Trump: Voters must support GOP in Pittsburgh-area House race

A cardboard cutout of President Donald Trump sits against the wall as Rick Saccone, Republican Congressional candidate for Pennsylvania’s 18th district, speaks to reporters at the Republican Committee of Allegheny County offices, March 9, 2018 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (AFP)
Updated 11 March 2018

Trump: Voters must support GOP in Pittsburgh-area House race

MOON TOWNSHIP: President Donald Trump told western Pennsylvania voters Saturday night that his new tariffs were saving the steel industry and urged them to send a Republican to the House so he can keep delivering those kinds of results.
The president lent his weight to Republican Rick Saccone in the final days of a surprisingly competitive special election outside Pittsburgh that could reverberate nationally ahead of the November midterm elections.
“We need our Congressman Saccone,” Trump said, unabashedly framing the race as a tune-up for the GOP’s efforts to maintain its control of Capitol Hill. Hitting peak campaign mode for himself, he revived many of his favorite 2016 riffs and even touted his planned 2020 slogan, “Keep America Great!“
But, the president warned, “we can only do that if we elect people who are going to back our agenda,” repeatedly urging his backers to support Saccone and stave off an upset by Democrat Conor Lamb in a district the president won by 20 percentage points over Hillary Clinton.
“The people of Pittsburgh cannot be conned by this guy Lamb,” Trump said, dismissing Lamb’s efforts to run as a moderate Democrat. “He’s never going to vote for us. He can say, ‘I love President Trump.’ ... I don’t want to meet him. I might like him.”
Democrats need to flip 24 GOP-held seats to claim a House majority. A victory in such a Republican-leaning district would boost their hopes and renew GOP concerns of a bad November.
Lamb, a 33-year-old Marine veteran and former prosecutor, has positioned himself as more representative of the district than Saccone, a 60-year-old state lawmaker. Lamb touts his resume and declares that he wouldn’t vote for Democratic House leader Nancy Pelosi as party leader. He also avoids criticizing Trump.
Trump conceded Lamb might not back Pelosi but said most House Democrats will. And if Pelosi were in charge of the House, Trump said, Lamb would simply “vote the party line.”
While Trump was ostensibly in Pennsylvania for Saccone, the rally was as much about the president as it was an underperforming congressional candidate. The president repeatedly reminisced about his election, when Pennsylvania helped put him over the top after decades of landing in the Democrats’ column.
The president criticized Democrats for blocking his long-promised border wall and attacked so-called sanctuary cities that refuse to cooperate with federal immigration authorities. He also called for harsher punishments for drug dealers, including the death penalty, pointing to China and Singapore as models
Trump continued his attacks on the press, criticizing media coverage of his decision to meet with the leader of North Korea and complaining that he doesn’t get credit for accomplishments. He singled out NBC’s Chuck Todd as a “sleeping son of a bitch.”
He also made sure the workers in this industrial-heavy region see the new steel tariffs as “my baby,” even as Lamb and Saccone have endorsed the move. Pennsylvania’s 18th Congressional District has an estimated 17,000 steelworkers and almost 90,000 voters from union households.
“Not all of our friends on Wall Street love it, but we love it,” Trump said of the tariffs. He added that Lamb’s party leadership opposes his protectionist policy. He sidestepped the fact that most of his own party’s leaders oppose tariffs, as well.
Trump’s appearance was part of a White House push to help Saccone avoid a once-unlikely defeat. National GOP forces could exceed $10 million in spending on the race, and Saturday was the president’s second recent visit to the area. But Trump risked another embarrassing defeat after backing Republican Roy Moore in last December’s Alabama Senate election, only to watch Moore lose a seat his party had held since 1997.
The Pennsylvania special election is to replace Republican Rep. Tim Murphy, who resigned last year amid revelations of an extramarital affair in which the anti-abortion lawmaker urged his mistress to get an abortion when he thought she was pregnant.
Murphy, an eight-term congressman who had union support, never had a close election and had no Democratic challenger in his last two elections. But Saccone has struggled with his own fundraising, is a union foe and hasn’t run as aggressive a campaign as Lamb, prompting criticism from Republicans in Washington who quietly concede Lamb is a stronger candidate.
Trump acknowledged those dynamics, noting talk of Lamb as a handsome candidate. But he said he thinks he’s better looking, and added that Saccone “is handsome,” too.
For his part, Saccone was thrilled to have the president’s help.
“The president’s support is key to attaining victory,” Saccone told rally attendees about 45 minutes before Trump took the stage. “There’s no one that I would rather have in my corner that President Trump. Are you with me on that?“

