Trump’s Foreign Policy wreckage in Asia


February 20, 2019

Trump’s Foreign Policy wreckage in Asia

Author: by Editorial Board, ANU

http://www.eastasiaforum.org/2019/02/11/trumps-foreign-policy-wreckage-in-asia/

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The real worry is that beyond Trump’s Presidency all the signs suggest that both the impulse of the United States to engage multilaterally will be very difficult to repair and that Mr Trump has fractured trust in multilateral endeavours around the world.–Editorial Board, ANU

When the Trump administration came to power two years ago, the response by policymakers with a huge stake in the relationship — from the leadership of China to that of rusted on allies like Japan or Australia — was that Trump’s team would settle back after the election and that business would resume with the new administration more or less as usual.

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The United States was the crux of the economic and political security system on which the world has relied for more than three-quarters of a century. The global economic architecture which the United States and its allies put in place after World War II is now absent US leadership and care. Mr Trump and his team have trashed it. Trump’s trade war with China and his trade actions against others, including US allies like Japan, Europe and Canada, show utter disrespect for its core rules. This system is the international system of rules, whatever its weaknesses, on which Asia’s political security also vitally depends.

The wreckage of Mr Trump’s approach to foreign policy continues to pile up across Asia and around the world.

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The immediate outlook, over the next year or two, promises rising economic and political uncertainty. The real estate market bargaining style that Mr Trump has brought to dealing with these issues undervalues the complex interdependence between the economic and political security interests that are at stake. It undervalues the damaging multilateral consequences of bilateral dealing. That’s what is so risky about the bilateralisation of the US trade negotiations with China, which as the largest trading nation in the world is wisely bound into the multilateral global trading regime. Japan too is under pressure to do a bilateral trade deal with Mr Trump — a deal that goes beyond the multilateral commitments it has made to members of the so-called TPP-11. On the US trade conflict with China, there’s a deepening perception gap with Washington, and diplomatic realignment despite the deep security undertow in some countries.

Asian policy leaders are still coming to terms with the reality that Mr Trump is different and that the United States which delivered his electoral success is never likely to be quite the same. But there’s a growing understanding in Tokyo, Jakarta and even Canberra of what’s at stake in dealing with Mr Trump’s administration and the more proactive response that will be needed to defend core Asian economic and political interests that transcend the anxieties that exist between a rising China and the rest of Asia.

In this week’s lead essay Sheila Smith argues that based on the past performance of the Trump administration, US policy in Asia will ‘be erratic and self-serving’ in the coming year as the Trump administration continues ‘to work out its issues with countries in the region bilaterally and sporadically’. The ‘more openly pugilistic US relationship with China’, she says, ‘unsettles nerves’ across the region.

But the main problem for US foreign policy makers, Smith reckons, is not the behaviour of other global actors, including those in Asia or elsewhere. The main problem is the ‘crippling divisions within the Trump administration itself, and between the administration and the legislative and judicial branches of the US government, [that] could make any attempt to marshal US resources into foreign relations almost impossible’.

The coming year, as Smith says, will likely be a year of domestic political entanglement for the President and his administration. The effect of the political turbulence surrounding the White House and the extent to which it dominates US foreign policy is one dimension. But the lack of focus and consistency in the direction of foreign policy strategy is an altogether higher order concern. Diminished expertise and experience at all levels of the Trump administration undermine the trust that allies, partners and even adversaries can put in the reliability of US posturing.

In the short term, these worries are focused on Mr Trump and his administration. Some think that Trump will have more freedom to pursue his ambitions for ‘America First’ around the world. The immediate issue is how to respond to the ‘America First’ momentum in all its dimensions. But even if there are fewer experts in the government to challenge Mr Trump’s vision, implementation of his goals remains a challenge, especially against what now appears to be comprehensive pushback by the US security community in almost every theatre.

The turmoil at home, Smith warns, could produce more brittle and reactive decisions. This could bedevil meaningful dealings with others around the globe because of the instinct to seek settlement prematurely, in the trade war with China or denuclearisation in North Korea, for example, instead of pursuing stable, long-lasting agreements that serve the interests of the United States as well as its partners.

