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 Says He Doesn’t Know Primary Challengers Before Criticizing Them With Very Specific Attacks

President Donald Trump said Monday that he does not know the three men challenging him for the Republican nomination. He then went on to make very specific comments about each of them.

Speaking outside the White House en route to a rally in North Carolina, the president took pointed shots at former Massachusetts governor Bill Weld, former Illinois congressman Joe Walsh, and former South Carolina congressman Mark Sanford.

“I don’t even know who they are,” Trump said. He added, “I don’t know them. I don’t know them.”

Then, “One was a person that voted for Obama, ran as a vice president four years ago and was soundly defeated. Another one got thrown out after one term in Congress, and he lost in a landslide. And the third one, Mr. Tallahassee trail or Appalachian trail … he wasn’t on the Appalachian trail. He was in Argentina.”

Later in the pool spray, Trump defended Kansas, South Carolina, and Nevada for not holding Republican primaries in 2020.

“Three people are a total joke,” Trump said. “They’re a joke. They’re a laughingstock. I have nothing to do [with it] — the four states that canceled it don’t want to waste their money. If there was a race, they would certainly want to do that. But they’re considered to be a laughingstock. They’re considered to be a joke. And those four states don’t want to waste their money.”

[Mediaite]

Trump says he won’t debate primary opponents

President Trump on Monday indicated he would not be willing to debate the Republicans seeking to run against him in a primary for the party’s 2020 nomination.

“They’re all at less than 1 percent. I guess it’s a publicity stunt,” Trump told reporters as he left the White House for North Carolina.

“To be honest, I’m not looking to give them any credibility,” he added.

Former Rep. Joe Walsh (Ill.), former Rep. Mark Sanford (S.C.) and former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld have each announced campaigns against Trump.

The Arizona Republican Party earlier Monday canceled its 2020 presidential primary contest, joining the GOP in South Carolina and Kansas. Nevada may follow suit as the Republican Party seeks to clear Trump’s path to reelection.

Trump defended the decisions, saying those states “don’t want to waste their money.”

The move to cancel a primary is not unprecedented. The Arizona Democratic Party did not have primaries in 2012 and 1996, when former Presidents Obama and Clinton, respectively, were running for reelection.

[The Hill]

Trump says Fox News ‘not working’ for him anymore

President Donald Trump on Wednesday ratcheted up his attacks on Fox News, blasted Puerto Rican leaders as another hurricane approached the island, and kept up his drumbeat of criticism of the Federal Reserve for its failure to cut interest rates.

“Fox not working for us anymore!”

A vacationing president is unhappy that Fox News is giving some airtime to Democrats, grumbling in a tweet: “Fox isn’t working for us anymore!”

The ire of Trump was triggered by a Fox interview Wednesday morning with Xochitl Hinojosa, a spokeswoman at the Democratic National Committee. Hinojosa criticized the president repeatedly and contended that Trump was polling poorly in several key states.

Trump has lashed out at Fox several times in recent months, complaining about liberal analysts Donna Brazile and Juan Willams and news host Shep Smith. On Wednesday he said he and his supporters need to find a new media ally.

Fox News anchor Brett Baier defended the network last week, saying it has a news side and an opinion side. “Fox has not changed,” he said.

[Market Watch]

Trump dismisses potential primary challengers as ‘Three Stooges’

President Trump on Tuesday dismissed three potential Republican presidential primary challengers as “Three Stooges” as he seeks reelection in 2020.

In a pair of tweets, the president mocked former Reps. Mark Sanford (R-S.C.) and Joe Walsh (R-Ill.) as well as former Massachusetts Gov. William Weld (R).

Walsh and Weld have announced GOP primary campaigns against Trump in 2020, while Sanford has said he is considering one as well.

“Can you believe it? I’m at 94% approval in the Republican Party, and have Three Stooges running against me,” Trump tweeted, though it was unclear what poll he was citing.

“One is ‘Mr. Appalachian Trail’ who was actually in Argentina for bad reasons,” he continued, referring to Sanford.

“Another is a one-time BAD Congressman from Illinois who lost in his second term by a landslide, then failed in radio. The third is a man who couldn’t stand up straight while receiving an award. I should be able to take them!” he added, referring to Walsh and Weld, respectively.

Weld, who ran on the Libertarian Party ticket in 2016, was the first to announce he would seek to challenge Trump for the GOP nomination. The 74-year-old has struggled to gain traction, however, and most polls have shown him receiving single-digit support.

Walsh, meanwhile, announced his campaign on Sunday. He previously served one term as a congressman in Illinois and went on to become a conservative talk radio host, though he said this week that he lost his show upon launching his primary bid.

The ex-congressman has become a fervent critic of Trump’s rhetoric and character. Walsh himself has a history of making controversial statements, and acknowledged in recent days that he has said “racist things.”

