Trump defends Charlottesville response at raucous rally, blasts 'dishonest' media

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President Donald Trump gestures to the crowd while speaking at a rally at the Phoenix Convention Center in Phoenix on Tuesday. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)
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Protesters raise their hands after police used tear gas outside the Phoenix Convention Center in Phoenix, Arizona on Tuesday. Protests were held against President Donald Trump as he hosted a rally inside the convention center. (AP Photo/Matt York)
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Protesters yell after police used tear gas outside the Phoenix Convention Center on Tuesday in Phoenix, Arizona. Protests were held against President Donald Trump as he hosted a rally inside the convention center. (AP Photo/Matt York)
Updated 23 August 2017

Trump defends Charlottesville response at raucous rally, blasts 'dishonest' media

PHOENIX, US: President Donald Trump revved up supporters on Tuesday with a defense of his response to a white supremacist-organized rally in Virginia and a promise to shut down the US government if necessary to build a wall along the border with Mexico.
Under fire for saying “both sides” were to blame for the violence between white supremacists and left-wing counter protesters in Virginia on Aug. 12, Trump accused television networks of ignoring his calls for unity in the aftermath.
“I didn’t say I love you because you’re black, or I love you because you’re white,” Trump said. “I love all the people of our country.”
Police used pepper spray to disperse crowds after protesters threw rocks and bottles outside the convention center where Trump spoke, police said.
Trump, who often uses news organizations as a foil, repeatedly singled out the media for criticism of how it covered the violence in the Virginia college town of Charlottesville and the resulting political fallout.
“These are truly dishonest people. They’re bad people. I really think they don’t like our country,” Trump said. “The only people giving a platform to these hate groups is the media.”
Adopting a glib tone, Trump said many reporters ignored his condemnation of white supremacists, including the Ku Klux Klan.
“I hit ‘em with neo-Nazi, I hit ‘em with everything ... KKK? We have KKK. I got ‘em all,” he said.
James Clapper, a former director of US national intelligence, expressed concern at Trump’s performance, calling it “downright scary and disturbing.”
“I question his fitness to be in office,” Clapper told CNN.

Government shutdown
Funding for the border wall has flagged in the US Congress as many lawmakers question whether Trump’s main promise during the 2016 presidential election campaign is really necessary.
But with a budget battle looming, Trump said he would be willing to risk a politically damaging government shutdown in order to secure funding for the wall.
He visited the border region in Yuma, Arizona, earlier on Tuesday.
“If we have to close down our government, we’re building that wall,” Trump said. “We’re going to have our wall. The American people voted for immigration control. We’re going to get that wall.”
With thousands of supporters cheering him on, Trump also weighed in on another racially charged issue, hinting he would pardon former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio.
Arpaio, 85, who battled illegal immigration in the Phoenix area, was found guilty last month of criminal contempt for violating the terms of a 2011 court order in a racial profiling case.

NAFTA, North Korea
Trump covered the gamut of issues, from NAFTA trade talks to the US showdown with North Korea, during a raucous, rambling and defiant political speech lasting an hour and 15 minutes.
He said he might terminate the NAFTA treaty with Mexico and Canada to jumpstart negotiations, and said the standoff with North Korea over its weapons programs might have taken a positive turn.
However, it was unclear whether the speech would help lay the foundation for a comeback from the deep political crisis Trump finds himself in after only seven months in office and an approval rating below 40 percent.
He expressed frustration that the Republican-controlled Congress was unable to approve health care legislation that failed to pass the Senate by one vote last month.
One of the votes against the legislation was cast by Republican Senator John McCain of Arizona, who was recently diagnosed with brain cancer.
Without mentioning their names, Trump criticized both McCain and his fellow Arizona Republican, Senator Jeff Flake.
Neither McCain nor Flake attended the event.
Trump complained repeatedly about the “one vote” that stopped the Senate from repealing and replacing Obamacare, the signature domestic policy of his predecessor, Barack Obama.
“One vote away. I will not mention any names — very presidential. And nobody wants me to mention your other senator, who’s weak on border, weak on crime. Nobody knows who the hell he is! See, I haven’t mentioned any names, so now everybody’s happy,” he said.

