Trump ‘poured gasoline on fire’ at Capitol, ex-aides tell Jan. 6 probe

Trump ‘poured gasoline on fire’ at Capitol, ex-aides tell Jan. 6 probe
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Audio with the voice of a White House Security official is played as the House Select Committee investigation on the Jan. 6 attack continues. (AP)
Trump ‘poured gasoline on fire’ at Capitol, ex-aides tell Jan. 6 probe
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Matthew Pottinger, left, and Sarah Matthews testify before the House Select Committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol during the committee's hearing on July, 21, 2022. (REUTERS)
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Updated 22 July 2022

Trump ‘poured gasoline on fire’ at Capitol, ex-aides tell Jan. 6 probe

Trump ‘poured gasoline on fire’ at Capitol, ex-aides tell Jan. 6 probe
  • 'The dam has begun to break,' says Trump party mate Liz Cheney, as more witnesses agree to testify
  • Witnesses include deputy national security adviser and a deputy press secretary under Trump

WASHINGTON: With the Capitol siege raging, President Donald Trump poured “gasoline on the fire” by tweeting condemnation of Mike Pence’s refusal to go along with his plan to stop the certification of Joe Biden’s victory, former aides told the Jan. 6 investigating committee in a prime-time hearing Thursday night.
Earlier, an irate Trump demanded to be taken to the Capitol after his supporters had stormed the building, well aware of the deadly attack, but then returned to the White House and did nothing to call off the violence, despite appeals from family and close adviser,, witnesses testified.
At the Capitol, the mob was chanting “Hang Mike Pence,” testified Matt Pottinger, a deputy national security adviser for Trump, as Trump tweeted his condemnation of his vice president.




Former National Security Council member Matthew Pottinger testifies before the House Select Committee on July 21, 2022. (Oliver Contreras / AFP) 


Meanwhile, recordings of Secret Service radio transmissions revealed agents asking for messages to be relayed telling their families goodbye.
Pottinger said that when he saw Trump’s tweet he immediately decided to resign, as did former White House aide Sarah Matthews, who described herself as a lifelong Republican but could not go along with what was going on. She was the witness who called the tweet “pouring gasoline on the fire.”




Sarah Matthews, a former deputy White House press secretary, testifies before the House Select Committee on July 21, 2022. (Oliver Contreras / AFP) 

The hearing aimed to show a “minute by minute” accounting of Trump’s actions that day and how rather than stop the violence, he watched it all unfold on television at the White House.
An irate Trump demanded to be taken to the Capitol after the supporters he sent laid siege, well aware of the deadly attack and that some in the mob were armed but refusing to call it off as they fought to reverse his election defeat, witnesses told the Jan. 6 investigating committee Thursday night.
Trump had dispatched the crowd to Capitol Hill in heated rally remarks at the Ellipse behind the White House, and “within 15 minutes of leaving the stage, President Trump knew that the Capitol was besieged and under attack,” said committee member Elaine Luria, D-Virginia.
She said the panel had received testimony the confirming the powerful previous account of former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson of an altercation involving Trump as he insisted the Secret Service drive him to the Capitol.

“He lied, he bullied, he betrayed his oath”
Among the witnesses testifying Thursday in a recorded video was retired District of Columbia Metropolitan Police Department Sgt. Mark Robinson who told the committee that Trump was well aware of the number of weapons in the crowd of his supporters but wanted to go regardless.
“The only description that I received was that the president was upset, and that he was adamant about going to the Capitol and that there was a heated discussion about that,” Robinson said. The panel heard Trump was “irate.”
Rep. Luria said Trump “did not call to issue orders. He did not call to offer assistance.”
Chairman Bennie Thompson opened Thursday’s prime-time hearing of the Jan. 6 committee saying Trump as president did “everything in his power to overturn the election” he lost to Joe Biden, including before and during the deadly Capitol attack.
“He lied, he bullied, he betrayed his oath,” charged Thompson, D-Mississippi