The crrizeises Mr Trump proudly proclaims that he alone could have dealt with are largely of his own making ( and for he arrogantly thinks he deserves the Nobel Peace Prize). It’s hardly surprising that Asian allies and partners alike should worry about how Mr Trump might deal with a real crisis when there’s a significant move within the US Congress to put limits on the President’s use of nuclear weapons.

The chances that the Trump administration, in this mode, will succeed in mitigating global-system destabilising trade and other tensions with China or, alone, secure an agreement on denuclearisation with North Korea appear remote.

Only multilateral engagement on both these and other issues such as climate change is likely to deliver stable, mutually advantageous outcomes to the United States and all its partners in any of these areas. That’s not on Mr Trump’s agenda.

The real worry is that beyond Trump’s presidency all the signs suggest that both the impulse of the United States to engage multilaterally will be very difficult to repair and that Mr Trump has fractured trust in multilateral endeavours around the world.

The EAF Editorial Board is located in the Crawford School of Public Policy, College of Asia and the Pacific, The Australian National University.

Intimidation, Pressure and Humiliation: Inside Trump’s Two-Year War on the Investigations Encircling Him President Trump’s efforts have exposed him to accusations of


February 20,2019

WASHINGTON — As federal prosecutors in Manhattan gathered evidence late last year about President Trump’s role in silencing women with hush payments during the 2016 campaign, Mr. Trump called Matthew G. Whitaker, his newly installed attorney general, with a question. He asked whether Geoffrey S. Berman, the United States attorney for the Southern District of New York and a Trump ally, could be put in charge of the widening investigation, according to several American officials with direct knowledge of the call.

Mr. Whitaker, who had privately told associates that part of his role at the Justice Department was to “jump on a grenade” for the president, knew he could not put Mr. Berman in charge because Mr. Berman had already recused himself from the investigation. The president soon soured on Mr. Whitaker, as he often does with his aides, and complained about his inability to pull levers at the Justice Department that could make the president’s many legal problems go away.

Trying to install a perceived loyalist atop a widening inquiry is a familiar tactic for Mr. Trump, who has been struggling to beat back the investigations that have consumed his presidency. His efforts have exposed him to accusations of obstruction of justice as Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel, finishes his work investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election.

Mr. Trump’s public war on the inquiry has gone on long enough that it is no longer shocking. Mr. Trump rages almost daily to his 58 million Twitter followers that Mr. Mueller is on a “witch hunt” and has adopted the language of Mafia bosses by calling those who cooperate with the special counsel “rats.” His lawyer talks openly about a strategy to smear and discredit the special counsel investigation. The president’s allies in Congress and the conservative news media warn of an insidious plot inside the Justice Department and the F.B.I. to subvert a democratically elected president.

An examination by The New York Times reveals the extent of an even more sustained, more secretive assault by Mr. Trump on the machinery of federal law enforcement. Interviews with dozens of current and former government officials and others close to Mr. Trump, as well as a review of confidential White House documents, reveal numerous unreported episodes in a two-year drama.

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Matthew G. Whitaker, the former acting attorney general, is now under scrutiny by the House for possible perjury. CreditTom Brenner for The New York Times

White House lawyers wrote a confidential memo expressing concern about the president’s staff peddling misleading information in public about the firing of Michael T. Flynn, the Trump administration’s first national security adviser. Mr. Trump had private conversations with Republican lawmakers about a campaign to attack the Mueller investigation. And there was the episode when he asked his attorney general about putting Mr. Berman in charge of the Manhattan investigation.

Mr. Whitaker, who this month told a congressional committee that Mr. Trump had never pressured him over the various investigations, is now under scrutiny by House Democrats for possible perjury.

On Tuesday, after The Times article published, Mr. Trump denied that he had asked Mr. Whitaker if Mr. Berman could be put in charge of the investigation. “No, I don’t know who gave you that, that’s more fake news,” Mr. Trump said. “There’s a lot of fake news out there. No, I didn’t.”

A Justice Department spokeswoman said Tuesday that the White House had not asked Mr. Whitaker to interfere in the investigations. “Under oath to the House Judiciary Committee, then-Acting Attorney General Whitaker stated that ‘at no time has the White House asked for nor have I provided any promises or commitments concerning the special counsel’s investigation or any other investigation,’” said the spokeswoman, Kerri Kupec. “Mr. Whitaker stands by his testimony.”

