the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

The bill passed the House 247-175. Sixteen Republicans voted yes with Democrats and one voted present. In the Senate the vote was 54 to 46, with seven Republicans voting with Democrats.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has not responded to questions on whether she intends to seek a vote to override the President’s veto.

In a statement Tuesday night, Pelosi called on Trump to “put peace before politics.”

“The conflict in Yemen is a horrific humanitarian crisis that challenges the conscience of the entire world. Yet the President has cynically chosen to contravene a bipartisan, bicameral vote of the Congress and perpetuate America’s shameful involvement in this heartbreaking crisis,” Pelosi said.

“This conflict must end, now. The House of Representatives calls on the President to put peace before politics, and work with us to advance an enduring solution to end this crisis and save lives.”

The only other veto Trump has issued was his veto of a resolution of disapproval for his emergency declaration to build barriers along the US border with Mexico. Trump vetoed that resolution last month.

[CNN]

Trump picks ex-oil lobbyist David Bernhardt for Interior secretary

President Trump is picking David Bernhardt, a former energy lobbyist, to be the Interior Department’s next secretary. “I am pleased to announce that David Bernhardt, Acting Secretary of the Interior, will be nominated as Secretary of the Interior,” Trump tweeted Monday. Bernhardt, whose past clients include oil companies and others with business before the Interior Department, will lead an agency that oversees about 500 million acres as well as the energy production on that land. He became the agency’s deputy secretary in 2017 and has led the department on an interim basis since former Secretary Ryan Zinke resigned amid ethics scandals in January. In the weeks since Zinke’s departure, Bernhardt has risen to the top of the list as the most likely candidate Trump would choose for the post. “David has done a fantastic job from the day he arrived, and we look forward to having his nomination officially confirmed!” Trump will have to send Bernhardt’s nomination to the Senate, where a majority of senators will have to approved him. “It’s a humbling privilege to be nominated to lead a department whose mission I love, to accomplish the balanced, common sense vision of our President,” Bernhardt said in a statement Monday. The department has 70,000 employees in various agencies overseeing federal land, offshore drilling, endangered species and American Indian affairs, among other duties. As deputy secretary, Bernhardt, a Colorado native, worked hand in hand with Zinke on his oil and gas leasing agenda and took the lead on many others, including the administration’s push to drill in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and the rollback of a number of Endangered Species Act regulations. In the past he’s called the ESA an “unnecessary regulatory burden.” The rule proposal he helped roll out in July would make it easier to delist an endangered species and would withdraw a policy that offered the same protections for threatened species as for endangered species unless otherwise specified. Bernhardt has worked at Interior in various capacities, including solicitor during the George W. Bush administration. He has also had multiple stints at the lobbying firm Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck LLP, representing clients including Eni Petroleum, Sempra Energy, Halliburton Energy Services, Targa Energy, Noble Energy and the Westlands Water District. Under ethics standards, he has recused himself from matters involving so many former clients that he carries a card with him listing the recusals. Environmental groups immediately denounced Bernhardt’s nomination Monday. “The ethical questions surrounding David Bernhardt and his commitment to pandering to oil, coal, and gas executives make former Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke look like a tree-hugging environmentalist in comparison. And Ryan Zinke was a disaster,” Vicky Wyatt, lead climate campaigner for Greenpeace USA, said in a statement. “We already let Bernhardt do enough damage to our federal lands and waters as deputy secretary —  we have to stop him before he destroys some of this country’s best ideas including the Endangered Species Act.” “David Bernhardt’s nomination is an affront to America’s parks and public lands,” said Jennifer Rokala, executive director of the Center for Western Priorities, a conservation group that has been vocally critical of the Trump administration. “As an oil and gas lobbyist, Bernhardt pushed to open vast swaths of public lands for drilling and mining. As deputy secretary, he was behind some of the worst policy decisions of Secretary Zinke’s sad tenure, including stripping protections for imperiled wildlife.” The industries Interior regulates have largely been supportive of Bernhardt. “We have always been supportive of acting Secretary Bernhardt. We supported his nomination and would support him if the president decides to nominate him to be secretary,” Mike Sommers, president of the American Petroleum Institute, told reporters Monday. “In these transitional phases, it’s important that we have strong political leadership, and I think he’s demonstrated that leadership in his time as acting secretary.” Supporters say Bernhardt’s agenda on fossil fuels would likely continue in the same vein as Zinke. “Bernhardt possesses an impressive depth of experience at the Department and knowledge of Interior issues. His selection as secretary will assure that important energy and conservation policies will not miss a beat in the transition,” said Randall Luthi, president of the National Ocean Industries Association, which represents offshore oil and wind companies.

