Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) on Saturday celebrated his big Nevada caucus win with supporters in San Antonio, Texas, declaring that the American people are “sick and tired of a president who lies all of the time.”
Multiple media outlets on Saturday evening called the Nevada race for the socialist senator, and he celebrated with supporters in San Antonio:
We just won the Nevada caucus. This grassroots movement is unstoppable. Together, let’s win the Democratic nomination, defeat Trump and transform the country! Join us live in San Antonio: https://t.co/XB1Ua14x8m
“I’m delighted to bring you some pretty good news. I think all of you know we won the popular vote in Iowa, we won the New Hamshire primary, and according to three networks and the AP, we have now won the Nevada caucus,” he said as supporters broke out in cheers of “Bernie.”
“No campaign has a grassroots campaign like we do, which is another reason we are going to win this election,” he declared, also proclaiming that he will win the Democrat Primary in Texas and in the general election.
Sanders told supporters that Trump gets “very very upset easily” so “don’t tell him we’re going to beat him in Texas.”
“We are going to win in Texas and across the country because the American people are sick and tired of a president who lies all of the time,” Sanders said.
“They are sick and tired of a corrupt administration. They are sick and tired of a president who is undermining American democracy, who thinks he is above the law, and who apparently has never read the Constitution in this country,” he continued.
“The American people are sick and tired of a government which is based on greed, corruption, and lies. They want an administration which is based on the principles of justice — economic justice, social justice, racial justice, and environmental justice,” he added.
The socialist senator also told his supporters that Trump and his friends “think they are going to win this election” by dividing people by race, religion, and sexual orientation.
“We are going to win because we are doing exactly the opposite,” he declared.
President Trump reacted to Sanders’ strong showing in Nevada on Saturday, warning him against allowing the Democrat establishment to steal the nomination from him.
“Looks like Crazy Bernie is doing well in the Great State of Nevada. Biden & the rest look weak, & no way Mini Mike can restart his campaign after the worst debate performance in the history of Presidential Debates,” he said.
“Congratulations Bernie, & don’t let them take it away from you!”:
Looks like Crazy Bernie is doing well in the Great State of Nevada. Biden & the rest look weak, & no way Mini Mike can restart his campaign after the worst debate performance in the history of Presidential Debates. Congratulations Bernie, & don’t let them take it away from you!
Obama had criticized the Philippine leader on human rights, and Duterte repeatedly insulted Obama in response. But Trump didn’t push.
“We’ve had a great relationship,” Trump said when he visited Manila in November 2017, declining to answer questions about the startling toll of Duterte’s war on drugs, which has resulted in thousands of extrajudicial killings since it went nationwide in 2016.
But perhaps the two leaders were too alike for their relationship to last. This week, the Philippines took a step away from the United States, notifying Washington on Tuesday that it would end a major security pact that allowed American forces to train in the country.
Trump has dismissed the importance of the move, telling reporters Wednesday that it would save the United States money. But Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper warned that it is a shift in the “wrong direction” and analysts have said it could be a turning point in U.S.-Philippine relations.
In Oval, Trump is asked about Philippines’ President Duterte’s decision to downgrade defense relationship with U.S.: “My views are different than other people. I view it as, ‘Thank you very much, we save a lot of money.'” Yesterday Pentagon chief Mark Esper called it “unfortuate”
Duterte’s planned withdrawal from the agreement was a death blow to U.S.-Philippine ties that “effectively ended his country’s century-old alliance with the United States,” Richard Javad Heydarian wrote for the Asia Times this week.
Implicit is something else: Despite the American overtures, the Philippines may be choosing Chinese President Xi Jinping over Trump.
Duterte’s move may have been a shock, but it shouldn’t have been a surprise. He for years has threatened to walk away from the Visiting Forces Agreement, or VFA, a pact that allows joint military exercises and a small number of U.S. troops to be stationed in the Philippines.
“I want, maybe in the next two years, my country free of the presence of foreign military troops. I want them out,” he said in Beijing in October 2016, a month before Trump’s election win.
Even before the colorful personalities of Trump and Duterte came to power, the military relationship between the United States and the Philippines bore a lot of baggage. After almost 50 years as a U.S. colony, the Philippines gained independence in 1946, and the two countries maintained joint military cooperation.
