Trump calls Democrats impeachment push ‘unpatriotic’

U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during a meeting with NATO Secretary General, Jens Stoltenberg at Winfield House in London on Tuesday. (AP)
Updated 03 December 2019

Trump calls Democrats impeachment push ‘unpatriotic’

  • Trump insists he’s solely focused on scoring domestic and foreign policy wins, including making NATO members spend more on defense
  • US President slammed “Do Nothing Democrats” for scheduling the hearing during the NATO meeting as “Not nice!”

LONDON: President Donald Trump criticized Democrats at the opening of a NATO leaders’ meeting Tuesday, calling the impeachment push by his rivals “unpatriotic” and “a bad thing for our country.”
Trump, who commented while meeting with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, is upset that Democrats scheduled an impeachment hearing while he is abroad.
The House Judiciary Committee has set a hearing on the constitutional grounds for Trump’s possible impeachment on Wednesday just before he wraps up two days of meetings with NATO alliance members in London.
“I think it’s very unpatriotic of the Democrats to put on a performance,” Trump said. “I think it’s a bad thing for our country.”
Trump isn’t the only one complaining. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, White House counsel Pat Cipollone and adviser Kellyanne Conway all have criticized the committee’s timing.
Trump insists he’s solely focused on scoring domestic and foreign policy wins, including making NATO members spend more on defense. But he’s often appeared consumed by the day-to-day battle against impeachment.
“I’m not even thinking about it,” Trump insisted anew Tuesday.
Before the trip to London, Trump slammed “Do Nothing Democrats” for scheduling the hearing during the NATO meeting as “Not nice!”
He also said that during the flight he had read a newly issued Republican-prepared report on impeachment that called his decision to hold up military aid to Ukraine “entirely prudent.”
Democrats contend Trump abused his presidential powers by holding up the aid to pressure Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to investigate meddling in the 2016 US presidential election and former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, who had a seat on the board of Ukrainian energy company.
But Trump was adamant that the cloud of impeachment wasn’t undercutting his negotiating position on the international stage.
“I know most of the leaders,” Trump said. “I get along with them. It’s a hoax. The impeachment is a hoax. It’s turned out to be a hoax. It’s done for purely political gain. They’re going to see whether or not they can do something in 2020 because otherwise they’re going to lose.”
But even as he boasted of his relationships with NATO leaders, Trump rebuked French President Emmanuel Macron for recent comments that NATO was experiencing “brain death.” Macron argues that the US under Trump’s leadership has turned away from the alliance.
“Nobody needs NATO more than France,” said Trump, who himself in the past has questioned the long-term prospects of NATO because too few nations are on track to meet the alliance goal of spending at least 2% of GDP on their own defense by 2024. “You can’t just go around making statements like that about NATO. It’s very disrespectful.”
Trump also lashed out against France for a French digital service tax that he said unfairly discriminates against US tech companies, including Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon. There is no direct effect on the United States from the French tax, which only applies to the tech companies’ revenues in France, not the United States.
Robert Lighthizer, the chief US trade representative, on Monday recommended $2.4 billion in new tariffs on French cheese, wine, and other products.
The blistering comments from Trump came hours before he was to meet Macron later Tuesday on the sidelines of the NATO meeting. It marked an abrupt turn in the once warm relationship between the two leaders.
Macron hosted Trump in France in 2017 for Bastille Day celebrations in Paris. Trump reciprocated by honoring Macron last year with the first state visit of a foreign leader during his time in the White House.
Macron, however, has criticized Trump for abruptly withdrawing most of the US troops in Syria in October without coordinating with France and other NATO allies.
Trump also took a break from the NATO meetings to raise money for reelection campaign while in London, attending a hotel fundraiser with Americans living abroad to benefit the Trump Victory fund, the joint account of his campaign and the Republican National Committee. The fundraiser is bringing in $3 million for the reelection effort, according to a Republican familiar with the event.
Trump also appeared to lower expectations before the Dec. 9 release of a Justice Department inspector general’s report into the origins of the Russia investigation that bedeviled his first years in office.
Responding to a report that the inspector general concluded that the probe was properly founded, Trump said he was more focused on a separate report being prepared by US Attorney John Durham, who was tapped by Attorney General Bill Barr to launch his own investigation.
“That’s the one that people are really waiting for,” Trump said.
Heather Conley, an analyst at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, said that the trip offered Trump an opportunity to highlight to voters back home that he’s making progress on a foreign policy issue. The president views it “as his own personal foreign-policy success” that NATO members have increased defense spending by $130 billion since 2016.
“The deficit for many, many years has been astronomical (between) the United States and Europe,” Trump boasted. “And I’m changing that, and I’m changing it very rapidly.”
However, in 2014 — before Trump was elected — NATO members agreed to move “toward” spending 2% of their gross domestic product on their own defense by 2024. In late June, Stoltenberg said that the majority of the NATO allies have plans to reach that goal.