The story of Mr. Trump’s attempts to defang the investigations has been voluminously covered in the news media, to such a degree that many Americans have lost track of how unusual his behavior is. But fusing the strands reveals an extraordinary story of a president who has attacked the law enforcement apparatus of his own government like no other president in history, and who has turned the effort into an obsession. Mr. Trump has done it with the same tactics he once used in his business empire: demanding fierce loyalty from employees, applying pressure tactics to keep people in line and protecting the brand — himself — at all costs.

 

Trump’s Public Attacks Against the Russia Investigation

President Trump has publicly criticized dozens of people and groups related to federal inquiries into contacts between his campaign and Russia, according to a New York Times analysis of nearly every public statement or Twitter post that he has made while in office.

 

It is a public relations strategy as much as a legal strategy — a campaign to create a narrative of a president hounded by his “deep state” foes. The new Democratic majority in the House, and the prospect of a wave of investigations on Capitol Hill this year, will test whether the strategy shores up Mr. Trump’s political support or puts his presidency in greater peril. The president has spent much of his time venting publicly about there being “no collusion” with Russia before the 2016 election, which has diverted attention from a growing body of evidence that he has tried to impede the various investigations.

Julie O’Sullivan, a criminal law professor at Georgetown University, said she believed there was ample public evidence that Mr. Trump had the “corrupt intent” to try to derail the Mueller investigation, the legal standard for an obstruction of justice case.

But this is far from a routine criminal investigation, she said, and Mr. Mueller will have to make judgments about the effect on the country of making a criminal case against the president. Democrats in the House have said they will wait for Mr. Mueller to finish his work before making a decision about whether the president’s behavior warrants impeachment.

In addition to the Mueller investigation, there are at least two other federal inquiries that touch the president and his advisers — the Manhattan investigation focused on the hush money payments made by Mr. Trump’s lawyer, Michael D. Cohen, and an inquiry examining the flow of foreign money to the Trump inaugural committee.

The president’s defenders counter that most of Mr. Trump’s actions under scrutiny fall under his authority as the head of the executive branch. They argue that the Constitution gives the president sweeping powers to hire and fire, to start and stop law enforcement proceedings, and to grant presidential pardons to friends and allies. A sitting American president cannot be indicted, according to current Justice Department policy.

Mr. Trump’s lawyers add this novel response: The president has been public about his disdain for the Mueller investigation and other federal inquiries, so he is hardly engaged in a conspiracy. He fired one F.B.I. director and considered firing his replacement. He humiliated his first attorney general for being unable to “control” the Russia investigation and installed a replacement, Mr. Whitaker, who has told people he believed his job was to protect the President. But that, they say, is Donald Trump being Donald Trump.

 

 

In other words, the President’s brazen public behavior might be his best defense.

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Mr. Trump tried to shape the narrative around the resignation of his first national security adviser, Michael T. Flynn.Credit Tom Brenner for The New York Times

 

The investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and whether the Trump campaign aided the effort presented the new White House with its first crisis after only 25 days. The president immediately tried to contain the damage.

It was Feb. 14, 2017, and Mr. Trump and his advisers were in the Oval Office debating how to explain the resignation of Mr. Flynn, the national security adviser, the previous night. Mr. Flynn, who had been a top campaign adviser to Mr. Trump, was under investigation by the F.B.I. for his contacts with Russians and secret foreign lobbying efforts for Turkey.

The Justice Department had already raised questions that Mr. Flynn might be subject to blackmail by the Russians for misleading White House officials about the Russian contacts, and inside the White House there was a palpable fear that the Russia investigation could consume the early months of a new administration.

As the group in the Oval Office talked, one of Mr. Trump’s advisers mentioned in passing what Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin, then the speaker of the House, had told reporters — that Mr. Trump had asked Mr. Flynn to resign.

It was unclear where Mr. Ryan had gotten that information, but Mr. Trump seized on Mr. Ryan’s words. “That sounds better,” the president said, according to people with knowledge of the discussions. Mr. Trump turned to the White House press secretary at the time, Sean Spicer, who was preparing to brief the news media.

