Trump just declared a national emergency at the border

After battling for weeks over funding for a border wall, overseeing the longest government shutdown in US history, and finally signing on to a deal to fund the government, President Donald Trump has declared a national emergency over a contrived crisis at the US-Mexico border.

On Friday, Trump invoked his power to declare a national emergency in a unilateral effort to make progress on the border wall Congress has thus far denied him. He initially demanded $5 billion for the construction of about 200 miles of barrier at the border, and Democrats in Congress have repeatedly refused to go anywhere near that figure. He got about $1.3 billion for border fencing in the deal he finally agreed to, a far cry from the desired amount. So he’s going with a national emergency to get more.

“We’re going to confront the national security crisis on our southern border, and we’re going to do it, one way or another, we have to do it,” he said in a speech at the White House Rose Garden on Friday.

Trump will try to cobble together funds from a number of areas and redirect them toward border wall construction. White House officials ahead of the announcement on Friday said he would redirect about $600 million from the Treasury Forfeiture Fund, an account funded by money seized by the US government; $2.5 billion from the Department of Defense’s counter-drug activities; and $3.6 billion from other military construction accounts. Trump won’t try to take anything from disaster relief.

“I didn’t need to do this,” Trump said on Friday. “But I’d rather do it much faster.”

That the president has finally decided to declare an emergency isn’t entirely surprising — he has been wavering on the idea for weeks.

So why declare a national emergency in addition to the spending deal? The short answer is that Trump doesn’t want to admit he lost. He’s already getting less for border fencing than was in the original spending bill he refused to sign in December — and caused a 35-day government shutdown over — so he’s looking to executive action instead.

There has been some debate about whether Trump can indeed declare an emergency at the border considering there isn’t really one, and the answer, at least initially, seems to be that he can.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said on the Senate floor on Thursday that he would support the emergency declaration.

[Vox]

Trump just criticized Fox News: ‘Never thought I’d say this…’

Trump’s approval numbers are nearly at all-time lows.

The Mueller investigation continues to pick off members of the president’s inner circle.

The government shutdown still doesn’t have a firm resolution.

Yet here’s how you know Trump’s reign might be truly going someplace unprecedented: The president criticized Fox News on Sunday night.

Trump has long criticized the press as “fake news,” though normally spares Fox News. The cable news outlet also frequently lands exclusive interviews with the president.

In the tweet, Trump is referring to a poll by NPR/PBS/Marist poll that shows his approval rating among Latino voters at 50 percent, up from 31 percent a month ago. But according to a more recent Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research poll, Trump is down to 34 percent approval among Americans overall, nearly the lowest of his two-year presidency, and falling from 42 percent a month earlier.

Last week a deal was struck to “temporarily” end the longest government shutdown in American history. But Trump has warned that if he doesn’t get funding for his U.S.-Mexico border wall by Feb. 15 that the government would close again or that he would invoke emergency powers to build it without Congressional approval.

[Entertainment Weekly]

Trump fires back at Mitt Romney for scathing op-ed

President Donald Trump fired back at Mitt Romney after the Republican senator-elect penned an op-ed saying Trump “has not risen to the mantle of the office.”
“Here we go with Mitt Romney, but so fast! Question will be, is he a Flake? I hope not,” Trump tweeted, referring to retiring Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake, a Republican who has criticized the President often in the last few years. “Would much prefer that Mitt focus on Border Security and so many other things where he can be helpful. I won big, and he didn’t. He should be happy for all Republicans. Be a TEAM player & WIN!”

Later in the afternoon, Trump told reporters at a Cabinet meeting that he hopes Romney will become a “team player.”

Romney, who is set to take office Thursday, criticized the President’s character in a Washington Post op-ed Tuesday, saying that Trump’s “conduct over the past two years, particularly his actions this month, is evidence that the President has not risen to the mantle of the office.”

“A president should demonstrate the essential qualities of honesty and integrity, and elevate the national discourse with comity and mutual respect. … And it is in this province where the incumbent’s shortfall has been most glaring,” Romney wrote.

The incoming Utah senator also said that he does not “intend to comment on every tweet or fault,” but that he will “speak out against significant statements or actions that are divisive, racist, sexist, anti-immigrant, dishonest or destructive to democratic institutions.”
But by-and-large the President held his fire Wednesday afternoon on the onetime presidential nominee, choosing not to issue any overt insults or criticism of a new congressional foil when speaking to reporters during his cabinet meeting.

“I wish Mitt could be more of a team player. I’m surprised he did it this quickly. I was expecting something, but I’m surprised he did it this quickly,” Trump said during a meeting of his Cabinet.

Trump noted he’d endorsed Romney in his election, a nod for which Trump said Romney “thanked me profusely.”