Sanford said last month he was considering a primary challenge to Trump, though he has not formally announced a campaign. He has also been critical of the president, and he lost his reelection bid for his House seat last year after Trump endorsed his primary opponent. 

Sanford had an extramarital affair in 2009 while serving as governor of South Carolina, but he lied and said he was hiking the Appalachian Trail when he had actually gone to Argentina to visit his mistress.

All three men and any other prospective challengers face slim odds to unseat Trump on the 2020 ticket.

The president has the financial backing of the Republican National Committee, and he has solidified support within the GOP, consistently polling close to 90 percent among Republicans in Gallup surveys.

[The Hill]

Trump calls Juan Williams ‘pathetic,’ ‘always nasty and wrong’

President Trump on Sunday tore into Fox News political analyst Juan Williams, calling him “pathetic,” “nasty” and “wrong.”

“Juan Williams at @FoxNews is so pathetic, and yet when he met me in the Fox Building lobby, he couldn’t have been nicer as he asked me to take a picture of him and me for his family,” the president tweeted. “Yet he is always nasty and wrong!”

Williams, who is a recurring co-host of the Fox News show “The Five” and a columnist for The Hill, has been a vocal critic of Trump, including during a “Fox News Sunday” panel that reaired at 2 pm ET, just an hour before the president’s tweet.

During that segment, Williams called Trump’s approach to China on trade “brutish,” according to Mediaite.

“It’s not just Democrats who say, ‘Hey, this guy is inartful.’ The Wall Street Journal” has said that — he then attacked The Wall Street Journal at a rally this week,” he said.

“But I think that what you see here is that Trump’s unpredictability, Dana, then risks global recession, and you can do that. I mean, clearly, unpredictability is something that really scares Wall Street, because it depresses the likelihood of capital investment, which is necessary for stock growth,” he added.

Trump last week suspended a new round of tariffs against China, the initial announcement of which rocked global markets.

Williams, who had not seen Trump’s tweet when contacted by The Hill on Sunday, said he is used to the president criticizing him.

He also told The Hill that he had asked Trump for the photo at Fox on behalf of a security guard who wanted a picture with the president, an interaction Williams said Trump misunderstood.

The president is a devoted fan of the Fox News network, frequently tweeting clips from its programming. He is known to have a close relationship with several Fox News personalities, including host Sean Hannity.

However, he has increasingly criticized the network over its campaign coverage, particularly when the network chooses to cover 2020 Democratic candidates.

[The Hill]

Trump Again Lashes Out at Fox News for Not Sufficiently Adoring Him

Donald Trump’s growing annoyance at his favorite news network was on display once again Sunday night, when he ripped Fox News for failing to lavish him with sufficient praise.

The tirade began early Sunday evening with tweets targetting the network’s “weekend anchors.” Watching them, Trump wrote, is worse than watching the “Trump haters” on CNN and MSNBC. He also took a swipe at the New York Times before concluding that “@FoxNews is changing fast, but they forgot the people who got them there!” That’s his way of saying he’s responsible for the network’s success and they should thank him with fawning coverage.

The reason for Trump’s outburst isn’t clear. Maybe he saw soccer fans chanting “fuck Trump” during a Fox News live shot earlier Sunday. Maybe he didn’t like seeing Democratic candidate Michael Bennet on Fox News Sunday. Maybe, as Media Matters’s Matthew Gertz suggested, Trump was inspired by the network twice citing a New York Times report about abhorrent conditions in an immigration detention center.

More difficult to explain are the tweets that came later in the evening. Trump went after Shepard Smith, his most vocal critic on Fox News, and Donna Brazile, the former chair of the Democratic National Committee, who recently joined the network. As Gertz pointed out though, Brazile hasn’t been on Fox for a week.

All of this comes as Trump is being courted by a right-wing TV network that promises to be more sycophantic than Fox News ever was. One America News has been called the “Ultimate ‘Pro-Trump’ Network” and Trump has reportedly been tuning into the network more than ever. But apparently not this weekend.

[New York Magazine]

Mexico Agreed to Take Border Actions Months Before Trump Announced Tariff Deal

 The deal to avert tariffs that President Trump announced with great fanfare on Friday night consists largely of actions that Mexico had already promised to take in prior discussions with the United States over the past several months, according to officials from both countries who are familiar with the negotiations.

Friday’s joint declaration says Mexico agreed to the “deployment of its National Guard throughout Mexico, giving priority to its southern border.” But the Mexican government had already pledged to do that in March during secret talks in Miami between Kirstjen Nielsen, then the secretary of homeland security, and Olga Sanchez, the Mexican secretary of the interior, the officials said.