“Say that,” Mr. Trump ordered.

But was that true? Mr. Spicer pressed.

“Say that I asked for his resignation,” Mr. Trump repeated.

“This Russia thing is all over now because I fired Flynn,” Mr. Trump said over lunch that day, according to a new book by Chris Christie, a former New Jersey governor and a longtime Trump ally.

Mr. Christie was taken aback. “This Russia thing is far from over,” Mr. Christie wrote that he told Mr. Trump, who responded: “What do you mean? Flynn met with the Russians. That was the problem. I fired Flynn. It’s over.”

Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser, who was also at the lunch, chimed in, according to Mr. Christie’s book: “That’s right, firing Flynn ends the whole Russia thing.”

As Mr. Trump was lunching with Mr. Christie, lawyers in the White House Counsel’s Office met with Mr. Spicer about what he should say from the White House podium about what was a sensitive national security investigation. But when Mr. Spicer’s briefing began, the lawyers started hearing numerous misstatements — some bigger than others — and ended up compiling them all in a memo.

The lawyers’ main concern was that Mr. Spicer overstated how exhaustively the White House had investigated Mr. Flynn and that he said, wrongly, that administration lawyers had concluded there were no legal issues surrounding Mr. Flynn’s conduct.

Mr. Spicer later told people he stuck to talking points that he was given by the counsel’s office, and that White House lawyers expressed concern only about how he had described the thoroughness of the internal inquiry into Mr. Flynn. The memo written by the lawyers said that Mr. Spicer was presented with a longer list of his misstatements. The White House never publicly corrected the record.

 

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Sean Spicer, the former White House press secretary, overstated how thoroughly the White House had investigated Mr. Flynn. CreditStephen Crowley/The New York Times

Later that day, Mr. Trump confronted the F.B.I. director, James B. Comey, in the Oval Office. The president told him that Mr. Spicer had done a great job explaining how the White House had handled the firing. Then he asked Mr. Comey to end the F.B.I.’s investigation into Mr. Flynn, and said that Mr. Flynn was a good guy.

 

Mr. Comey responded, according to a memo he wrote at the time, that Mr. Flynn was indeed a good guy. But he said nothing about ending the F.B.I. investigation.

By March, Mr. Trump was in a rage that his attorney general, Jeff Sessions, had recused himself from the Russia inquiry because investigators were looking into the campaign, of which Mr. Sessions had been a part. Mr. Trump was also growing increasingly frustrated with Mr. Comey, who refused to say publicly that the president was not under investigation.

Mr. Trump finally fired Mr. Comey in May. But the President and the White House gave conflicting accounts of their reasoning for the dismissal, which served only to exacerbate the President’s legal exposure.

A week after the firing, The Times disclosed that the president had asked Mr. Comey to end the Flynn investigation. The next day, the deputy attorney general, Rod J. Rosenstein, appointed Mr. Mueller, a Republican, as special counsel.

Instead of ending the Russia investigation by firing Mr. Comey, Mr. Trump had drastically raised the stakes.

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Jeff Sessions, the former attorney general, recused himself from the Russia investigation, a decision that greatly angered the president.CreditStephen Crowley/The New York Times

 

Mr. Mueller’s appointment fueled Mr. Trump’s anger and what became increasingly reckless behavior — setting off a string of actions over the summer of 2017 that could end up as building blocks in a case by Congress that the President engaged in a broad effort to thwart the investigation.

On Twitter and in news media interviews, Mr. Trump tried to pressure investigators and undermine the credibility of potential witnesses in the Mueller investigation.

 

He directed much of his venom at Mr. Sessions, who had recused himself in March from overseeing the Russia investigation because of contacts he had during the election with Russia’s ambassador to the United States.

The president humiliated Mr. Sessions at every turn, and stunned Washington when he said during an interview with The Times that he never would have named Mr. Sessions attorney general if he had known Mr. Sessions would step aside from the investigation.