But in 1991, the Philippine Senate rejected a proposal to renew U.S. bases, prompting the withdrawal of the majority of U.S. troops from the country and the closure of the largest U.S. military base outside the United States.
The two countries kept a mutual defense treaty, despite its vague wording, and in 1999 they entered into the VFA, which was followed in 2014 by an enhanced agreement for increased cooperation. In recent years, as many as 100 U.S. Special Forces troops had been based on the Philippine island of Mindanao, helping in the fight against militants linked to the Islamic State.
The Philippines remained an attractive ally for the United States — the two countries shared history, as well as fears of Islamist extremism and a rising China. In the Philippines, opinions of the United States and Trump are far higher than in most countries. But the Philippines’ strategic location was, it turns out, also a curse for its relations with the United States.
With its proximity to China and interests in the disputed South China Sea, the Philippines has become a target for Chinese investment — Beijing has been developing the former Clark Air Base, first established by American forces during the Spanish-American War, into, among other projects, an airport.
Trump’s pushback on Chinese influence is one of his signature foreign policies. In that context, Duterte’s decision to withdraw from the VFA looks like a geopolitical loss for the U.S. president. “Beijing will certainly be happy with this,” said Jeffrey Ordaniel, assistant professor of international security studies at Tokyo International University.
“One of the very few options available for the U.S. to influence China’s behavior in the South China Sea, long-term, is to work with its alliance with the Philippines,” Ordaniel told Stars and Stripes, noting that other U.S. bases in the area are simply too far away to be of use.
But there may still be time to pull back: There are 180 days before the withdrawal from the VFA takes legal effect. Duterte made the move amid criticism from some Philippine lawmakers and even some in his government.
Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr warned against the far-reaching consequences and risks for the Philippines if it were to abrogate its Visiting Forces Agreement with the United States. https://t.co/a7BySKqOl9
Despite the geopolitical implications, Duterte has framed the shift in more-personal terms, pointing toward a U.S. decision to revoke a visa for a former police chief, Ronald Dela Rosa, who had been implicated in extrajudicial killings during Duterte’s war on drugs.
Trump may say that Duterte’s push against U.S. troops has no impact, but he can’t knock the Philippine leader’s strategy. Duterte is ignoring the advice of domestic allies and rivals alike to play hardball in negotiations and conflating personal issues with geopolitics. Trump might admire it, if only he’d done it himself.
President Trump has mostly taken the day off of Twitter on Christmas, with the exception of posting holiday greetings from his family.
Wednesday morning, the president simply tweeted, “MERRY CHRISTMAS,” then followed that up by retweeting a video message from first lady Melania Trump and him.
“The president and I want to wish each and every American a very merry Christmas,” Melania Trump said at the beginning of the video, which was first posted by her account.
MIRACLE BABY GETS TO SPEND HER FIRST CHRISTMAS AT HOME
“At this sacred time of year, Christians celebrate the birth of our lord and savior, Jesus Christ, and rejoice in his love for every person,” the president continued. “We give thanks for the millions of Americans who come together to care for others with compassion and bring the warmth and bliss of this holy season to our families, our friends, our neighbors, and to those in need.”
The message concluded with a prayerful message of thanks to U.S. military and law enforcement.
“As we gather with loved ones this holiday, Americans across this land are grateful for all the men and women in uniform who keep us safe: our military, our police and everyone in law enforcement,” Mrs. Trump said.
The president closed, stating, “We say a special prayer for those military service members stationed far from home, and we renew our hope for peace among nations and joy to the world. On behalf of the entire Trump family, we wish everyone a joyous and merry Christmas and a very happy, happy new year.”
The president also retweeted a Christmas greeting from the White House’s official Twitter account.
The first family has been spending the holiday at the president’s private club in Palm Beach, Fla. They attended a music-filled Christmas Eve service at a Southern Baptist Convention-affiliated church before celebrating with dinner in the ballroom of his private club. They were expected to remain out of sight Wednesday.
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On Tuesday evening, the first lady answered calls from children across the country as part of North American Aerospace Defense Command’s “Operation NORAD Tracks Santa” program. Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham said Mrs. Trump spoke with several children and heard items on their Christmas lists.
Grisham said Mrs. Trump “reminded the kids to put milk and cookies out for Santa, and wished each child and their families a very merry Christmas.”
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro said on Wednesday that he has a possible skin cancer, after a medical visit where he had a mole removed from his ear, Trend reports citing Reuters.