'Sheriff Joe'
The White House had said earlier when asked about Arpaio that “there will be no discussion of that today.”
That did not stop Trump from raising the subject.
“Do the people in this room like Sheriff Joe?” Trump asked, sparking loud applause and a chant of “Pardon Joe!“
“Was Sheriff Joe convicted for doing his job?” Trump asked, before predicting that Arpaio would be just fine. “I won’t do it tonight because I don’t want to cause any controversy. But Sheriff Joe can feel good,” he said.
Trump drew broad criticism for blaming both white nationalists and counter-protesters for the deadly violence at the Charlottesville rally, which was organized by neo-Nazis and white supremacists. One woman was killed.
He mocked left-wing protesters in his speech.
Protesters outside Tuesday’s rally yelled: “Shame, shame, shame” and “No Trump, No KKK, No fascist USA” as the Trump supporters began filing into the Phoenix Convention Center.
Supporters, who lined up for hours in the Arizona heat ahead of the event, chanted: “Build the wall.” Many wore red hats with Trump’s campaign slogan, “Make America Great Again.”
Trump has held a series of 2020 re-election campaign stops despite only having taken office in January.
Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton, a Democrat, had asked him to postpone Tuesday’s event while the nation healed from outrage and division after the deadly rally in Charlottesville.
A heavy police presence was deployed around the Phoenix venue for Trump’s first trip as president to Arizona, which he won in the 2016 election.


‘Terminator’ Rajapaksa storms to victory in Sri Lanka

Updated 24 min 51 sec ago

‘Terminator’ Rajapaksa storms to victory in Sri Lanka

  • Gotabaya Rajapaksa conducted a nationalist campaign with a promise of security and a vow to crush religious extremism
  • His triumph will, however, alarm Sri Lanka’s Tamil and Muslim minorities as well as activists, journalists

COLOMBO: Gotabaya Rajapaksa, who spearheaded the brutal crushing of the Tamil Tigers 10 years ago, stormed to victory Sunday in Sri Lanka’s presidential elections, seven months after Islamist extremist attacks killed 269 people.
Rajapaksa conducted a nationalist campaign with a promise of security and a vow to crush religious extremism in the Buddhist-majority country following the April 21 suicide bomb attacks blamed on a homegrown militant group.
His triumph will, however, alarm Sri Lanka’s Tamil and Muslim minorities as well as activists, journalists and possibly some in the international community following the 2005-15 presidency of his older brother Mahinda Rajapaksa.
Mahinda, with Gotabaya effectively running the security forces, ended a 37-year civil war with Tamil separatists. His decade in power was also marked by alleged rights abuses, murky extra-judicial killings and closer ties with China.
Gotabaya, a retired lieutenant-colonel, 70, nicknamed the “Terminator” by his own family, romped to victory with 51.9 percent of the vote, results from the two-thirds of votes counted so far showed.
“I didn’t sleep all night,” said student Devni, 22, one of around 30 people who gathered outside Rajapaksa’s Colombo residence. “I am so excited, he is the president we need.”
Rajapaksa’s main rival, the moderate Sajith Premadasa of the ruling party, trailed on 42.3 percent. The 52-year-old conceded the race and congratulated Rajapaksa.
On Sunday three cabinet members resigned — including Finance Minister Mangalar Samaraweera.
The final result was expected later on Sunday with Rajapaksa due to be sworn in on Monday. Turnout was over 80 percent.
Premadasa had strong support in minority Tamil areas but a poor showing in Sri Lanka’s Sinhalese heartland, a core support base where Rajapaksa won some two-thirds of the vote.
Saturday’s poll was the first popularity test of the United National Party (UNP) government of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe.
Wickremesinghe’s administration failed to prevent the April attacks despite prior and detailed intelligence warnings from India, according a parliamentary investigation.
Premadasa also offered better security and a pledge to make a former war general, Sarath Fonseka, his national security chief, projecting himself as a victim seeking to crush terrorism.
He is the son of assassinated ex-president Ranasinghe Premadasa who fell victim to a Tamil rebel suicide bomber in May 1993.
But Gotabaya is adored by the Sinhalese majority and the powerful Buddhist clergy for how he and Mahinda ended the war in 2009, when 40,000 Tamil civilians allegedly perished at the hands of the army.
Under his brother, Gotabaya was defense secretary and effectively ran the security forces, allegedly overseeing “death squads” that bumped off rivals, journalists and others. He denies the allegations.
This makes the brothers detested and feared among many Tamils, who make up 15 percent of the population. Some in the Muslim community, who make up 10 percent, are also fearful of Gotabaya, having faced days of mob violence in the wake of the April attacks.
Under Mahinda, Sri Lanka also borrowed heavily from China for infrastructure projects and even allowed two Chinese submarines to dock in Colombo in 2014, alarming Western countries as well as India.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted on Sunday that India looked forward to “deepening the close and fraternal ties... and for peace, prosperity as well as security in our region.”
The projects ballooned Sri Lanka’s debts and many turned into white elephants — such as an airport in the south devoid of airlines — mired in corruption allegations.
Unlike in 2015 when there were bomb attacks and shootings, this election was relatively peaceful by the standards of Sri Lanka’s fiery politics.
The only major incident was on Saturday when gunmen fired at two vehicles in a convoy of at least 100 buses taking Muslim voters to cast ballots. Two people were injured.
According to the Election Commission the contest was, however, the worst ever for hate speech and misinformation.