Privately, Mr. Trump tried to remove Mr. Sessions — he said he wanted an attorney general who would protect him — but did not fire him, in part because White House aides dodged the president’s orders to demand his resignation. The president even called his former campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, over the Fourth of July weekend to ask him to pressure Mr. Sessions to resign. Mr. Lewandowski was noncommittal and never acted on the request.

Trump Has Publicly Attacked the Russia Investigation More Than 1,100 Times

President Trump has publicly criticized federal investigations, opening him up to possible obstruction of justice charges.

 

One of Mr. Trump’s lawyers also reached out that summer to the lawyers for two of his former aides — Paul Manafort and Mr. Flynn — to discuss possible pardons. The discussions raised questions about whether the president was willing to offer pardons to influence their decisions about whether to plead guilty and cooperate in the Mueller investigation.

The president even tried to fire Mr. Mueller himself, a move that could have brought an end to the investigation. Just weeks after Mr. Mueller’s appointment, the president insisted that he ought to be fired because of perceived conflicts of interest. Mr. Trump’s White House counsel, Donald F. McGahn II, who would have been responsible for carrying out the order, refused and threatened to quit.

The president eventually backed off.

 

Republican Representatives Lee Zeldin, left, Mark Meadows, Matt Gaetz and Jim Jordan launched an offensive against the Mueller investigation .
CreditAlex Wong/Getty Images

Sitting in the Delta Sky Lounge during a layover at Atlanta’s airport in July 2017, Representative Matt Gaetz, a first-term Republican from the Florida Panhandle, decided it was time to attack. Mr. Gaetz, then 35, believed that the president’s allies in Congress needed a coordinated strategy to fight back against an investigation they viewed as deeply unfair and politically biased.

He called Representative Jim Jordan, a conservative Republican from Ohio, and told him the party needed “to go play offense,” Mr. Gaetz recalled in an interview.

 

The two men believed that Republican leaders, who publicly praised the appointment of Mr. Mueller, had been beaten into a defensive crouch by the unending chaos and were leaving Democrats unchecked to “pistol whip” the president with constant accusations about his campaign and Russia.

So they began to investigate the investigators. Mr. Trump and his lawyers enthusiastically encouraged the strategy, which, according to some polls, convinced many Americans that the country’s law enforcement apparatus was determined to bring down the President.

Within days of their conversation, Mr. Gaetz and Mr. Jordan drafted a letter to Mr. Sessions and Mr. Rosenstein, the first call for the appointment of a second special counsel to essentially reinvestigate Hillary Clinton for her handling of her emails while secretary of state — the case had ended in the summer of 2016 — as well as the origins of the F.B.I.’s investigation of Mr. Flynn and other Trump associates.

The letter itself, with the signatures of only 20 House Republicans, gained little traction at first. But an important shift was underway: At a time when Mr. Trump’s lawyers were urging him to cooperate with Mr. Mueller and to tone down his Twitter feed, the president’s fiercest allies in Congress and the conservative news media were busy trying to flip the script on the federal law enforcement agencies and officials who began the inquiry into Mr. Trump’s campaign.

Mr. Gaetz and Mr. Jordan began huddling with like-minded Republicans, sometimes including Representative Mark Meadows, a press-savvy North Carolinian close to Mr. Trump, and Representative Devin Nunes of California, the head of the House Intelligence Committee.

Mr. Nunes, the product of a dairy farming family in California’s Central Valley, had already emerged as one of Mr. Trump’s strongest allies in Congress. He worked closely with Mr. Flynn during the Trump transition after the 2016 election, and he had a history of battling the C.I.A. and other intelligence agencies, which he sometimes accused of coloring their analysis for partisan reasons. In the spring of 2017, Mr. Nunes sought to bolster Mr. Trump’s false claim that President Barack Obama had ordered an illegal wiretap on Trump Tower in Manhattan.

Using Congress’s oversight powers, the Republican lawmakers succeeded in doing what Mr. Trump could not realistically do on his own: force into the open some of the government’s most sensitive investigative files — including secret wiretaps and the existence of an F.B.I. informant — that were part of the Russia inquiry.