“Bernhardt understands that conservation and enhancement of natural resources can and does occur in conjunction with development of natural resources for energy — both on and offshore,” he said. Bernhardt’s nomination will go to the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee for an initial hearing, and then a vote before the full Senate. That panel’s leaders, Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), both voted to confirm him to the deputy secretary position in 2017. Only three other Democrats — Sens. Michael Bennet (Colo.), Heidi Heitkamp (N.D.) and Joe Donnelly (Ind.) — voted for him, and Heitkamp and Donnelly lost reelection last year. Republicans hold 53 of the Senate’s 100 seats, so Bernhardt’s confirmation is likely to go through. One of the most recent controversies surrounding Bernhardt involved the recent partial government shutdown, which furloughed most of Interior’s workforce. He drew criticism after announcing the National Park Service would pull from their entrance fee revenue coffers in order to pay for the clean-up and maintenance of parks left up to the public during the shutdown. “We must provide opportunities for people to access and enjoy our wonderful parks, and we must do so in a way that ensures the same opportunity for future generations to enjoy,” he wrote. Environmentalists, park rangers and politicians alike questioned the legality of the move under the National Park Service Organic and Antideficiency Acts, the main pieces of legislation that govern federal parks and shutdown procedures respectively. The NPS is currently conducting a legal review of that decision. Bernhardt also was criticized for bringing certain furloughed workers back to work on oil and natural gas drilling permits, offshore drilling and drilling in the Alaska refuge. The House Appropriations Committee’s subcommittee for Interior, led by Chairwoman Betty McCollum (D-Minn.), will hold a hearing this week on the work that Interior did during the shutdown and whether it was legal. Bernhardt floated to the top of a crowded field of potential replacements for Zinke. The candidates included many current or former Republican politicians, according to people familiar with the process, such as ex-Rep. Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.), Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah), ex-Idaho Gov. Butch Otter (R) and ex-Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.).

[The Hill]

Trump’s pick to chair new climate panel once said CO2 has been maligned like “Jews under Hitler”

The Pentagon and several federal agencies have repeatedly warned over the years that climate change is a threat to national security. Yet the White House is reportedly convening a panel to question it anew.

The Washington Post, citing a National Security Council (NSC) discussion paper it obtained, reports that White House staff are preparing an executive order for President Donald Trump’s signature that would establish a Presidential Committee on Climate Security to be chaired by a notorious climate change denier.

That man, NSC senior director William Happer, argued on CNBC in 2014 that “the demonization of carbon dioxide is just like the demonization of the poor Jews under Hitler.”

John Whitehouse of Media Matters dredged up the video

Happer’s views have gotten no less extreme since then. When he was under consideration for the role of Trump’s science adviser in early 2017, Happer sent an email to a Jezebel reader asserting that the “demonization of CO2” “really differs little from the Nazi persecution of the Jews, the Soviet extermination of class enemies or ISIL slaughter of infidels.”

Media Matters has previously detailed how Happer, a retired Princeton professor who is not trained as a climate scientist, has tried — unsuccessfully — to conceal the fact that oil interests have directly funded his “research.” And as a recent paper in Nature Climate Change noted, the fossil fuel industry has long been involved in campaigns in US politics “aiming to refute, confuse and obstruct acceptance of the reality of climate change,” using scientists just like Happer to spread misinformation.

The Trump administration keeps trying to muddy the waters about climate science

The Post’s report about the White House’s new panel is the latest indication that the Trump administration is trying to actively mislead the public on the well-established science of climate change.

As Vox’s Umair Irfan and Alex Ward have reported, many agencies in the executive branch of Trump’s own government have been warning the president and the American people of the severe threats of rising carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere.