US presidential debate: Biden warns Iran will ‘pay price’ for election interference

Updated 23 October 2020

US presidential debate: Biden warns Iran will ‘pay price’ for election interference

  • Trump and Biden go toe-to-toe on foreign policy, COVID-19 and race
  • Final debate paints two stark pictures of America’s future

NEW YORK: Joe Biden warned Iran would “pay a price” for interfering in the US election if he is elected president.

During a more orderly second debate with President Donald Trump Thursday, the former vice president looked to take the initiative on foreign attempts to influence voters.

Moderator Kirsten Welker asked Biden about revelations from intelligence officials that Russia and Iran had attempted to meddle in the election and obtained voter registration information.

“We know that Russia has been involved, China has been involved to some degree, and now we learn that Iran has been involved,” Biden said, “They will pay a price if I’m elected.”

(AFP)

John Ratcliffe, the director of national intelligence, said this week that Iran used the information to send threatening emails to voters in Florida.  On Thursday, the US Treasury Department responded with new sanctions against five Iranian entities accused of spreading disinformation and division ahead of the election.

Biden’s warning to Iran would have rankled with Trump and his foreign policy team. The president has imposed a maximum pressure policy on Tehran by withdrawing from a 2015 nuclear deal and imposing tough sanctions.

Trump accuses the previous administration, in which Joe Biden deputized to Barack Obama, of allowing Iran to further its missile program and expand its militias across the Middle East.

On Russia, Biden said Moscow did not want him to get elected, because they know he would be tough on them.

“They know that I know them. And they know me,” Biden said.

Trump said: “There has been nobody tougher on Russia than Donald Trump.”

He accused Biden of receiving money from foreign companies.

“I have not taken a penny from any foreign source ever in my life,” Biden said, arguing that he had released all of his tax returns, unlike the president.

(AFP)

“Release your tax returns or stop talking about corruption,” Biden said. 

While the second and final debate ahead of the Nov. 3 election was a calmer affair than the first one, it was laden with attacks. 

The rules were different this time: microphones were muted for two-minute stretches to allow the other an uninterrupted answer. 

Welker kept the contentious rivals under control, and made sure things were clear and organized at the venue in Belmont University in Nashville. She got the best reviews of the night. 

A viewer tweeted: “Kristen Welker is putting on a master class in how to moderate a presidential debate.”

The two candidates squared off on foreign policy, the economy, race, healthcare, and climate change. 

(AFP)

The debate kicked off with exchanges over the coronavirus pandemic, which has killed more than 220,000 in the US, where most states are seeing a dramatic resurgence of the virus. 

Trump defended the way his administration handled COVID-19. “We closed up the greatest economy in the world in order to fight this horrible disease that came from China,” he said.

The president argued that the mortality rate has decreased and a vaccine would probably be ready before the end of the year. 

“We’re rounding the turn. We’re learning to live with it,” said Trump. 

“We’re learning to die with it,” replied Biden, who criticized the president for not having a plan to address the crisis.

“Anyone who’s responsible for that many deaths should not remain as president of the United States of America,” Biden said. 

(AFP)

Pivoting to a report that the current administration could not locate the parents of more than 500 children detained at the border with Mexico and separated from their families, Trump said children are brought across the border by “coyotes and drug cartels.” 

Defending his immigration policies, Trump said the border is now more secure than ever. 

He said he is “trying very hard” to reunite children with their parents. 

Biden called the Trump administration’s inability to locate the parents “criminal.” He said Trump’s family separation policy made America a laughingstock: “It violates every notion of who we are as a nation.”

The president then pressed Biden to answer “who built the cages” that were shown in media reports. Biden dodged the answer. 

The cages were built in 2014 by the Obama administration. 

Biden then promised, if elected, to put in motion reforms that would provide a pathway to citizenship, protected from deportation, for undocumented immigrants known as “Dreamers”.  “We owe them,” Biden said.

Discussion heated up when Welker breached the race topic, as the country continues to contend with civil unrest over racial injustice and police brutality.  

Biden said the US has “never, ever lived up” to the promise of liberty and equality for all, a principle upon which it was founded.

Trump said that, other than Abraham Lincoln, “nobody has done more for the Black community than Donald Trump.”

He attacked Biden’s support for the 1994 crime law, which critics say has led to mass incarceration.

But Biden turned to the camera and addressed voters directly:  “You know who I am. You know who he is.” 

Biden called the president a “racist” who “pours fuel on every single racist fire.”

(AFP)

“I think I have great relationships with all people. I am the least racist person in this room,” Trump responded.

Twelve days before the election, American voters were able to watch unfold two visions for the future of their country. It is hard to tell whether the candidates were able to broaden their appeal beyond their own bases and attract the undecided voters, whose numbers are shrinking by the day. 

Millions of them are already standing in long lines outside polling stations, braving night and chilly temperatures, to cast their early, final votes.