House Republicans opened investigations into the F.B.I.’s handling of the Clinton email case and a debunked Obama-era uranium deal indirectly linked to Mrs. Clinton. The lawmakers got a big assist from the Justice Department, which gave them private texts recovered from two senior F.B.I. officials who had been on the Russia case. The officials — Peter Strzok and Lisa Page — repeatedly criticized Mr. Trump in their texts, which were featured in a loop on Fox News and became a centerpiece of an evolving and powerful conservative narrative about a cabal inside the F.B.I. and Justice Department to take down Mr. Trump.

The President cheered on the lawmakers on Twitter, in interviews and in private, urging Mr. Gaetz on Air Force One in December 2017 and in subsequent phone calls to keep up the House Republicans’ oversight work. He was hoping for fair treatment from Mr. Mueller, Mr. Trump told Mr. Gaetz in one of the calls just after the congressman appeared on Fox News, but that did not preclude him from encouraging his allies’ scrutiny of the investigation.

Later, when Mr. Nunes produced a memo alleging that the F.B.I. had abused its authority in spying on a former Trump campaign associate, Carter Page, Mr. Trump called Mr. Nunes a “Great American Hero” in a tweet. (The F.B.I. said it had “grave concerns” about the memo’s accuracy.)

Mr. Trump eventually shifted away from relatively quiet cooperation with Mr. Mueller’s investigators toward a targeted and relentless frontal attack on their credibility and impartiality. CreditDoug Mills/The New York Times
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Mr. Trump eventually shifted away from relatively quiet cooperation with Mr. Mueller’s investigators toward a targeted and relentless frontal attack on their credibility and impartiality.
Credit Doug Mills/The New York Times

The President became an active participant in the effort to attack American law enforcement. He repeatedly leaned on administration officials on behalf of the lawmakers — urging Mr. Rosenstein and other law enforcement leaders to flout procedure and share sensitive materials about the open case with Congress. As president, Mr. Trump has ultimate authority over information that passes through the government, but his interventions were unusual.

By the spring of 2018, Mr. Nunes zeroed in on new targets. In one case, he threatened to hold Mr. Rosenstein in contempt of Congress or even try to impeach him if the documents he wanted were not turned over, including the file used to open the Russia case. In another, he pressed the Justice Department for sensitive information about a trusted F.B.I. informant used in the Russia investigation, a Cambridge professor named Stefan Halper — even as intelligence officials said that the release of the information could damage relationships with important allies.

The president chimed in, accusing the F.B.I., without evidence, of planting a spy in his campaign. “SPYGATE could be one of the biggest political scandals in history!” Mr. Trump wrote, turning the term into a popular hashtag.

Most Senate Republicans tried to ignore the House tactics, and not all House Republicans who participated in the investigations agreed with the scorched-earth approach. Representative Trey Gowdy, Republican of South Carolina and a former federal prosecutor who had led Republicans in the Benghazi investigation, felt that figures like Mr. Gaetz and, in some cases, Mr. Nunes, were hurting their own cause with a sloppy, overhyped campaign that damaged Congress’s credibility.

 

Former Representative Thomas J. Rooney of Florida, a Republican who sat on the Intelligence Committee and retired last year, was similarly critical. “The efforts to tag Mueller as a witch hunt are a mistake,” he said in an interview. “The guy is an American hero. He is somebody who has always spouted the rule of law in what our country is about.”

But Mr. Gaetz makes no apologies.

“Do I think it’s right that our work in the Congress has aided in the president’s defense?” he asked, before answering his own question.

“Yeah, I think it is right.”

Ultimately, his strategy was successful in softening the ground for a shift in the president’s legal strategy — away from relatively quiet cooperation with Mr. Mueller’s investigators and toward a targeted and relentless frontal attack on their credibility and impartiality.

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Mr. Trump hired Rudolph W. Giuliani as his personal lawyer last year .CreditErin Schaff for The New York Times

Last April, Mr. Trump hired Rudolph W. Giuliani, his longtime friend and a famously combative former mayor of New York, as his personal lawyer and ubiquitous television attack dog. A new war had begun.

In jettisoning his previous legal team — which had counseled that Mr. Trump should cooperate with the investigation — the President decided to combine a legal strategy with a public relations campaign in an aggressive effort to undermine the credibility of both Mr. Mueller and the Justice Department.