“The impacts and costs of climate change are already being felt in the United States, and changes in the likelihood or severity of some recent extreme weather events can now be attributed with increasingly higher confidence to human-caused warming,” according to the National Climate Assessment, released in November.

Asked about the National Climate Assessment by a reporter in November, Trump flatly said, “I don’t believe it.”

Last month, the Pentagon released a report detailing the national security threatposed by climate change. Weeks later, the intelligence community released its annual consensus World Threat Assessment. The document echoes the Pentagon’s finding that climate change is a major threat:

Climate hazards such as extreme weather, higher temperatures, droughts, floods, wildfires, storms, sea level rise, soil degradation, and acidifying oceans are intensifying, threatening infrastructure, health, and water and food security. Irreversible damage to ecosystems and habitats will undermine the economic benefits they provide, worsened by air, soil, water, and marine pollution.

The NSC discussion paper obtained by the Post about the new panel suggests it would be created with an eye toward muddying the waters about the Pentagon and intelligence community’s findings. Though the paper acknowledges that a number of federal government reports have concluded climate change is a major threat, it goes on to claim “these scientific and national security judgments have not undergone a rigorous independent and adversarial scientific peer review to examine the certainties and uncertainties of climate science, as well as implications for national security.”

Given Happer’s views, there’s little doubt that he’ll indulge Trump if he wants to use the panel to deny the well-established science of climate change. In doing so, the consequences are grave: He’d further imperil the United States and future generations everywhere.

[Vox]

In public fight with Democrats, Trump says he would be ‘proud’ to shut down government over border wall

President Donald Trump and Democrats Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi bickered at length on Tuesday in an explosive public meeting at the White House over the president’s promised border wall and threat to shut down the government if Congress doesn’t fund it.

“If we don’t get what we want one way or the other … I will shut down the government,” Trump said during a highly unusual fight that played out in front of the press before the official meeting began. “I am proud to shut down the government for border security. … I will take the mantle of shutting it down.”

If Trump and Congress can’t agree to a funding bill by Dec. 21, large parts of the federal government will run out of operating authority. The Defense Department, however, is funded through the end of next September.

Trump said it was unlikely that he would strike a deal Tuesday with Pelosi, a California Democrat who is expected to become House speaker next month, and Schumer, a New York Democrat who is the Senate minority leader.

“We may not have an agreement today,” he said. “We probably won’t.”

The House Freedom Caucus, a group of Trump’s Republican allies in Congress, demanded Monday night that $5 billion be included for the wall in any spending bill, while the Democratic leaders have been open to accepting less than $2 billion.

Earlier in the day, according to two sources who spoke to NBC News on the condition of anonymity, Pelosi told House Democrats that she and Schumer would offer the president a deal to pass six appropriations bills and a yearlong extension of current funding for the Department of Homeland Security.

Short of that, she said, they would agree to a basic extension of funding through Sept. 30, 2019, for all seven appropriations bills, including the one that funds Homeland Security.

Before Trump took ownership of a possible shutdown, Pelosi took an early dig at him in her opening remarks and noted that his party still controls both the House and Senate until January.

“We must keep the government open,” she said. “We cannot have a Trump shutdown.”

“A what?” he snapped at her.

“You have the White House, you have the Senate, you have the House of Representatives,” Pelosi responded.

But, she noted, not all Republicans are on board with his plans to build a physical barrier.

“There are no votes in the House, a majority of votes, for a wall,” Pelosi said.

“If I needed the votes for the wall in the House, I would have them in one session,” Trump countered. “It would be done.”

But for two years, he has been unable to muster those votes for his core campaign promise during the 2016 election — a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border that Trump vowed Mexico would pay for.

Vice President Mike Pence watched Tuesday’s spectacle unfold in silence as Trump and the Democrats also fought over the results of last month’s midterm elections and their meaning.

Outgoing White House chief of staff John Kelly and presidential advisers Ivanka Trump, Jared Kushner and Stephen Miller were also in the room for the meeting.

Pelosi urged the president to stop bickering in front of the media.

“This is spiraling downward,” she said.

The private portion of the discussion was brief, as Pelosi and Schumer emerged quickly to talk to reporters outside the White House.

Schumer said Trump threw a “temper tantrum.”