Pakistan and China push for peace in Afghanistan

Updated 15 December 2018

Pakistan and China push for peace in Afghanistan

  • Trilateral talks also focused on boosting trust and security between the three countries
  • FM Qureshi extends the olive branch for a new chapter with Kabul

KABUL: Foreign Ministers of Afghanistan, Pakistan, and China held a trilateral meeting in Kabul on Saturday where they discussed measures to boost political trust and join hands for a regional war against militancy which would facilitate the Afghan peace process, even as Taliban insurgents stepped up their attacks.

The meeting was the second one to take place after Beijing had initiated the talks in December last year in order to ease the rising tension between Kabul and Islamabad whose relationship is highly critical for Beijing’s growing economic and political clout in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

In recent years, China has deepened its economic and political ties with Afghanistan and is actively using its influence to bring the two South Asian neighbors closer.

Pakistan has long been accused by Afghanistan and the US of providing safe havens for Afghan Taliban leaders, by funding and arming them since their ouster in late 2001.

Islamabad has denied the allegations.

After the meeting on Saturday, Pakistan’s Foreign Minister, Shah Mahmood Qureshi pushed for a new chapter with Afghanistan, adding that the ongoing blame game would not help in achieving peace or building trust between Islamabad and Kabul.

He said that the Daesh and militants from Central Asia and eastern China were against the peace process in Afghanistan, urging for joint efforts to tackle the extremism.

“I am here to engage with Afghanistan. Let us not stick to the past and stop pointing a finger on Pakistan… I came here to build trust and bridges and reach peace and stability. Any improvement in Afghanistan will benefit Pakistan,” Qureshi told a news conference.

The three countries signed an agreement pushing for joint efforts in the war against militancy with Afghanistan’s Foreign Minister, Salahuddin Rabbani, saying that the coming weeks and months will be highly crucial in evaluating Pakistan’s intentions and its role in supporting an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process.

Officials from both Afghanistan and Pakistan have held a number of meetings in recent years to mend bilateral ties and work towards measures to fight militancy. However, those talks were an exercise in futility as they were followed by the two countries trading accusations and resorting to the blame game. Rabbani said that “the time has come (for Pakistan) to practically show with genuine steps” that it will fulfill its pledges.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi described both Afghanistan and Pakistan as its strategic partners, adding that China had great political trust in the two. He asked both the countries to resolve their problems in a peaceful manner and backed the US’ efforts to engage in peace talks with the Taliban, urging the militant group to get involved in the process. 

“We support Afghanistan and Pakistan’s efforts for peace and we call on the Taliban to join the peace process. Cooperation between Afghanistan, Pakistan, and China is important to bring peace to Afghanistan.” 

The three sides emphasized the importance of regional connectivity and economic development between them. 

Saturday’s meeting took place at a time when Washington is stepping up its efforts to hold talks with the Taliban by meeting with regional powers on how to end the US war in Afghanistan which began more than 17 years ago.

Mohammad Nateqi, a former Afghan diplomat, said that a deciding factor for Saturday’s agreement to work depended on building mutual trust between Pakistan and Afghanistan given the fact that similar conversations have taken place between Kabul and Islamabad earlier as well, without bearing any fruit.

However, at the same time, he was optimistic about positive results, reasoning that the situation had changed when compared to the past with the US increasing its efforts for talks with the Taliban.

“Such meetings can be helpful in mending ties between the countries and in helping them come closer to achieving a peace plan,” he told Arab News.