After months of work and weeks of hearings, committee co-chair Liz Cheney of Wyoming said “the dam has begun to break” on revealing what happened that day, at the White House as well as in the violence at the Capitol.
This was probably the last hearing of the summer, but the panel said they will resume in September as more witnesses and information emerges.
“Our investigation goes forward,” said Thompson testifying remotely as he isolates after testing positive for COVID-19. “There needs to be accountability.”
Plunging into its second prime-time hearing on the Capitol attack, the committee vowed close scrutiny of Trump’s actions during the deadly riot, which the panel says he did nothing to stop but instead “gleefully” watched on television at the White House.
The hearing room was packed, including with several police officers who fought off the mob that day. The panel is diving into the 187 minutes that Trump failed to act on Jan. 6, 2021, despite pleas from aides, allies and even his family. The panel is arguing that the defeated president’s lies about a stolen election and attempts to overturn Joe Biden’s election victory fueled the attack and have left the United States facing enduring questions about the resiliency of its democracy.
“A profound moment of reckoning for America,” said Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., a member of the committee.

Live testimony
With live testimony from two former White House aides, and excerpts from the committee’s more than 1,000 interviews, the Thursday night session will add a closing chapter to the past six weeks of hearings that at times have captivated the nation and provided a record for history.
Ahead of the hearing, the committee released a video of four former White House aides — press secretary Kayleigh McEnany, security aide Gen. Keith Kellogg, White House Counsel Pat Cipollone and executive assistant to the president Molly Michael — testifying that Trump was in the private dining room with the TV on as the violence unfolded.
“Everyone was watching television,” Kellogg said.
Returning to prime time for the first time since the series of hearings began, the panel intends to explain just how close the United States came to what one retired federal judge testifying this summer called a constitutional crisis.
The events of Jan. 6 will be outlined “minute by minute,” said the panel’s vice chair, Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyoming.
“You will hear that Donald Trump never picked up the phone that day to order his administration to help,” Cheney said.
“He did not call the military. His Secretary of Defense received no order. He did not call his Attorney General. He did not talk to the Department of Homeland Security,” Cheney said. “Mike Pence did all of those things; Donald Trump did not.”
The hearing will show never-before-seen outtakes of a Jan. 7 video that White House aides pleaded for Trump to make as a message of national healing for the country. The footage will show how Trump struggled to condemn the mob of his supporters who violently breached the Capitol, according to a person familiar with the matter and granted anonymity to discuss it ahead of its public release.
Former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson has testified that Trump wanted to include language about pardoning the rioters in the speech, but White House lawyers advised against it. Trump reluctantly condemned the riot in a three-minute speech that night.

Testifying Thursday are former White House aides. Matt Pottinger, who was deputy national security adviser, and Sarah Matthews, then press aide, both submitted their resignations on Jan. 6, 2021, after what they saw that day. Trump has dismissed the hearings on social media and regarded much of the testimony as fake.
Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Mississippi, the chairman of the committee, is isolating after testing positive for COVID-19 and will attend by video. Rep. Elaine Luria, D-Virginia, a former Naval officer who will lead the session with Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Illinois, who flew combat missions in Iraq and Afghanistan, said she expects the testimony from the White House aides will “just be really compelling.”
“These are people who believed in the work they were doing, but didn’t believe in the stolen election,” Luria said.