Mr. Mueller was unlikely to indict Mr. Trump, the president’s advisers believed, so the real danger to his presidency was impeachment — a political act that Congress would probably carry out only with broad public support. If Mr. Mueller’s investigation could be discredited, then impeachment might be less likely.

Months of caustic presidential tweets and fiery television interviews by Mr. Giuliani unfolded. The former mayor accused Mr. Mueller, without evidence, of bias and ignoring facts to carry out an anti-Trump agenda. He called one of Mr. Mueller’s top prosecutors, Andrew Weissmann, a “complete scoundrel.”

Behind the scenes, Mr. Giuliani was getting help from a curious source: Kevin Downing, a lawyer for Mr. Manafort. Mr. Manafort, who had been Mr. Trump’s 2016 campaign chairman, had agreed to cooperate with the special counsel after being convicted of financial crimes in an attempt to lessen a potentially lengthy prison sentence. Mr. Downing shared details about prosecutors’ lines of questioning, Mr. Giuliani admitted late last year.

It was a highly unusual arrangement — the lawyer for a cooperating witness providing valuable information to the president’s lawyer at a time when his client remained in the sights of the special counsel’s prosecutors. The arrangement angered Mr. Mueller’s investigators, who questioned what Mr. Manafort was trying to gain from the arrangement.

The attacks on the Mueller investigation appeared to have an effect. Last summer, polling showed a 14-point uptick in the percentage of Americans polled who disapproved of how Mr. Mueller was handling the inquiry. “Mueller is now slightly more distrusted than trusted, and Trump is a little ahead of the game,” Mr. Giuliani said during an interview in August.

“So I think we’ve done really well,” Mr. Giuliani added. “And my client’s happy.”

Michael D. Cohen, the president’s former personal lawyer, told a judge that Mr. Trump had ordered him to arrange the payments to two women who said they had sex with Mr. Trump.CreditAndres Kudacki for The New York Times
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Michael D. Cohen, the President’s former personal lawyer, told a judge that Mr. Trump had ordered him to arrange the payments to two women who said they had sex with Mr. Trump 
Credit Andres Kudacki for The New York Times

But Mr. Giuliani and his client had a serious problem, which they were slow to comprehend.

In April, the F.B.I. raided the Manhattan office and residences of Mr. Cohen — the president’s lawyer and fixer — walking off with business records, emails and other documents dating back years. At first, Mr. Trump was not concerned.

The president told advisers that Mr. Rosenstein assured him at the time that the Cohen investigation had nothing to do with him. In the president’s recounting, Mr. Rosenstein told him that the inquiry in New York was about Mr. Cohen’s business dealings, that it did not involve the president and that it was not about Russia. Since then, Mr. Trump has asked his advisers if Mr. Rosenstein was deliberately misleading him to keep him calm.

Mr. Giuliani initially portrayed Mr. Cohen as “honest,” and the President praised him publicly. But Mr. Cohen soon told prosecutors in New York how Mr. Trump had ordered him during the 2016 campaign to buy the silence of women who claimed they had sex with Mr. Trump. In a separate bid for leniency, Mr. Cohen told Mr. Mueller’s prosecutors about Mr. Trump’s participation in negotiations during the height of the presidential campaign to build a Trump Tower in Moscow.

 

Mr. Trump was now battling twin investigations that seemed to be moving ever close to him. And Mr. Cohen, once the president’s fiercest defender, was becoming his chief tormentor.

In a court appearance in August, Mr. Cohen pleaded guilty and told a judge that Mr. Trump had ordered him to arrange the payments to the women, Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal. Mr. Cohen’s descriptions of Mr. Trump’s actions made the president, in effect, an unindicted co-conspirator and raised the prospect of the president being charged after he leaves office. Representative Jerrold Nadler, Democrat of New York, who in January became the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, which has jurisdiction over the matter, said the implied offense was probably impeachable.

The president struck back, launching a volley of tweets that savaged Mr. Cohen and his family — insinuating that Mr. Cohen’s father-in-law had engaged in unexamined criminal activity. He called Mr. Cohen a “rat.” The messages infuriated Democratic lawmakers, who claimed the president was trying to threaten and intimidate a witness before testimony Mr. Cohen planned before Congress.