The presidential office, however, said there is no sign that Bolsonaro has a cancer, adding that the president had been to a hospital in Brasilia in the afternoon. “The president is in good health, without any indication of a skin cancer and is keeping his appointments for this week,” said the statement.
Earlier, Bolsonaro also said he had been advised to cancel a trip to Salvador, in the state of Bahia, due to suffering from exhaustion.
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MEPs will debate the ‘European Green Deal’ to make Europe the first climate-neutral continent today (11 December) at 14:00, in an extraordinary plenary sitting in Brussels.
Following the Commission’s expected announcement of the European Green Deal on Wednesday 11 December, the European Parliament will have a first debate on it with Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and Executive Vice-President for the European Green Deal, Frans Timmermans, who will close the debate.
The European Green Deal will focus on the fight against climate change and other environmental objectives in areas such as transport, energy, pollution, agriculture, circular economy and biodiversity.
The Commission’s communication is expected to include a timeline for the upcoming proposals. Parliament has already stressed that the EU should cut emissions by 55% by 2030 to become climate neutral by 2050 and that an ambitious long-term EU budget for 2021-2027 is needed urgently.
Debate: Wednesday, 11 December 14.00-16.00
Procedure: Statement by the President of the Commission, followed by debate
Press Conference: Frans Timmermans, Executive Vice-President of the European Commission in charge of the European Green Deal, at 16.00-17.00 in the Anna Politkovskaya Press Conference Room – Spaak building, room 0A50
The European Green Deal sets out how to make Europe the first climateneutral continent by 2050, boosting the economy, improving people’s health and quality of life, caring for nature, and leaving no one behind
The European Commission has presented The European Green Deal – a road map for making the EU’s economy sustainable by turning climate and environmental challenges into opportunities across all policy areas and making the transition just and inclusive for all.
President Ursula von der Leyen said: “The European Green Deal is our new growth strategy – for a growth that gives back more than it takes away. It shows how to transform our way of living and working, of producing and consuming so that we live healthier and make our businesses innovative. We can all be involved in the transition and we can all benefit from the opportunities. We will help our economy to be a global leader by moving first and moving fast. We are determined to succeed for the sake of this planet and life on it – for Europe’s natural heritage, for biodiversity, for our forests and our seas. By showing the rest of the world how to be sustainable and competitive, we can convince other countries to move with us.”
Executive Vice President Frans Timmermans added: “We are in a climate and environmental emergency. The European Green Deal is an opportunity to improve the health and well-being of our people by transforming our economic model. Our plan sets out how to cut emissions, restore the health of our natural environment, protect our wildlife, create new economic opportunities, and improve the quality of life of our citizens. We all have an important part to play and every industry and country will be part of this transformation. Moreover, our responsibility is to make sure that this transition is a just transition, and that nobody is left behind as we deliver the European Green Deal.”
The European Green Deal provides a road map with actions to boost the efficient use of resources by moving to a clean, circular economy and stop climate change, revert biodiversity loss and cut pollution. It outlines investments needed and financing tools available, and explains how to ensure a just and inclusive transition. The European Green Deal covers all sectors of the economy, notably transport, energy, agriculture, buildings, and industries such as steel, cement, ICT, textiles and chemicals. To set into legislation the political ambition of being the world’s first climate neutral continent by 2050, the Commission will present within 100 days the first ‘European Climate Law’. To reach our climate and environmental ambition, the Commission will also present the Biodiversity Strategy for 2030, the new Industrial Strategy and Circular Economy Action Plan, the Farm to Fork Strategy for sustainable food and proposals for pollution-free Europe. Work will immediately start for upping Europe’s 2030 emissions targets, setting a realistic path to the 2050 goal. Meeting the objectives of the European Green Deal will require significant investment.
Achieving the current 2030 climate and energy targets is estimated to require €260 billion of additional annual investment, representing about 1.5% of 2018 GDP. This investment will need the mobilisation ofthe public and private sectors. The Commission will present in early 2020 a Sustainable Europe Investment Plan to help meet investment needs. At least 25% of the EU’s long-term budget should be dedicated to climate action, and the European Investment Bank, Europe’s climate bank, will provide further support. For the private sector to contribute to financing the green transition, the Commission will present a Green Financing Strategy in 2020. Fighting climate change and environmental degradation is a common endeavour but not all regions and Member States start from the same point. A Just Transition Mechanism will support those regions that rely heavily on very carbon intensive activities. It will support the citizens most vulnerable to the transition, providing access to reskilling programmes and employment opportunities in new economic sectors. In March 2020, the Commission will launch a ‘Climate Pact’ to give citizens a voice and role in designing new actions, sharing information, launching grassroots activities and show-casing solutions that others can follow. The global challenges of climate change and environmental degradation require a global response.