840 rioters charged

The White House aides were not alone in calling it quits that day. The panel is expected to provide a tally of the Trump administration aides and even Cabinet members who resigned after Trump failed to call off the attack. Some Cabinet members were so alarmed they discussed invoking the 25th Amendment to remove Trump from office.
As the panel continues to collect evidence and prepares to issue a preliminary report of findings, it has amassed the most substantial public record to date of what led up to Americans attacking the seat of democracy.
While the committee cannot make criminal charges, the Justice Department is monitoring its work.
So far, more than 840 people have been charged with federal crimes related to the Capitol riot. Over 330 of them have pleaded guilty, mostly to misdemeanors. Of the more than 200 defendants to be sentenced, approximately 100 received terms of imprisonment.
What remains uncertain is whether Trump or the former president’s top allies will face serious charges. No former president has ever been federally prosecuted by the Justice Department.
Attorney General Merrick Garland said Wednesday that Jan. 6 is “the most wide-ranging investigation and the most important investigation that the Justice Department has ever entered into.”
“We have to get this right,” Garland said. “For people who are concerned, as I think every American should be, we have to do two things: We have to hold accountable every person who is criminally responsible for trying to overturn a legitimate election, and we must do it in a way filled with integrity and professionalism.”
In delving into the timeline, the panel aims to show what happened between the time Trump left the stage at his “Stop the Steal” rally shortly after 1:10 p.m., after telling supporters to march to the Capitol, and some three hours later, when he issued a video address from the Rose Garden in which he told the rioters to “go home” but also praised them as “very special.”
It also expects to produce additional evidence about Trump’s confrontation with Secret Service agents who refused to drive him to the Capitol — a witness account that the security detail has disputed.
Five people died that day as Trump supporters battled the police in gory hand-to-hand combat to storm the Capitol. One officer has testified about how she was “slipping in other people’s blood” as they tried to hold back the mob. One Trump supporter was shot and killed by police.
“The president didn’t do very much but gleefully watch television during this time frame,” Kinzinger said.
Not only did Trump refuse to tell the mob to leave the Capitol, he did not call other parts of the government for backup and gave no order to deploy the National Guard, Cheney said.
This despite countless pleas from Trump’s aides and allies, including his daughter Ivanka Trump and Fox News host Sean Hannity, according to previous testimony and text messages the committee has obtained.
“You will hear that leaders on Capitol Hill begged the president for help,” Cheney has said, including House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy, who she said indicated he was “’scared’ and called multiple members of President Trump’s family after he could not persuade the President himself.”
The panel has said its investigation is ongoing and other hearings are possible. It expects to compile a preliminary report this fall, and a final report by the end of this session of Congress.

 


Malaysia swears in new cabinet led by Anwar Ibrahim

Malaysia swears in new cabinet led by Anwar Ibrahim
Updated 03 December 2022

Malaysia swears in new cabinet led by Anwar Ibrahim

Malaysia swears in new cabinet led by Anwar Ibrahim
  • PM Anwar Ibrahim will also hold finance ministry portfolio
  • New government to focus on good governance, economy

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia’s new Cabinet led by Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim was sworn in on Saturday, after divisive polls last month.
Anwar became Malaysia’s 10th premier on Nov. 24 after a general election that produced no outright winner ended in a hung parliament.
With his reformist alliance Pakatan Harapan failing to secure a simple majority, he eventually formed a coalition government with the help of other political blocs.
Anwar unveiled his Cabinet lineup in a televised speech on Friday night, taking himself the Finance Ministry portfolio — a Cabinet role he first held 30 years ago — and appointing two deputy prime ministers: Ahmad Zahid Hamidi from the Barisan Nasional alliance, which had long dominated Malaysia’s political scene, and Fadillah Yusof, another key coalition partner from Gabungan Parti Sarawak, a regional Borneo-based bloc.
“The strength of the unity government has exceeded the two-thirds support in the parliament.  This mandate has given us the confidence to form a stronger cabinet line-up and we will work as a team,” Anwar said as he announced the lineup.
The new ministers, some clad in traditional Malay attire, took their oath on Saturday before King Sultan Abdullah Ahmad Shah at the National Palace in Kuala Lumpur.
The government with many new faces was expected to bring stability following a spate of political uncertainty in the Southeast Asian country, which saw three prime ministers in as many years. Anwar said good governance, spurring the economy, and reducing the burden of living costs will be their top priorities.
“This is the most stable lineup we can expect from the new administration,” BowerAsiaGroup director Adib Zalkapli told Arab News. “He has to balance the demands of all political parties in the coalition.”
The appointment of Hamidi as one of Anwar’s deputies had raised eyebrows as it appeared to contradict his anti-corruption platform. Hamidi, president of the Barisan Nasional coalition and the United Malays National Organization, has been charged with graft and was a key ally of jailed ex-leader Najib Razak.
Dr. Oh Ei Sun, a senior fellow at the Singapore Institute of International Affairs, said the move was necessary.
“Anwar needs Zahid to keep the Malay nationalist party UMNO with him,” he told Arab News.
Ethnic Malays make up a majority of Malaysia’s 33 million population, which also has a significant population of ethnic Chinese and Indians.
Dr. James Chin, a professor of Asian Studies at the University of Tasmania, said Anwar represented “a moderate Malaysia.”
“Most Malaysians will welcome this cabinet,” Chin told Arab News. “This cabinet has a better reflection of the multiracial society in Malaysia.”