“I was happy that he won in Utah,” Trump said. “I have great popularity in Utah.”
Trump did suggest the new senator could have won his own presidential bid if he’d been tougher.

“I will say this, if he fought really hard against President Obama like he does against me, he would have won the election,” Trump said. “If he fought the way he fights me, I’m telling you, he would have won the election.

Romney was seen as a “Never Trumper” during the 2016 election.

Now with Flake on the way out, Romney could take up the role of being an outspoken Republican critic of the President in Congress.

In his speech announcing his retirement, Flake denounced the “complicity” of his own party in what he called an “alarming and dangerous state of affairs” under Trump and blamed the President for setting the tone. Flake pointed to Romney’s op-ed on Tuesday as “thoughtful.”

Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel, who is Romney’s niece, slammed her uncle in a tweet about the op-ed, only referring to Romney as a “freshman senator.”

“POTUS is attacked and obstructed by the MSM media and Democrats 24/7. For an incoming Republican freshman senator to attack @realdonaldtrump as their first act feeds into what the Democrats and media want and is disappointing and unproductive,” McDaniel tweeted.

Romney’s relationship with Trump has been complicated over the years. When Romney sought the presidency in 2012, Trump endorsed the former Massachusetts governor, calling him “tough” and “smart.”

But during the 2016 election, Romney delivered a scathing rebuke of Trump in a speech in which he called the Republican candidate a “phony” and a bully, and criticized his rhetoric about Muslims and Mexican immigrants.

Trump retaliated by mocking Romney’s 2012 presidential loss and claimed Romney was “begging” for his endorsement during that time.

After Trump was elected, the two men seemed to mend fences and Romney was briefly considered for the position of secretary of state.

When he announced his run for senator, Romney appeared to take a veiled swipe at the Trump administration’s immigration policies. But his criticism of Trump was far more muted and in February, Trump endorsed Romney.

Romney will be sworn in Thursday along with the rest of the incoming Senate by Vice President Mike Pence.

[CNN]

Trump Unleashes on Bob Corker: ‘Poll Numbers TANKED When I Wouldn’t Endorse Him’

President Donald Trump unleashed on Sen. Bob Corker in a tweet Sunday, blasting the Tennessee Republican preparing to retire from office in the new year.

“Senator Bob Corker just stated that, ‘I’m so priveledged [sic] to serve in the Senate for twelve years, and that’s what I told the people of our state that’s what I’d do, serve for two terms.’”

Trump continued: “But that is Not True – wanted to run but poll numbers TANKED when I wouldn’t endorse him.”

In a second tweet, Trump blamed Corker for the Iran Nuclear Deal and accused the senator of badmouthing him.

“Bob Corker was responsible for giving us the horrible Iran Nuclear Deal, which I ended, yet he badmouths me for wanting to bring our young people safely back home. Bob wanted to run and asked for my endorsement. I said NO and the game was over. #MAGA I LOVE TENNESSEE!”

Corker appeared on CNN’s State of the Union Sunday morning for an interview with Jake Tapper in which he criticized the president’s decision to withdraw troops from Syria.

[Mediaite]

A Trump Call That Went Rogue Hands Erdogan a Surprise Win on Syria

Donald Trump was supposed to tell his Turkish counterpart to stop testing his patience with military threats in Syria. That is, if the American president stuck to the script.

Instead, during a lengthy phone call earlier this month, Trump shocked even those in his inner circle by yielding to a suggestion from Recep Tayyip Erdogan to reverse the Pentagon’s Syrian strategy, handing the Turkish president his biggest diplomatic victory ever.

Erdogan pressed Trump on the Dec. 14 call to explain why American forces were still in Syria even after they met their objective of defeating Islamic State, according to people with direct knowledge of the conversation.

Erdogan had a point about the defeat of ISIS, Trump said, repeating his long-held conviction that American troops should be out of Syria anyway, according to the people, including an American official who spoke on condition of anonymity while discussing the call.

Then the American president dropped a bombshell, asking National Security Adviser John Bolton — whom he addressed as “Johnny” — about the feasibility of an immediate pullout, according to two of the people. He got a reassuring “yes” in response and the ball started rolling, the people said.

Days later, Trump announced the pullout of all 2,000 U.S. troops in Syria, facing withering criticism from both sides of the political spectrum for leaving a key part of the Middle East exposed to Russian and Iranian influence. Then on Thursday, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis resigned.

While Trump faced political heat, Erdogan became a hero at home, seen as a leader who got his way with the world’s biggest superpower by convincing Washington to end its support for Turkey’s nemesis in Syria, a Kurdish militant group called the YPG. Erdogan says the group — which has allied with America for some of the toughest fighting in northern Syria — is linked to domestic terrorists he has long sought to wipe out.