The centerpiece of Mr. Trump’s deal was an expansion of a program to allow asylum-seekers to remain in Mexico while their legal cases proceed. But that arrangement was reached in December in a pair of painstakingly negotiated diplomatic notes that the two countries exchanged. Ms. Nielsen announced the Migrant Protection Protocols during a hearing of the House Judiciary Committee five days before Christmas.

And over the past week, negotiators failed to persuade Mexico to accept a “safe third country” treaty that would have given the United States the legal ability to reject asylum seekers if they had not sought refuge in Mexico first.

Mr. Trump hailed the agreement anyway on Saturday, writing on Twitter: “Everyone very excited about the new deal with Mexico!” He thanked the president of Mexico for “working so long and hard” on a plan to reduce the surge of migration into the United States.

It was unclear whether Mr. Trump believed that the agreement truly represented new and broader concessions, or whether the president understood the limits of the deal but accepted it as a face-saving way to escape from the political and economic consequences of imposing tariffs on Mexico, which he began threatening less than two weeks ago.

Having threatened Mexico with an escalating series of tariffs — starting at 5 percent and growing to 25 percent — the president faced enormous criticism from global leaders, business executives, Republican and Democratic lawmakers, and members of his own staff that he risked disrupting a critical marketplace.

After nine days of uncertainty, Mr. Trump backed down and accepted Mexico’s promises.

Officials involved with talks said they began in earnest last Sunday, when Kevin K. McAleenan, the acting secretary of homeland security, met over dinner with Mexico’s foreign minister. One senior government official, who was not authorized to speak publicly about the closed-door negotiations that took place over several days, insisted that the Mexicans agreed to move faster and more aggressively to deter migrants than they ever have before.

Their promise to deploy up to 6,000 national guard troops was larger than their previous pledge. And the Mexican agreement to accelerate the Migrant Protection Protocols could help reduce what Mr. Trump calls “catch and release” of migrants in the United States by giving the country a greater ability to make asylum-seekers wait in Mexico.

But there remains deep skepticism among some American officials — and even Mr. Trump himself — about whether the Mexicans have agreed to do enough, whether they will follow through on their promises, and whether, even if they do, that will reduce the flow of migrants at the southwestern border.

In addition, the Migrant Protection Protocols already face legal challenges by immigrant rights groups who say they violate the migrants’ right to lawyers. A federal judge blocked the Trump administration from implementing the plan, but an appeals court later said it could move forward while the legal challenge proceeds.

During a phone call Friday evening when he was briefed on the agreement, Mr. Trump quizzed his lawyers, diplomats and immigration officials about whether they thought the deal would work. His aides said yes, but admitted that they were also realistic that the surge of immigration might continue.

“We’ll see if it works,” the president told them, approving the deal before sending out his tweet announcing it.

On Saturday, Mike Pompeo, the secretary of state, said the government looked forward to reducing illegal immigration and making the border “strong and secure” by working with Mexico to fulfill the agreement.

Mr. Trump’s decision to use trade as a bludgeon against Mexico was driven in part by his obsession with stopping what he falsely calls an invasion of the country and in part by a desire to satisfy his core supporters, many of who have grown angry at his inability to build his promised border wall.

Many of his top advisers, including those who oversee his political and economic agendas, were opposed to the tariff threat. But the president’s ire is regularly stoked by the daily reports he receives on how many migrants have crossed the border in the previous 24 hours.

Mr. Trump’s top immigration officials had repeatedly warned the president that results from their work to curb the flow of migrants might not be evident until July, and urged patience.

But that effort became more difficult in May, when the numbers spiked to the highest levels of his presidency. During the week of May 24, 5,800 migrants — the highest ever for one day — crossed on a single day. That was quickly followed by a group of 1,036 migrants who were caught on surveillance cameras crossing the border en masse.

Mr. Trump later tweeted out the video, and the tariff threat soon followed.

Throughout the week’s negotiations, officials on both sides worried about what Mr. Trump would be willing to accept in exchange for pulling back on his tariff threat. That question hung over the talks, which were led one day by Vice President Mike Pence and included Mr. Pompeo and Mr. McAleenan.

Mexican officials opened the negotiations with the offer to deploy their new national guard troops against migrants, using a PowerPoint presentation to show their American counterparts that doing so would be a breakthrough in their ability to stop migrants from flowing north through Mexico, often in buses.

In fact, Mexican officials had already made the same promise months earlier when Ms Nielsen met in Miami with Ms. Sanchez and aides to Marcelo Ebrard, the Mexican foreign minister. The purpose of the meeting, according to people familiar with it, was to press the Mexicans to act faster.

Ms. Sanchez also told Ms. Nielsen that the Mexican government’s new national guard, which had been created just a month earlier to combat drugs and crime, would be redirected to the border with Guatemala, the entry point for most of the Central American migrants.