Ukraine detains 8 over Banksy mural theft

Ukraine detains 8 over Banksy mural theft
Updated 03 December 2022

Ukraine detains 8 over Banksy mural theft

Ukraine detains 8 over Banksy mural theft
  • The stencil image of a person in a nightgown and gas mask holding a fire extinguisher next to the charred remains of a window in the town of Gostomel went missing on Friday
  • The image is in good condition and in the hands of the authorities
KYIV: Ukraine has detained eight people over the theft from a wall in the Kyiv suburbs of a mural painted by elusive British street artist Banksy, the authorities said.
The stencil image of a person in a nightgown and gas mask holding a fire extinguisher next to the charred remains of a window in the town of Gostomel went missing on Friday, they said.
“A group of people tried to steal a Banksy mural. They cut out the work from the wall of a house destroyed by the Russians,” Kyiv governor Oleksiy Kuleba said in a post on Telegram late Friday.
He attached the image of a gaping hole in the wall where the image once stood.
“Several people were detained on the spot,” he said. “The image is in good condition and in the hands of the authorities.”
Other works in the area thought also to be the work of Banksy are under police protection, he said.
Kyiv police chief Andriy Nebitov said “eight people had been identified” as possibly involved, and a preliminary inquiry had been opened into the matter.
“All were aged between 27 and 60 years old. They are residents of Kyiv and Cherkasy” some 200 km (120 miles) southeast of the capital, he said.
Last month, Banksy posted an image of the stencil of a gymnast performing a handstand on the wall of a wrecked building in Borodyanka, another suburb of the capital.
He then posted a video of several more of his artworks, including the person in a gas mask holding the fire extinguisher.
Others included the portraits of a bearded man scrubbing up in a bathtub, and a young boy in a karate outfit slamming his adult opponent to the ground.
Together with towns such as Bucha and Irpin, Borodyanka and Gostomel were severely hit by Russian bombardment after Russia invaded Ukraine in February.

Estonia to buy HIMARS rocket launchers from US

Estonia to buy HIMARS rocket launchers from US
Updated 03 December 2022

Estonia to buy HIMARS rocket launchers from US

Estonia to buy HIMARS rocket launchers from US
  • Estonia, which neighbors Russia, has increased defense spending since Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine
  • The HIMARS systems delivered to Ukraine are widely seen as one of the most effective tools in its arsenal

Tallinn, Estonia: Estonia has agreed to buy six HIMARS rocket systems from the United States worth over $200 million, the state defense investment agency said on Saturday.
It is the largest arms purchase in the country’s history.
Estonia, which neighbors Russia, has increased defense spending since Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, as has its Baltic neighbors, Latvia and Lithuania.
The HIMARS systems delivered to Ukraine are widely seen as one of the most effective tools in its arsenal, as the pro-Western country fights back against Russian troops.
Magnus-Valdemar Saar, director general of the Estonian Center for Defense Investments (ECDI), signed a contract on Friday with the United States’ Defense Security Cooperation Agency to boost the country’s indirect fire capability, the ECDI said in a statement.
Estonia will also “procure ammunition, communications solutions, as well as training, logistics, and life-cycle solutions,” said armament category manager Ramil Lipp.
The ECDI did not provide details on how many rockets were ordered but said the purchase included those which can strike targets at a distance of 300 kilometers (186 miles), and rockets of shorter range.
The first deliveries will arrive in 2024.
Lithuania last month said it would buy eight HIMARS rocket systems from the United States for $495 million.