The developments illustrate how Erdogan has managed to become a more central player in both Mideast politics and U.S. foreign policy, capitalizing on an American president eager to fulfill promises to extricate American troops from Middle East quagmires. They come just months after Trump and Erdogan were facing off over new American tariffs, Turkey’s refusal to release an American pastor and Erdogan’s demands that the U.S. extradite a cleric it views as behind a failed 2016 coup.

[Bloomberg]

President Trump orders all US troops out of Syria, declares victory over ISIS

President Donald Trump called Wednesday for a U.S. withdrawal from Syria over the apparent objections of military advisers and a bipartisan group of lawmakers.

The withdrawal of the more than 2,000 troops is based on Trump’s decision that the mission against ISIS is complete, a U.S. official told USA TODAY.

Trump tweeted out a video statement in which he said U.S. “heroes” should be brought home because they have accomplished the mission of defeating ISIS. “Now we’ve won,” Trump said. “It’s time to come back … they’re getting ready; you’re going to see them soon.”

Military leaders, including Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, in recent weeks and months have spoken of the need for U.S. troops to remain in the eastern part of the country to help stabilize it and allow for peace negotiations to proceed.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., derided Trump’s decision to withdraw, likening it to those made by former President Barack Obama to announce ahead of time plans to reduce forces in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“Withdrawal of this small American force in Syria would be a huge Obama-like mistake,” Graham tweeted.

In a statement, Graham added that Trump’s action would represent a “big win for ISIS, Iran, Bashar al Assad of Syria, and Russia.”

“I fear it will lead to devastating consequences for our nation, the region, and throughout the world,” Graham said.

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., tweeted that the move was a “major blunder” and against the Pentagon’s advice.

New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez, top Democrat on the Foreign Relations panel, called it a “dangerous decision” that would destabilize the region, endanger Kurdish allies and embolden America’s enemies.

“We’re leaving the Kurds at risk, we’re creating a vacuum, and we’re doing it in a way that puts Israel at risk” because of Iran’s presence in Syria, Menendez said.

In Russia, a foreign ministry spokesperson applauded Trump’s decision, saying it could help create “a real prospect for a political solution” in Syria, according to TASS, the Russian state-owned news agency.

Trump’s announcement should not surprise anybody because he has promised it, according to a senior administration official who was not authorized to speak publicly. The official would not say why Trump apparently didn’t inform high-ranking officials of his decision. The Pentagon is developing the timeline for the removal of troops.

The U.S. will continue to apply pressure on  Assad and his Iranian allies, the official said, but referred questions to the Pentagon about whether U.S. warplanes would continue to strike ISIS targets.

In statements later Wednesday, White House and Pentagon spokeswomen equivocated on the “defeat” of ISIS that Trump referred to.

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said Wednesday that the U.S. has “defeated the territorial caliphate.”

“These victories over ISIS in Syria do not signal the end of the Global Coalition or its campaign,” Sanders said in a statement. “We have started returning United States troops home as we transition to the next phase of this campaign.” She did not offer details on what the next phase was.

Dana White, the chief Pentagon spokeswoman, went even further, saying the fight against ISIS continues.

“The Coalition has liberated the ISIS-held territory, but the campaign against ISIS is not over,” White said in a statement. “We have started the process of returning U.S. troops home from Syria as we transition to the next phase of the campaign.”

Yet in  his tweet earlier Wednesday, Trump declared victory.

“We have defeated ISIS in Syria, my only reason for being there during the Trump Presidency,” he wrote.

Despite Trump’s assertion, fighting by U.S.-led forces continues in Syria.

On Saturday, warplanes  struck ISIS targets 47 times, U.S. Central Command announced early Wednesday. The bombs struck 20 fighting units and destroyed petroleum tanks, a tunnel, a vehicle and a mortar-firing position, the military said.

According to a recent report by the Center for Strategic and International Studies, ISIS is far from obliterated. The Washington-based think tank estimates 20,000 to 30,000 Islamic State militants may still be in Iraq and Syria.

As recently as last week, officials said U.S. troops may need a longer stay to ensure that the military’s accomplishments are “enduring.”

“I think it’s fair to say Americans will remain on the ground after the physical defeat of the caliphate, until we have the pieces in place to ensure that that defeat is enduring,” said Brett McGurk, special presidential envoy for the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS.

Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, declined earlier in December to put a timeline on withdrawal of U.S. troops from Syria, suggesting they would be needed for some time to establish conditions for a long-term peace agreement.

“We still have a long way to go, and so I’d be reluctant to give a fixed time,” Dunford said in a forum held by the Washington Post.

The U.S.-led coalition has been fighting ISIS in the countries since 2014.

U.S. troops, most of them special-operations units, have been training local security forces in eastern Syria.

