Trump talked to reporters three times today — appearing alongside Nato secretary general Jens Stoltenberg, French President Emmanuel Macron and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. All together, the US president spoke to the press for more than two hours today.
Meanwhile, Republicans on the House oversight committee are keeping up their messaging campaign against the impeachment inquiry by … photo-shopping chairman Adam Schiff’s face into a poster for the movie “Back to the Future.”
Speaking to reporters just now in London, Trump called Schiff a “maniac,” a “deranged human being” and a “very sick man” for his handling of the impeachment inquiry.
Trump announces G7 summit will be held at Camp David
Trump has now wrapped up his news conference with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, during which the US president announced the June G7 summit would be held at Camp David.
The president’s acting chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, had previously announced the summit would be held at Trump’s resort in Doral, Florida, but that decision was quickly reversed amid intense criticism from Democrats and Republicans.
Ironically, when Mulvaney announced the initial choice of Doral, he claimed that the past G7 site of Camp David had been a “complete disaster.” “In fact, I understand the folks who participated in it hated it and thought it was a miserable place to have the G7,” Mulvaney said at the time.
Trump just claimed to reporters that he does not follow the stock market after the Dow hit a one-month low following the president’s comments that he does not have a “deadline” for reaching a trade deal with China.
In reality, Trump has repeatedly boasted about the state of the stock market and has demanded credit for its rallies while shaking off responsibility for its trade-related tumbles.
Sitting alongside Justin Trudeau, Trump said Canada must increase its financial contribution to Nato, suggesting the country should be put on a “payment plan” to up its defense spending for the alliance.
The Canadian prime minister pushed back by pointing out his country has increased its Nato spending by 70% in recent years and insisted Canada is a key partner in the alliance.
Trump told reporters that he thought the initial question about supporting the protesters in Iran pertained to financial support, hence his surpising answer that he did not back the demonstrators.
“We do support them totally and have supported them from the beginning,” Trump said at the start of his news conference with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in London.
Trump’s clean-up of his earlier comments aligns the president with secretary of state Mike Pompeo, who has said the US backs the protesters and has tried to keep online communications open in Iran depsite the government’s efforts to shut down the internet.
Trump says he supports Iran protesters (after saying he didn’t)
Trump has just sent a tweet saying he supports the protesters in Iran, less than an hour after the US president said during a news conference with Emmanuel Macron that he did not back the demonstrators.
During his news conference with the French president, Trump was asked whether he supported the protesters, as his secretary of state has expressed. “I don’t want to comment on that, but the answer’s no. But I don’t want to comment on that,” Trump replied.
If the federal appeals court’s ruling stands, House Democrats could have unprecedented insight into Trump’s business dealings. However, the president’s legal team is likely not done trying to fight the order.
Trump’s press conference with Emmanuel Macron has just wrapped up, during which the French president repeatedly challenged the US leader on a number of foreign-policy issues. But Trump stuck by his controversial stances — arguing, for example, that there was a benefit to communicating with Russia because the idea is popular at his campaign rallies.
Sitting next to Trump, French President Emmanuel Macron repeatedly criticized the US leader for his stances on a number of foreign-policy issues, particularly his welcoming of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan after the Turkish president launched a violent military oepration in Syria.
Trump shocked reporters in London when he responded to a question about whether he supports the protesters in Iran, who have been violently repressed by their country’s government.
The US president initially said he did not want to comment on the situation in Iran but then added offhandedly that he did not support the protesters.
Secretary of state Mike Pompeo said yesterday that the US was supporting the protesters by trying to keep online communications open, despite the Iranian government’s efforts to shut down the internet.
Trump and Macron clash over returning ISIS fighters
Trump and French President Emmanuel Macron are speaking to reporters in London as they meet during the Nato summit, and the two world leaders have repeatedly clashed on everything from Russia to the return of Islamic State fighters who have European citizenship.
Trump was insisting European countries need to take back control of those fighters and he joked to Macron, “Would you like some nice ISIS fighters? I could give them to you.”
Macron responded by noting only a small percentage of ISIS fighters originally come from Europe. Trump replied, “This is why he’s a great politician because that was one of the greatest non-answers I’ve ever heard.”
Tom Steyer’s campaign said the billionaire activist has qualified for the December Democratic debate, making him the seventh presidential candidate to meet both the polling and donor requirements to participate.
“After terrific performances in the last two debates and a tremendous amount of earned media over the last month, Tom continues his surge in the early state polls which has led to an increased amount of donors over the last few weeks,” his campaign manager, Heather Hargreaves, said in a statement.