UK could fast-track asylum claims from Syria, Afghanistan

UK could fast-track asylum claims from Syria, Afghanistan
Updated 03 December 2022

UK could fast-track asylum claims from Syria, Afghanistan

UK could fast-track asylum claims from Syria, Afghanistan
  • New 2-tier system being considered to reduce country’s 150,000-person backlog
  • Syrian, Afghan applications have 98% success rate in UK: Home Office

LONDON: The UK is to establish a two-tier asylum system to speed up claims from people fleeing war-torn countries such as Syria and Afghanistan, in plans set to be announced next week.

The country faces a significant backlog of 150,000 applications driven in part by mass migration of people from places such as Albania, which is considered a safe country. 

A huge number of people have taken to crossing the English Channel illegally in small boats to reach the UK, which has placed enormous burden on the state’s ability to house and support asylum-seekers.

The UK Home Office says by the end of the year it expects at least 50,000 people to have arrived in the country to claim asylum. 

Its figures also show that around 98 percent of applications from people fleeing Afghanistan, Syria and Eritrea, 87 percent from people from Sudan and 82 percent of Iranians — who make up around a third of the backlogged asylum claims in total — end up being approved.

Under the proposals, those from the likes of Afghanistan and Syria will now be prioritized and their processes streamlined, removing things such as follow-up interviews after initial approval, and security and identity checks. 

It is thought that this will allow more deserving refugees to start their lives in the UK, as it will allow them to find work and their own accommodation.

Applications from Albanians, meanwhile, will also be dealt with quicker, with a deal to be struck between London and Tirana to expedite the process of deporting those whose applications are denied.

One source told The Times that the new scheme is being overseen directly by UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, who has “completely taken control of the policy” from Home Secretary Suella Braverman, who had previously gone on record to say speeding up application processes based on nationality “wouldn’t be the right way to go.”

The source said: “He’s got teams of Home Office officials working directly to him, and Suella has been sidelined.”

A Home Office source told The Times that the department is looking at “focusing resources on very high grant rate cases.”


Albanian who entered UK in back of truck recalls serving lunch to Queen Elizabeth

Albanian who entered UK in back of truck recalls serving lunch to Queen Elizabeth
Updated 03 December 2022

Albanian who entered UK in back of truck recalls serving lunch to Queen Elizabeth

Albanian who entered UK in back of truck recalls serving lunch to Queen Elizabeth
  • Catering course gave Ismet Shehu chance to serve late monarch during Diamond Jubilee celebrations
  • ‘Can you imagine that? A poor boy from the countryside serving lunch to the queen of England?’

LONDON: An Albanian who traveled to Britain hidden in a truck has told the Daily Mail that he served lunch to the late Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip during Diamond Jubilee celebrations.

Ismet Shehu, now 32, made the dangerous journey aged 17 after traveling to Italy and then France, where in Lille he entered the back of a truck heading for Britain.

Shehu entered the construction and hospitality industries after arriving in the UK, working low-wage jobs before signing up to a university course teaching high-end catering in London.

That course, as part of its training program, offered a small group of students — including Shehu — the opportunity to serve lunch to Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip during the 2012 Diamond Jubilee celebrations.

Now back in Tirana, the Albanian capital, Shehu has used his experience in hospitality to open a range of successful restaurants.

He told the Mail: “Can you imagine that? A poor boy from the countryside serving lunch to the queen of England?

“It was such an honor for me to do that and all just a couple of years after getting into the country hiding in the back of a lorry. It was the most frightening experience of my life.”