The EU will continue to promote its environmental goals and standards in the UN’s Biodiversity and Climate Conventions and reinforce its green diplomacy. The G7, G20, international conventions, and bilateral relationships will be used to persuade others to step up their efforts. The EU will also use trade policy to ensure sustainability and it will build partnerships with its neighbours in the Balkans and Africa to help them with their own transitions. Next steps The Commission invites the European Parliament and the European Council to endorse the Commission’s ambition for Europe’s future economy and the environment and to help realise it. The Commission will bring forward the measures announced in the European Green Deal roadmap. Background Climate change and environmental degradation present an existential threat to Europe and the world. To overcome this challenge, Europe needs a new growth strategy that transforms the Union into a modern, resource-efficient and competitive economy where there are no net emissions of greenhouse gases by 2050, where economic growth is decoupled from resource use and where no one and no place is left behind.
The European Union already has a strong track record in reducing its emissions of greenhouse gases while maintaining economic growth. Emissions in 2018 were 23% lower than in 1990 while the Union’s GDP grew by 61% in the same period. But more needs to be done. The EU, given its extensive experience, is leading the way in creating a green and inclusive economy. The Green Deal Communication sets the path for action in the months and years ahead. The Commission’s future work will be guided by the public’s demand for action and by undeniable scientific evidence as demonstrated most comprehensively by IPCC, IPBES, Global Resources Outlook and EEA SOER 2019 reports (important to bring these key sources of evidence out; add proper references). Our proposals will be evidence-based and underpinned by broad consultation. An overwhelming majority of Europeans consider that protecting the environment is important (95%). Almost 8 in 10 Europeans (77%) say that protection of the environment can boost economic growth. The results of the Eurobarometer survey concerning environmental attitudes of EU citizens confirm the wide public support for environmental legislation at EU level and EU funding for environmentally friendly activities.
Tags: eu, European Green Deal, featured, full-image
Category: A Frontpage, Environment, EU, European Commission, European Parliament
Transportation services have been severely disrupted across the nation.
December 10, 2019, 5:21 PM
6 min read
Hundreds of thousands of protesters including teachers took to the streets across France for the sixth day straight to strike against pension reforms proposed by President Emmanuel Macron.
Although the turnout is expected to be lower than the 800,000 strikers from last Thursday, strikers from a range of trade unions are expected to rally in major cities from Paris to Lille, Lyon, Bordeaux and Grenoble. The strikes are continuing to have a major impact on transportation across the country — in total 25% of domestic flights and 50% of bus routes have been cancelled.
Workers are striking against proposed changes to the country’s pension system by President Macron.
Macron promised in his election campaign to merge dozens of pensions’ schemes for different employment sectors into one universal system, which opponents say will see certain industries lose out. Under the current system, there is no fixed retirement age with pensions instead being collected after a minimum contribution period to a pension fund.
That could change under the proposed reforms, laid out in a report in June 2019 by the High Commissioner for Pensions Jean Paul Delevoye. The reforms have not yet been finalized, but a series of new proposals published at the end of November 2019 have sparked a wave of anger across the country.
In Paris, 10% of schools have been closed as the main teachers’ trade unions joined in with rail and airport unions to demonstrate on Tuesday. The interior minister reported that 339,000 protesters were across France including 31,000 in Paris on Tuesday.
Local police in Paris have prepared for the protests to turn violent, and have banned the “yellow vests” — anti-government protesters who have sometimes clashing violently with police since November 2018 — from attending protests in certain areas of the capital.
Yellow vest protesters joined the peaceful demonstrators at Denfert-Rochereau Square on Tuesday. Police said 22 people were arrested on Tuesday for various protest rule violations like bringing forbidden objects like a mask to cover the face, in their bags objects.
The strikers are expected to continue demonstrating over the coming days with Prime Minister Edouard Philippe announcing the pension law in full Wednesday afternoon.