Steyer will join Joe Biden, Elizbaeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, Pete Buttigieg, Kamala Harris and Amy Klobuchar on the debate stage. Tech entrepreneur Andrew Yang only needs one more qualifying poll to make the cut, and he has nine days to get it.
However, it’s looking increasingly likely that about half of the Democratic presidential field will fail to qualify for the next debate — which could pressure more candidates to withdraw from the race, as Montana governor Steve Bullock and former Pennsylvania congressman Joe Sestak both did in recent days.
House intelligence committee’s impeachment report expected today
Good morning, live blog readers!
Donald Trump is at the Nato summit in London striking fear into stockbrokers’ hearts and insulting world leaders (as we’ve come to expect), but the impeachment inquiry is continuing unabated as the president is abroad.
The House intelligence committee is expected to publicy release its report on the impeachment inquiry today. The report will convey Democrats’ argument that Trump abused the power of the presidency by trying to pressure Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden and the 2016 election.
Republicans on the committee insist the inquiry is just an outgrowth of Democrats’ political animus toward Trump, who did nothing wrong in his communications with Ukraine. This viewpoint was articulated in a report released yesterday by the Republican minority of the intelligence committee. “The fundamental disagreement apparent in the Democrats’ impeachment inquiry is a difference of world views and a discomfort with President Trump’s policy decisions,” that report said.
The president’s allies are pushing back against the investigations of his administration in other ways as well. The Washington Post reported last night that attorney general William Barr has told associates he does not agree with the justice department inspector general’s finding that the FBI was justified to launch the Russia investigation.
However, as the House gets closer and closer to an impeachment vote, Trump’s allies may soon run out of options for protecting the president.
Here’s what else the blog is keeping its eye on:
Trump will meet with French President Emmanuel Macron and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in London before a Nato leaders reception at Buckingham Palace.
David Hale, the undersecretary of state who testified during the public impeachment hearings, will appear before the Senate foreign relations committee at 10 a.m. ET.
Joe Biden will continue his bus tour in Iowa.
The blog will have much more coming up, so stay tuned.
A campaign account for Danielle Stella, a pro-Trump Republican candidate for Congress, was banned from Twitter after it published a violent comment about the Democrat she hopes to unseat next year, Minnesota representative Ilhan Omar.
Stella’s campaign Twitter account, @2020MNCongress, featured at least two posts involving the idea of Omar being hanged, according to the Washington Times, which broke the story of her suspension.
The tweets concerned an unsubstantiated allegation that Omar – one of the first Muslim women elected to Congress – shared sensitive information with Qatar, which then wound up with Iran.
A spokesperson for Omar previously told the Jerusalem Post of the claim: “Since the day she was elected, Saudi Arabian trolls and mouthpieces have targeted Omar with misinformation and conspiracy theories.”
An initial tweet from Stella’s campaign account reportedly said: “If it is proven [Omar] passed sensitive info to Iran, she should be tried for #treason and hanged.”
The Washington Times said the account “subsequently tweeted the link to an article that aggregated her remark, accompanied by a crude depiction of a stick figure hanging from gallows”.
The @2020MNCongress account cannot be viewed. Text on the page reads “account suspended” and “Twitter suspends accounts which violate the Twitter Rules”.
In a statement, Twitter told the Guardian: “The account was permanently suspended for repeated violations of the Twitter Rules.”
Stella said in a statement: “My suspension for advocating for the enforcement of federal code proves Twitter will always side with and fight to protect terrorists, traitors, pedophiles and rapists.”
The Guardian revealed that Stella has been arrested twice this year over accusations that she shoplifted some $2,300 in goods from Target and $40 in items from a grocery, Stella has maintained her innocence.
She has made claims about Omar before, claiming she broke the law by telling immigrants how to avoid authorities. Lawmakers who don’t “uphold the rule of law”, Stella said, should be kicked out of office.
A spokesperson for Omar did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Since winning election to Congress last year, Omar has attracted rightwing attacks and fringe conspiracy theories as well as outright threats of violence. The congresswoman said this April she faced an increase in death threats after Trump accused her of downplaying September 11.
On 19 November, New York man Patrick Carlineo pleaded guilty in relation to calling Omar’s office and telling a staffer: “Why are you working for her, she’s a [expletive] terrorist. Somebody ought to put a bullet in her skull. Back in the day, our forefathers would have put a bullet in her [expletive].”
Omar, who came to the US as a Somali refugee, appealed for “compassion”.