At the time, Ms. Nielsen and the other American negotiators referred to the Mexican promise as the “third border” plan because the Mexicans proposed creating a line of troops around the southern part of their country to keep migrants from moving north.

Mexicans had begun to follow the plan, but not quickly enough for the Trump administration, which said that only about 1,000 Mexican national guard troops were in place by May.

Friday’s agreement with Mexico states that the two countries “will immediately expand” the Migrant Protection Protocols across the entire southern border. To date, migrants have been returned at only three of the busiest ports of entry.

But officials familiar with the program said Saturday that the arrangement struck by the two countries last December always envisioned that it would expand along the entire border. What kept that from happening, they said, was the commitment of resources by both countries.

In the United States, migrants must see immigration judges before they can be sent to wait in Mexico, and a shortage of judges slowed the process. The Mexican government also dragged its feet on providing the shelter, health care, job benefits and basic care that would allow the United States to send the migrants over.

The new deal reiterates that Mexico will provide the “jobs, health care and education” needed to allow the program to expand. But the speed with which the United States can send more migrants to wait in Mexico will still depend on how quickly the government follows through on that promise.

Perhaps the clearest indication that both sides recognize that the deal might prove insufficient is contained in a section of Friday’s agreement titled “Further Action.”

One official familiar with the negotiations said the section was intended to be a serious warning to the Mexican government that Mr. Trump would be paying close attention to the daily reports he received about the number of migrants crossing the border. The official said that if the numbers failed to change — quickly — the president’s anger would bring the parties back to the negotiating table.

“The tariff threat is not gone,” the official said. “It’s suspended.”

[The New York Times]

Trump Invents Quote From Kevin McCarthy to Tout Support on Tariffs, Border Policy

It would appear that President Donald Trump drastically twisted a recent quote from House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) in order to claim he’s on solid political footing with his plans to put tariffs on Mexico.

On Wednesday, Trump thanked McCarthy on Twitter because he supposedly said this about the president’s plans:

There’s just a slight problem: that quote doesn’t seem to exist anywhere except in Trump’s tweet.

Politico traced the so-called quote to an interview McCarthy gave to Laura Ingraham on Tuesday night, during which, the Fox News host asked him about Trump’s tariffs.

Here are those remarks in full:

“No. No, we support this president. And why, when you’re about to have a meeting – the secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, is meeting with Mexico tomorrow. We want to solve this crisis at the border – Why wouldn’t you help them be as strong as they can be? Stand up with him, and you know what, if you give the president his strongest hand, you’ll never end up with tariffs and we’ll have a border that is secure.”

As you can see, this is rather different from how McCarthy supposedly said that support for Trump’s tariffs “makes any measure the President takes on the Border totally Veto proof.”

[Mediaite]

Trump: ‘Foolish’ for GOP to try to stop tariffs on Mexico

President Trump on Tuesday insisted he will follow through with new tariffs on Mexico if it does not do more to curb illegal migration and said it would be “foolish” for congressional Republicans to try and stop him.

“We are going to see if we can do something, but I think it’s more likely that the tariffs go on,” Trump said during a joint press conference with British Prime Minister Theresa May.

Addressing deliberations by Republicans on a measure that could limit his tariff power, Trump said, “I don’t think they will do that. I think if they do, it’s foolish.”

Trump’s proposed tariffs on Mexican imports are scheduled to take effect on Monday. A 5 percent tariff on all goods would be imposed, and it could grow to 25 percent by October unless Trump is satisfied with steps taken by Mexico on immigration.

A team of Mexican diplomats is in Washington this week seeking to convince the administration to back away from the plan, which has also unsettled U.S. businesses. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is scheduled to break off from Trump’s European trip to attend the meetings.

Asked if Mexico has done enough to avoid the tariffs, Trump responded “no, we haven’t started yet” and reaffirmed the tariffs will begin “next week.”

But the president added the two countries would be talking over the coming weeks and months and expressed hope Mexico will “step up and give us security for our nation.”

Trump’s tariffs, which were opposed by some of his closest trade advisers, have also run into resistance on Capitol Hill where Republicans who traditionally support free trade want the president to change course, fearing they could derail efforts to ratify a new North American trade pact.

Some GOP senators have floated the possibility of passing legislation to disapprove of the Mexico tariffs and curtail his ability to unilaterally impose tariffs in the future, but there are differences on how to proceed.

Trump suggested GOP lawmakers would be punished politically for going against him, claiming he has a 94 percent approval rating among Republican voters and pointing out “there’s nothing more important than borders” for his base.

It remains unclear what Mexico might have to do in order to satisfy the president’s concerns.

In announcing the tariffs, Trump tweeted that all illegal immigration would have to “STOP” but administration officials later said there was no specific goal that would need to be met and instead the Mexican government would have to show progress on securing its border with Guatemala, deporting migrants and cracking down on criminal gangs.

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