In September, Mattis told reporters that declaring victory and leaving Syria would be a mistake.

“I think that getting rid of the caliphate doesn’t mean you then blindly say OK, we got rid of it, march out, and then wonder why the caliphate comes back and how many times have we seen – look at even Iraq where they’re still on the hunt for them.  And they’re still trying to come back.”

[USA Today]

Trump Dances On The Grave Of The Weekly Standard

President Donald Trump celebrated the closing of the Weekly Standard Saturday, a conservative outlet which often published harsh pieces about the President and his administration.

[Talking Points Memo]

Trump Calls U.S. Defense Spending “Crazy” in Apparent Change of Heart on Military Budget

President Donald Trump blasted the United States’ defense spending in a Monday morning tweet, despite long being a champion for increased military spending.

Trump took to Twitter to say that the U.S. has spent $716 billion on defense this year—an amount he called “crazy.” However, last August, the president signed the John S. McCain National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which approved that exact amount for defense spending in the fiscal year 2019.

At the time, Trump said the increase in spending was to provide the U.S. military with resources “better than any military on earth.” The bill provided the largest military pay raise in nine years.

On Monday, Trump seemed to have a change of heart, lamenting the country’s high defense spending and blaming it on an arms race with Russia and China. The president said he would aim to meet with the leaders of these two nations “at some time in the future” to stop the “uncontrollable Arms Race.”

The Trump administration has been critical of Russia’s ballistic missile program recently, even threatening to pull out of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty in October. China, too, has upped its military development in recent years.

Defense spending is at record highs around the world, with China’s military budget falling just behind that of the U.S. at $228 billion in 2017. The U.S. spends about 17% of its $4 trillion federal budget on national defense.

[Yahoo]

Trump boasts GOP defied midterm odds, knocks losers who didn’t ’embrace’ him

President Trump on Wednesday took a victory lap after the midterm elections, saying Republicans defied the odds by stopping a so-called “blue wave” of Democrats from taking control of both chambers of Congress.

“There was a big day yesterday. Incredible day,” Trump said during a White House news conference. “The Republican Party defied history to expand our Senate majority while significantly beating expectations in the House.”

Trump suffered a major blow on Tuesday when the GOP lost control of the House, but the president has downplayed that defeat, arguing he feels vindicated by the results in the Senate, where Republicans look like they’ll gain three or four seats.

The president noted that of the 11 candidates he campaigned with during the final week of the race, nine won.

“This vigorous campaigning stopped the blue wave,” he said. “History will really see what a good job we did in the final few weeks.”

Trump blamed GOP losses in the House on the high number of retirements and large fundraising totals for Democrats, as well as negative media coverage that he said “set a new record.”

He also called out several House lawmakers by name, saying their failure to embrace him led to their defeats even though they ran in districts where he is unpopular.

“Too bad Mike,” Trump said of Rep. Mike Coffman (R), who lost in Colorado. The president also appeared delighted that GOP Reps. Carlos Curbelo (Fla.), Barbara Comstock (Va.) and Mia Love (Utah) were all defeated while distancing themselves from him.

“Mia Love gave me no love. And she lost. Too bad. Sorry about that Mia,” he said.

Taking over the House is a major victory for Democrats, allowing them their first chance to act as a check on Trump. They are expected to carry out aggressive investigations of Trump’s businesses and administration, a dynamic that could pose a real challenge for a president who has not had to worry about a political opponent with power.

But Trump immediately went on the offensive to try to turn the public against the coming onslaught of House oversight probes, painting them as an “investigation fatigue” designed to cause gridlock and stymie his agenda ahead of the 2020 election.

“If that happens, then we’re going to do the same thing and government comes to a halt. And I would blame them,” he said.
Trump appeared to be sending a warning to Democrats that he could use them as a foil, but also dangled the possibility of bipartisan deals on infrastructure and drug pricing.

“It really could be a beautiful bipartisan type of situation,”  Trump said.

[The Hill]

Trump Blasts Paul Ryan for Contradicting Him on Birthright Citizenship: ‘Something He Knows Nothing About’

President Donald Trump ripped into Paul Ryan on Wednesday over his comments on birthright citizenship, in a stunning rebuke of his own party’s House Speaker just a week before the midterm elections.

“Paul Ryan should be focusing on holding the Majority rather than giving his opinions on Birthright Citizenship, something he knows nothing about!” Trump tweeted. “Our new Republican Majority will work on this, Closing the Immigration Loopholes and Securing our Border!”

The Wisconsin Republican broke with Trump on Tuesday when he rejected the president’s expressed desire to end birthright citizenship through executive order.

Ryan said in a radio interview that Trump “cannot end birthright citizenship with an executive order.”

[Mediaite]

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