Trump exhorts Republicans to ‘get tougher’ against impeachment inquiry

President Donald Trump speaks during a Cabinet meeting in the White House, Monday, Oct. 21, 2019, in Washington. (AP Photo)
Updated 22 October 2019

Trump exhorts Republicans to ‘get tougher’ against impeachment inquiry

  • Trump made his comments during a White House Cabinet meeting as Democrats sought to build public support for their fast-moving impeachment inquiry
  • House Speaker Nancy Pelosi issued a video and ‘fact sheet’ that may give hints about articles of impeachment — formal charges — Democrats may pursue against Republican Trump

WASHINGTON: President Donald Trump on Monday exhorted fellow Republicans to get tougher and fight for him, saying the Democratic-led US House of Representatives wants to impeach him “as quick as possible” over his request that Ukraine investigate a domestic political rival.
Trump made his comments during a White House Cabinet meeting as Democrats sought to build public support for their fast-moving impeachment inquiry and the administration pressed its efforts to stonewall a probe that threatens his presidency.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi issued a video and “fact sheet” that may give hints about articles of impeachment — formal charges — Democrats may pursue against Republican Trump, accusing him of abuse of power, a “shakedown” involving Ukraine and a cover-up.
Few Republican lawmakers have shown an inclination to remove Trump from office even as Democrats focus on his pushing a vulnerable foreign ally to interfere to his benefit in the 2020 US election by providing political dirt on Joe Biden, a leading contender for the Democratic presidential nomination to run against Trump in the November 2020 election.
But Trump, who has denied wrongdoing, has come under sharp criticism from Republican Senator Mitt Romney.
And other Republicans have expressed misgivings about Trump policies, including criticism by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senator Lindsey Graham of his withdrawal of US troops in northeastern Syria, exposing US-allied Kurdish fighters to a Turkish cross-border offensive.
Approval of articles of impeachment in the House would prompt a trial in the Republican-led Senate on whether to remove Trump from office.
“The Republicans have to get tougher and fight. We have some that are great fighters, but they have to get tougher and fight, because the Democrats are trying to hurt the Republican Party before the election,” Trump said.
Trump said the Democrats are “vicious and they stick together.”
“They don’t have Mitt Romney in their midst. They don’t have people like that. They stick together,” Trump added.
In an interview aired with “Axios on HBO,” Romney denounced Trump’s requests to Ukraine and China to investigate Biden, questioned Trump’s character, criticized his decision to “abandon” Kurdish allies in the Syria war and deplored his hush money payment to an adult film star. Romney was the 2012 Republican presidential nominee.
Trump also labeled as “phony” an anti-corruption clause in the US Constitution that Democrats have accused him of violating through the operation of his businesses including a hotel in downtown Washington. The so-called emoluments clause bars a president from receiving any gifts, payment or other things of value from a foreign country.
An accusation of violating the emoluments clause could figure into the articles of impeachment against Trump.
Democrats mocked Trump. “It is literally in the Constitution,” Democratic congressman Eric Swalwell said on Twitter.
Asked if it is a foregone conclusion that House Democrats will vote to impeach him, Trump said that “they’re not going to beat me in the election, so of course they want to impeach.”
“They want to impeach. And they want to do it as quick as possible,” Trump added.
Trump, a wealthy real estate developer, also said serving as president has personally cost him $2 billion to $5 billion dollars. Trump also expressed annoyance at having to reverse his decision to stage the Group of Seven summit in June at his Trump National Doral golf resort in the Miami area.
His plan to host the international gathering at a business he owns was criticized by Democrats and Republicans who said it gave the impression he was profiting from being president.
“I would’ve made a fortune if I just ran my business. I was doing it really well. I have a great business. I have the best properties,” Trump told reporters.
At the heart of the inquiry is a July 25 phone call in which Trump asked Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to investigate Biden and his son Hunter Biden, who had been a director of a Ukrainian energy company, as well as a discredited theory that Ukraine, and not Russia, interfered in the 2016 US election.
Another round of crucial testimony in the inquiry is set for this week, including by Bill Taylor, the top US diplomat in Ukraine, on Tuesday.
Acting White House budget director Russell Vought said both he and Michael Duffey, associate director for national security programs at the Office of Management and Budget, would not provide depositions to the committees leading the inquiry.
Duffey had been scheduled to testify behind closed doors on Wednesday as Democrats scrutinize Trump’s decision to withhold $391 million in security aid to Ukraine before he asked its president to investigate Biden.
A planned deposition on Wednesday by Philip Reeker, the acting US assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs who oversaw US policy toward Ukraine, has been postponed at the request of the lawmakers carrying out the inquiry and no new date has been set, a source familiar with the matter said.