“As someone who fled a war zone, I know how destabilizing acts of political violence can be,” she said in a letter to the judge. “That his threat of violence relied on hateful stereotypes about my faith only made it more dangerous … it was a threat against an entire religion, at a time of rising hate crime against religious minorities in our country.”
She added: “We must ask: who are we as a nation if we respond to acts of political retribution with retribution ourselves? The answer to hate is not more hate; it is compassion.”
Lawyers say Trump had already been briefed on complaint
Trump at Mar-a-Lago while Democrats campaign in Iowa
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Democratic representative Stephen Lynch — a member of the House oversight committe, which helped conduct closed-door depositions in the impeachment inquiry — argued in a CNN interview this morning that the testimony from the public hearings has established clearly impeachable behavior on the president’s part.
“If this is not impeachable conduct, then nothing is,” Rep. Stephen Lynch says to @jimsciutto about the impeachment inquiry. “…There’s a greater danger leaving this President in office than taking him out through the legal impeachment process.” https://t.co/QR1x8IYryf pic.twitter.com/ufUbsIktSA
Officials are still unclear about what caused the airspace violation that triggered yesterday’s brief lockdown at the White House and the Capitol, but one Capitol Police source said a “slow-moving blob” on the radar had sparked concern.
CNN has more:
Senior national security officials across the agencies convened to coordinate and monitor the situation after the mysterious ‘blob’ was seen on radar at the Capitol Police command center flying just south of the National Mall, according to a law enforcement source.
Clarisse Yeung believes the road to full democracy in Hong Kong will pass through a dog park. Specifically a dog park that she has promised to build if her coalition sweeps local elections today.
The district council elections held in Hong Kong every four years are normally a sleepy affair, with low turnout, mostly because councillors have very limited powers and budget, as well as a reputation for graft.
But this year’s poll has come to be seen as a de-facto referendum on the nearly six-month-old protest movement, sparked by opposition to an extradition law that would have destroyed Hong Kong’s legal protections, but which has morphed into a broader pro-democracy campaign.
Yeung, an energetic young artist, says she spent a dispiriting four years as the sole opposition member of a 13-strong council controlled by pro-Beijing representatives in central Wan Chai, battling inertia and outright opposition to even modest plans for the neighbourhood, from pet-friendly gardens to better buses.
Now she hopes a wave of protest-driven outrage, which has mobilised both voters and candidates, combined with her track record of commitment to local issues, could swing control of the council.
“I had been questioning if I should run again. It’s been so heavy, being the only pro-democracy representative in Wan Chai,” she said, as she campaigned on a street corner with a band of supporters, handing out leaflets, stroking dogs and chatting to toddlers. “I’m glad all these friends are coming out after the [protest] movement: they are my hope.”
While Hong Kong enjoys civil rights such as freedom of assembly and the press, its residents do not choose their leader, or all members of its mini-parliament, the legislative council. The district council poll is the only direct election.
For the first time, pro-democracy candidates are challenging every one of the 452 wards up for grabs, and have coordinated campaigns so they don’t split the vote. Former one-person campaigns are newly flush with volunteers. Young people in particular have raced to register to vote, to volunteer on campaigns and even to run for office themselves.
Yeung has taken advantage of this city-wide political awakening to recruit nine other candidates to stand in neighbouring wards on a “kickstart Wan Chai” platform. They range from a graphic designer to the veteran former policewoman Cathy Yau, who resigned her post in June as the protest movement kicked off, shocked by colleagues’ brutality.
All are novice candidates, and many decided to stand only in the past few months, despite the very real threat of physical violence; several pro-democratic candidates have been attacked, with one losing his ear after an attacker bit him and stabbed others. A pro-Beijing candidate was also stabbed. The attacks have led to fears about voter intimidation or fraud, particularly after authorities announced riot police would guard all polling stations. In a hint at the febrile atmosphere, the government sent out an official press release stating “the ballot is secret”, apparently to counter rumours that facial recognition software might be used, and voters would be filmed.
“I always wanted to go into politics eventually, after becoming expert in my field. But I was inspired by the protests, and realised I can’t wait any longer,” said Louis Mak, a data analyst who has given up his job to campaign full time for the Canal Road ward.
“Maybe in four years or eight years, we won’t have real elections any more. China may take actions against our civil society. And so that’s why I have stood in this election.”
Deep pockets, a powerful electoral machine, lack of voter interest and a fractured opposition have meant pro-Beijing parties control all but one of the city’s 18 district councils.
In Wan Chai, the battlegrounds are tiny, densely populated areas, and the margins small. Mak says his district is just a couple of blocks, where the winner in 2015 claimed victory with 1,000 votes and a margin of 200.