One demonstrator told ABC News that there is “real unity” where it comes to the strikers’ demands.
“The big question is how will we live after our working days,” Emmanuel Foucault, a teacher from suburban Paris said. “In France we pay quite a lot of taxes, and we pay taxes for social security but we also pay taxes for our pensions. This is completely unfair.”
LONDON — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and other world leaders have been caught on camera apparently talking candidly on Tuesday night about U.S. President Donald Trump,
Hours later, the backlash materialized.
“Well, he’s two-faced,” the president said Wednesday when asked about the video. After a long pause, he added, “He’s a nice guy. I find him to be a very nice guy.”
Trump, who was taking questions from reporters before a meeting with Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, attributed Trudeau’s frustration to the president’s pressure campaign to increase Canada’s military spending to 2% of its economic output.
“He should be paying more than he’s paying,” Trump said. “I called him out on that and I’m sure he wasn’t happy about it, but that’s the way it is.”
Trump later said on Twitter he would leave the NATO summit early and skip a closing news conference.
At a news conference Wednesday, Trudeau explained he was talking to Macron and Johnson in the video about Trump’s announcement earlier in the day that the next G7 summit in June would be held at Camp David, the presidential retreat in Maryland, rather than the Trump National Doral golf resort in Miami.
“Last night, I made a reference to the fact there was an unscheduled press conference before my meeting with president Trump, I was happy to take part in it but it was certainly notable,” Trudeau told reporters.
“We were all surprised and I think pleased to learn that the next G7 will be at Camp David, I think that was an unscheduled announcement and … I think every different leader has teams who every now and then their jaws drop at unscheduled surprises, like that video itself for example,”
Trudeau said he did not believe the video would come back to haunt Canada.
“The relationship with the United States is extremely strong and I have a very good relationship with the president and his team,” he said.
The video was shot by the British host’s pool camera during a reception at Buckingham Palace held Tuesday night in London, where leaders from NATO’s 29 countries are marking the 70th anniversary of the military alliance with two days of meetings and discussions.
Snippets of the conversation involving Trudeau, Princess Anne, French President Emmanuel Macron, Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Prime Minister Mark Rutte of the Netherlands rose above the din and were captured in the short video.
“Is that why you were late?” a smiling Johnson asks Macron in the 25-second clip.
“He was late because he takes a 40-minute press conference off the top,” Trudeau chimes in.
The leaders do not use Trump’s name, but hours before the reception, Trump had turned what were “expected to be brief photo opportunities” with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, Macron and Trudeau into what The Washington Post described as “his own personal daytime cable show”.
In his meeting with Trudeau, Trump questioned the Canadian prime minister about how much his country spends on its own defence. Canada does not meet NATO’s target for member countries to spend 2% of their gross domestic product on their militaries.
“What are you at? What is your number?” Trump asked.
Trudeau tried to evade answering directly, saying: “The number we talk about is a 70% increase over these past years. We are increasing significantly our defence spending from previous governments that cut it.”
But Trump followed up. “Okay, where are you now, in terms of your number?”
After some discussion with an aide, Trudeau answered: “1.4.”
Trump said on Wednesday that he had called out Trudeau for failing to meet the 2% target for national output on defence.
By early Wednesday, the Tuesday video had been watched nearly 5 million times.
Others quickly noticed that a member of the royal family was also involved in the exchange, identifying Princess Anne, the daughter of Queen Elizabeth II, by her distinctive hair.
Earlier in the evening, Anne was seen in another viral video appearing to shrug off a “scolding” from the Queen for not joining the royal receiving line to greet the president and first lady.
The Queen chastising Princess Anne for not greeting Trump and Anne not giving a single shit is the mood we all need to take into today pic.twitter.com/W5cCFlq2Ui
Trump on Tuesday did not publicly address the Trudeau video, only tweeting early Wednesday morning that he “enjoyed” his post-reception meeting with Johnson at 10 Downing Street, where the pair “talked about numerous subjects including @NATO and Trade.”
The White House did not respond to a request for comment.
The Canadian Prime Minister’s Office did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
By Tuesday afternoon, Johnson claimed at a news conference that he had not been party to any discussion about Trump.
“That’s complete nonsense, and I don’t know where that has come from,” he said. “I really don’t know what is being referred to there.”
When Trudeau arrived at the summit early Wednesday, he walked briskly by reporters and did not answer shouted questions regarding his remarks allegedly about Trump.