Hong Kong police warn of ‘live fire’ if they face deadly weapons from protesters

Updated 17 November 2019

Hong Kong police warn of ‘live fire’ if they face deadly weapons from protesters

  • Protests have tremored through the global financial hub since June
  • China has repeatedly warned that it will not tolerate the dissent

HONG KONG: Hong Kong police Monday warned for the first time that they may use “live rounds” after pro-democracy protesters fired arrows and threw petrol bombs at officers at a beseiged university campus, as the crisis engulfing the city veered deeper into danger.
Protests have tremored through the global financial hub since June, with many in the city of 7.5 million people venting fury at eroding freedoms under Chinese rule.
China has repeatedly warned that it will not tolerate the dissent, and there have been concerns that Beijing could send in troops to put an end to the spiralling unrest.
Three protesters have been shot by armed police in the unrelenting months of protests. But all in scuffles as chaotic street clashes played out — and without such warnings being given.
A day of intense clashes, which saw a police officer struck in the leg by an arrow and protesters meet police tear gas with volleys of petrol bombs, intensified as night fell.
Clashes rolled across Kowloon, with the epicenter around the Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU), where scores of defiant demonstrators set large fires to prevent police from conducting a threatened raid on the campus.
They hunkered down under umbrellas from occasional fire from water cannon and hurled molotov cocktails at an armored police vehicle, leaving it ablaze on a flyover near the campus.
Police declared the campus a “riot” scene — a rioting conviction carries up to 10 years in jail — and blocked exits as spokesman Louis Lau issued a stark warning in a Facebook live broadcast.
“I hereby warn rioters not to use petrol bombs, arrows, cars or any deadly weapons to attack police officers,” he said.
“If they continue such dangerous actions, we would have no choice but to use the minimum force necessary, including live rounds, to fire back.”
Police said they fired at a car late Sunday that had driven at a line of officers near the campus — but the vehicle reversed and escaped.
Protesters at the campus appeared resolute — a twist in tactics by a leaderless movement so far defined by its fluid, unpredictable nature.
“I feel scared. There’s no way out, all I can do is fight to the end,” said one protester joining the barricade in front of the university building.
“We need a base to keep our gear and have some rest at night before another fight in the morning,” another called Kason, 23, told AFP.
On Sunday, activists parried attempts by police to break through into the PolyU campus, firing rocks from a homemade catapult from the university roof, while an AFP reporter saw a team of masked archers — several carrying sports bows — patrolling the campus.
Violence has worsened in recent days, with two men killed in separate incidents linked to the protests this month.
Chinese President Xi Jinping this week issued his most strident comments on the crisis, saying it threatened the “one country, two systems” model under which Hong Kong has been ruled since the 1997 handover from Britain.
Demonstrators last week engineered a “Blossom Everywhere” campaign of blockades and vandalism, which forced the police to draft in prison officers as reinforcements, shut down large chunks of Hong Kong’s train network and close schools and shopping malls.
The movement, characterised by its fluidity and unpredictability, has started to coagulate in fixed locations, showing the protesters’ ability to switch tactics.
The protests started against a now-shelved bill to allow extradition to China but have billowed to encompass wider issues such as perceived police brutality and calls for universal suffrage in the former British colony.
The financial hub has been nudged into a recession by the unrelenting turmoil.
A poster circulating on social media called for the “dawn action” to continue on Monday.
“Get up early, directly target the regime, squeeze the economy to increase pressure,” it said.
The education bureau said schools will remain closed again on Monday.
Earlier on Sunday, dozens of government supporters gathered to clear barricades near the university campus — a sign of the divisions slicing through the city.
Many residents are wearied by the sapping protests. Others support the Chinese-backed city government.
Some applauded a Saturday clean-up by Chinese troops from a garrison of the People’s Liberation Army in Kowloon.
The garrison is usually confined to the barracks under Hong Kong’s mini-constitution, although it can be deployed at the request of the city’s government to help with public order breakdown or natural disasters.
Hong Kong’s government, which presides over a city that enjoys greater freedoms than the mainland, said it did not ask the PLA for help on Saturday.
The choreographed troop movement “has only compounded the impression that Beijing has simply ignored” Hong Kong’s unique political system, said analyst Dixon Sing.