Later, back at the Capitol, he said the meeting was “productive” in that “the president showed what he wanted: shutdown.”

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., a top Trump ally, cheered the president on from the sidelines of Twitter.

“Great job sticking to your guns on border security, Mr. President!” he wrote. “You are right to want more border security funding including Wall money. They are WRONG to say no.”

Graham also advocated for Trump to add into the mix a provision protecting certain undocumented immigrants who were brought to the country as children from deportation to put pressure on Democrats to approve money for the wall.

Likewise, some Democrats took to social media to back their leaders.

“Remember when Mexico was going to pay for the President’s wall?” Rep. Val Demings of Florida tweeted. “Shutting down the government over this foolish idea would be wildly irresponsible. A shutdown would cripple the economy and degrade transportation security during the holidays.”

[NBC News]

Reality

Donald Trump lied multiple times and threw a very public temper tantrum during a photo op at the White House with Senator Chuck Schumer and Rep. Nancy Pelosi over the southern border wall funding and averting a government shutdown, which Trump said he would take full credit for.

Trump, who promised his supporters Mexico would pay for a wall, instead demanded the American taxpayers pay for his wall.

Some of the lies include:

* Trump claiming parts of his wall has been built. Even his supporters know this is a lie.

* Trump said illegal traffic is down in areas where a wall was built. Again no construction has been completed.

* Trump said 10 terrorists have been apprehended. This is a lie.
* Trump repeated white nationalist and KKK talking points when he claimed immigrants bring crime and disease.

Media

Trump Blasts Macron For Proposing ‘European Army’ Upon Arrival in France: ‘Very Insulting!’

President Donald Trump ripped French President Emmanuel Macronon Friday upon his arrival in France, calling him out for proposing a European military.

“President Macron of France has just suggested that Europe build its own military in order to protect itself from the U.S., China and Russia,” Trump tweeted Friday.

Trump is set to meet with Macron Saturday morning at the Élysée Palace in Paris, per USA Today.

Macron proposed, in an interview earlier this week, a “real European army” to protect against “China, Russia and even the United States of America.”

“When I see President Trump announcing that he’s quitting a major disarmament treaty which was formed after the 1980s euro-missile crisis that hit Europe, who is the main victim? Europe and its security,” Macron said.

“We will not protect the Europeans unless we decide to have a true European army,” he continued. In response to threats from Russia, Macron argued: “We need a Europe which defends itself better alone, without just depending on the United States, in a more sovereign manner.”

[Mediaite]

Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen Dedicates 2 Miles of Donald Trump’s ‘Border Wall’ With Fencing

On Friday, Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen dedicated a newly completed replacement section of border fence in Calexio, California. The fences and barriers have existed for years, but recently received routine scheduled maintenance and upgrades.

However the DHS Secretary spun a different tale of what the invited and gathered media looked at.

According to Nielsen, the open bollard style fence constitutes a wall. And not just a wall, but the border wall from President Donald Trump’s campaign and rally promises.

But yeah, that’s a fence.

The President specified in his campaign that a wall would be built, not a fence. And when reporters asked about the fence, Nielsen reiterated the fence was a wall.

When asked if the 30-foot tall fence of steel bollards was a fence, Nielsen said:

“It’s different than a fence in that it also has technology. It’s a full wall system. It’s a wall, this is what the president has asked us to do. It’s part of a system.”

But the prior fence that Trump deemed inadequate also utilized additional technology beyond just fencing. However the new fence is taller.

The Trump administration contracted for and tested eight border wall prototypes at a reported cost of $20 million. However all of the prototypes failed in testing.

Back in March, Trump tweeted that old photos of another section of replacement fence was his wall under construction, but was quickly corrected. This time Nielsen faces the brunt of the pushback over passing a fence off as a wall.

During the presidential campaign and subsequent rallies, Trump promised a “big, beautiful wall” that would definitely not be a fence. He also promised Mexico would pay for it.

Neither campaign promise came to fruition yet.

But despite the obvious fence visible in the background, Nielsen persisted in talking about the first section of Trump’s border wall being completed. And workers even welded a plaque to the fence to commemorate the event which was livestreamed.

[Second Nexus]

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