Later, as leaders sat down for their meeting, Trudeau could be seen going over to Trump and shaking his hand politely. The two men said something quickly to each other, then Trudeau walked away.
The video had prompted concerns about how the mercurial U.S. president would react.
“By this point in his tenure, the prime minister should realize that events with pool cameras need to be approached and managed as on-the-record events,” Andrew MacDougall, former director of communications for prime minister Stephen Harper, wrote on Twitter.
“Hopefully this gaffe doesn’t wind the president up at a sensitive time for NAFTA and the Meng (Wanzhou)/Huawei file.”
Trump has long bridled at the idea of other world leaders poking fun at the United States.
“The world is laughing at us,” he said frequently during his 2016 presidential campaign, criticizing the leadership of President Barack Obama.
In June 2017, when he announced that the United States would withdraw from the Paris climate agreement, Trump said that “we don’t want other leaders and other countries laughing at us any more. And they won’t be. They won’t be.”
In 2018, after laughter broke out at the United Nations General Assembly when Trump claimed his administration had “accomplished more than almost any administration in the history of our country,” the president insisted that he was not the target.
“They weren’t laughing at me, they were laughing with me,” he said.
While Trudeau has spent much of the past three years trying to establish a good relationship with Trump, the U.S. president has not shied away from lashing out any perceived slight from fellow world leaders.
The U.S. president also previously attacked Trudeau following the G7 summit in Quebec City in June 2018, describing the latter as “so meek and mild” amid a trade row over Canadian dairy and American tariffs on Canadian steel and aluminum.
Chris Rands, a producer at the CBC’s Parliamentary news bureau in Ottawa, said he had first unearthed the video while searching for images of Trudeau in footage from Buckingham Palace.
Rands added that based on his listening, Trudeau was discussing Trump’s surprise announcement that a Group of 7 summit meeting next June would be held at CampDavid rather than the Trump National Doral golf resort in Miami.
Folks we are told the source was the Royal TV Pool distributed by Summit Host broadcaster-it was filmed at Buckingham Palace-and then sent to all TV networks that are part of the Pool (6 in Canada etc etc) #cdnpoli https://t.co/MU6rZae51D
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) sent a rattling letter to Donald Trump on Friday informing him of the likely conclusions of the impeachment inquiry by the Intelligence Committee, including obstruction of justice and soliciting foreign interference in an American election.
He also gave Trump a deadline of next Friday to inform the committee if he plans to present a defense in the next round of impeachment hearings.
An upcoming report on the hearings from the Intelligence Committee will detail an “effort in which President Trump again sought foreign interference in our elections for his personal and political benefit at the expense of our national interest,” Nadler wrote in the letter. The “again” likely refers to Russian interference in the 2016 election, and may be an indication that the investigation will try to link that to Trump or his campaign.
The report will also allege an “unprecedented campaign of obstruction in an effort to prevent the committees from obtaining evidence and testimony,” Nadler informed Trump.
Nadler noted that his own committee has “also been engaged in an investigation concerning allegation that you may have engaged in acts of obstruction of justice, as detailed in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s” report.
Nadler asked Trump in the letter if his counsel “intends to participate in the upcoming impeachment proceedings.”
The Judiciary Committee is scheduled to begin its first public hearings in the impeachment investigation on Wednesday. Nadler set a 5 p.m. deadline on Dec. 6 for the president to say if he or his counsel will participate.
The White House could not immediately be reached for comment.
“If it weren’t for me, Hong Kong would have been obliterated in 14 minutes,” Trump told the hosts of “Fox & Friends.”
And he said he had warned Chinese leader Xi Jinping not to crack down on the protesters, which Beijing describes as rioters and criminals. “He’s got a million soldiers standing outside of Hong Kong that aren’t going in,” Trump said, “only because I asked him, ‘Please don’t do that. You’ll be making a big mistake. It’s going to have a tremendous negative impact on the trade deal.’”
But the president pointedly declined to say whether he’d veto the Hong Kong legislation, which passed the House this week with just one ‘no’ vote. Among other measures, it authorizes sanctions against Chinese officials.
“We have to stand with Hong Kong, but I’m also standing with President Xi,” Trump said. “He’s a friend of mine. He’s an incredible guy,” the president continued. “But I’d like to see them work it out, OK? We have to see and work it out. But I stand with Hong Kong. I stand with freedom. I stand with all of the things that we want to do, but we also are in the process of making the largest trade deal in history. And if we could do that, that would be great.”