Mak put his chance of winning office at “around 50-50”, and is campaigning more than 10 hours a day. “We have to pull voting rates up to historical levels so we can take over Wan Chai.”
Pro-Beijing politicians have been open about concerns they might be swept from power. One of the most prominent, the lawmaker Regina Ip, warned against voting for pro-democracy candidates in a column in the South China Morning Post. “Hong Kong’s story doesn’t have to end in tragedy”, she told readers.
An opposition landslide would have little immediate political effect, as the councils are fairly toothless. But longer term, it could slightly shift the balance of power, because district councils have a role in arcane, complex elections to choose the city’s leader and part of its legislature.
Another well-known establishment politician defending a seat in Wan Chai said he remained optimistic, but admitted that a loss would be devastating.
“The people here are the pillars, the ones who uphold the establishment. If we lose this constituency that means something is really, really wrong and troubled in HK,” said the lawyer Paul Tse, who also holds a seat in the city’s legislative council. “It sounds very serious, but it’s very difficult to have so many people against the government.”
At one point there were widespread fears that the poll would be delayed amid unrest and unprecedented disruption. But China appears to have decided that would be so inflammatory in a city already on edge,that a possible drubbing at the ballot box is the lesser of two evils.
“Its not the right sort of atmosphere for a fair election, but in a way we are constrained,” Tse said. “If we don’t do the election they will blame us for being afraid.”
But where Tse sees a canker at the heart of Hong Kong, his challenger in the prosperous Broadwood district – part of the “Kickstart Wan Chai’” slate – sees hope.
Arthur Yeung, who is no relation to Clarisse, turned 24 the day before the poll. He spent his birthday at a campaign stand on the main road, waving to drivers, thrusting leaflets through windows and chatting to any who stopped.
Dawn and her dog Chicco, his collar bearing a rosette supporting Yeung, campaigned beside him for hours. “I want to support youth, and passion for change,” she said.
Yeung always hoped to run for office and spent much of the last year in Broadwood organising against an unpopular development, canvassing support for Clarisse’s dog park plans – easy in an area famous for dog lovers – and running other grassroots projects.
But until the protests kicked off, most of his friends thought he was crazy. Councils were widely seen as irrelevant, incompetent, self-serving political machines. There is even a Cantonese shorthand for the corruption, a list of the local delicacies that candidates ply supporters with to secure votes.
“Half a year ago, people would say to me: ‘Why don’t you get a normal job,’” he says with a wry smile. “Now they say: ‘You are very inspiring to our generation. Your mission is very clear and passionate, so thank you for bringing some good things for Hong Kong’. Its a very big change.”
EVERY new phone and computer in Russia must have secret government software installed in a scary crackdown on freedom.
Russia’s lower house of parliament also today passed a bill granting government officials the right to register bloggers, journalists and social media users as foreign agents.
Tass in Russia said that the State Duma adopted a bill on the pre-installation of Russian software on smartphones, computers, and televisions with “smart-TV function of applications targeted at the Russian audience”.
Politicians said the bill would “help promote Russian programmes in the information technology market”.
The new law will come into force on July 1, 2020.
Reuters explained earlier this month that the legislation would allow the government to designate certain locally-produced software as mandatory for devices sold in the country.
The lower house of parliament said the bill would also benefit Russian consumers, as it would spare them having to download domestic software after buying new technology.
The bill imposes fines for companies that sell devices without pre-installed Russian software of up to 200,000 roubles (US$3,155) starting from January 2021.
Russia’s cellphone market is dominated by foreign companies Apple, Samsung and Huawei products.
In August, Russian internet group Mail.ru said it was in talks with Huawei about the possibility of having its software pre-installed on the Chinese firm’s devices.
Moscow is trying to expand control over the internet and reduce its dependence on foreign companies and countries.
Last month, Russian internet giant Yandex expressed concerns over a draft law limiting foreign ownership in Russian IT companies to 50 per cent.
BLOGGERS MUST REGISTER
Foreign bloggers, journalists and social media users were also targeted by Russia’s lower house of parliament today.
The Associated Press reports that a bill has given the green light, allowing bureaucrats to register bloggers, journalists and social media users as foreign agents in Russia.
The State Duma on Thursday almost unanimously approved a bill which extends an existing law involving foreign-funded media outlets.
That was adopted in 2017 in response to the decision by the US Justice Department to label the Russian state-funded RT television a foreign agent.
Andrew parties in unearthed pics despite claiming ‘he avoids PDAs & can’t sweat’