Trump’s national security adviser Robert O’Brien indicated on Saturday that even he didn’t know which way the president was leaning, though he acknowledged the bill passed with “a pretty significant majority.”
“So I don’t have any information on the signing,” he said, noting that he had been traveling.
“What’s happening in Hong Kong is terrible, and our hearts go out to the people of Hong Kong,” O’Brien said, and that the U.S. was “monitoring the situation closely.”
“At the same time, we have a broad range of issues to deal with the Chinese on,” he added. But he said the U.S. expected the Chinese government to live up to the commitment it made to “one country, two systems” at the time of the handover from British rule.
O’Brien’s comments were made in a news conference with reporters at the Halifax International Security Forum, a gathering of diplomats and military officials from leading democracies.
In a public session afterwards, O’Brien said, “The president may very well sign the bill… but that bill is going to become law, looking at the numbers. … I’d be very surprised if that bill does not become law soon.“
The theme of this year’s forum is the rise of China, and panelists have repeatedly highlighted the growing threat the Beijing government poses to the freedom and security of democracies around the world.
O’Brien’s remarks came hours after Cindy McCain presented an award in the name of her late husband, Sen. John McCain, to “the Hong Kong people.”
In an impassioned speech accepting the prize, Hong Kong lawmaker Emily Lau said she hoped the president would sign the Hong Kong bill and called on attendees to “do your best to ensure that there will be no rivers of blood in Hong Kong.”
Steve Tsang, director of the SOAS China Institute in London, warned that a presidential veto of the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act “would send a very clear signal to China that at the end of the day he will turn in favor of China, so China can do whatever it wants in Hong Kong.”
Beijing, meanwhile, warned Washington against passing the bill into law. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said in a statement: “We urge the U.S. to grasp the situation, stop its wrongdoing before it’s too late, and immediately take measures to prevent this act from becoming law.”
Lau and Figo Chan, a 23-year-old social democrat who coordinated the participation of 50 political parties and activists groups in the current protest movement, told POLITICO they also called for targeted sanctions against Chinese officials over their efforts to weaken checks and balances in Hong Kong and their sometimes violent response to protests.
“I support legislation to punish officials who violate human rights by banning them and freezing their assets,” Lau said, but she acknowledged that Hong Kong may become a pawn in Trump’s trade war with China.
“We are sort of caught right in the middle. We know he changes his mind every day. We were not born yesterday. There are certain things we cannot influence,” Lau said.
While defiant, both Lau and Chan are pessimistic that the democracy movement can succeed in the absence of a more coordinated Western strategy against China’s attempts to roll back democratic checks and balances in the territory.
“We don’t trust China,” Chan said. He expects a wave of “massive imprisonment, arrest and prosecution.”
Hong Kong holds council elections on Sunday, which some have characterized as a referendum on the democracy protests. But Lau warned the international community to keep Sunday’s vote in perspective.
“These councils have no power. You know, they are advisory bodies” only, she said.
Lau — a legislator for 25 years and former Hong Kong Democratic Party chair — says the new generation of protestors still have a lot to prove: “They can’t just suddenly say, oh, I protest three weeks, I’m going to stand for election. If people still vote for them, good luck. But I want people to really do the work and then stand.”
Asked what the U.S. was prepared to do if China launched a bloody crackdown in Hong Kong as it did in Tiananmen in 1989, O’Brien declined to specify on the grounds that it was a “hypothetical question.”
“I’m hoping that doesn’t happen. We’ve already seen too much violence in Hong Kong,” he said. “I hope the violence doesn’t continue, and we hope that we don’t have a Tiananmen Square situation in Hong Kong. That would be a terrible thing.”
“The United States will do its part,” he said.
But citing how some other Western countries seem more interested in dealing with Beijing than in standing up to Chinese leaders, he the real question is, “What is the world prepared to do about China if there’s that sort of crackdown?”
Baroness Pauline Neville-Jones, a former Conservative minister and chair of Britain’s Joint Intelligence Committee, told the Halifax forum that there are doubts “there would be any price to pay” if the Chinese military rolled into Hong Kong to quell the protests.
“We’re basically more interested in the trade,” Neville-Jones concluded.