“He’s only been threatened by the truth,” the president responded.

As the prosecutors closed in, Mr. Trump felt a more urgent need to gain control of the investigation.

He made the call to Mr. Whitaker to see if he could put Mr. Berman in charge of the New York investigation. The inquiry is run by Robert Khuzami, a career prosecutor who took over after Mr. Berman, whom Mr. Trump appointed, recused himself because of a routine conflict of interest.

What exactly Mr. Whitaker did after the call is unclear, but there is no evidence that he took any direct steps to intervene in the Manhattan investigation. He did, however, tell some associates at the Justice Department that the prosecutors in New York required “adult supervision.”

 
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William P. Barr was sworn in as attorney general on Thursday. Many officials at the Justice Department hope he will try to change the Trump administration’s combative tone toward the department, as well as toward the F.B.I.
C Sarah Silbiger/The New York Times

Second, Mr. Trump moved on to a new attorney general, William P. Barr, whom Mr. Trump nominated for the job in part because of a memo Mr. Barr wrote last summer making a case that a sitting American president cannot be charged with obstruction of justice for acts well within his power — like firing an F.B.I. director.

 

A president cannot be found to have broken the law, Mr. Barr argued, if he was exercising his executive powers to fire subordinates or use his “complete authority to start or stop a law enforcement proceeding.”

The memo might have ingratiated Mr. Barr to his future boss, but Mr. Barr is also respected among the rank and file in the Justice Department. Many officials there hope he will try to change the Trump administration’s combative tone toward the department, as well as toward the F.B.I.

Whether it is too late is another question. Mr. Trump’s language, and allegations of “deep state” excesses, are now embedded in the political conversation, used as a cudgel by the president’s supporters.

This past December, days before Mr. Flynn was to be sentenced for lying to the F.B.I., his lawyers wrote a memo to the judge suggesting that federal agents had tricked the former national security adviser into lying. The judge roundly rejected that argument, and on sentencing day, he excoriated Mr. Flynn for his crimes.

The argument about F.B.I. trickery did, however, appear to please the one man who holds great power over Mr. Flynn’s future — the constitutional power to pardon.

“Good luck today in court to General Michael Flynn,” Mr. Trump tweeted cheerily on the morning of the sentencing.

Katie Benner contributed reporting.

 

 

 

 

 

Trump Has Publicly Attacked the Russia Investigation More Than 1,100 Times

Trump’s Bizarre, Rambling Announcement of a National Emergency


February 16, 2019

Carlos Barria / Reuters

After failing for two years to persuade Congress to fund a wall on the southern border, President Donald Trump on Friday said he will declare a national emergency and reallocate some $8 billion to build the wall through executive fiat.

Trump announced the move in a rambling, free-associative appearance in the White House Rose Garden that was more MAGA rally than presidential announcement. Even by the standards of this President, his remarks were confusing, untruthful, and often off topic, with strange ad-hominem attacks on other politicians and sharp exchanges with reporters. Despite claiming that the nation faces an acute crisis that requires immediate attention, the president meandered through a long preamble about trade deals and North Korea. When he finally got to the point, he struggled to stay focused.

“We’re going to be signing today and registering national emergency,” he said. “And it’s a great thing to do, because we have an invasion of drugs, invasion of gangs, invasion of people, and it’s unacceptable. And by signing the national emergency, something signed many times by other presidents, many, many times, President Obama, in fact, we may be using one of the national emergencies that he signed having to do with cartels, criminal cartels. It’s a very good emergency that he signed … And what we really want to do is simple. It’s not like it is complicated. It’s very simple. We want to stop drugs from coming into our country. We want to stop criminals and gangs from coming into our country. Nobody has done the job that we have ever done.”

Yet Trump also undermined his own case for the national emergency, effectively saying the declaration was all about political expediency.

“I can do the wall over a longer period of time. I didn’t need to do this. I would rather do it much faster,” the president said, an astonishing acknowledgment that could come back to haunt him in court.

It was one of the least coherent appearances Trump has made in a presidency noted for its incoherence. Yet the circus in the Rose Garden threatened to distract from a major policy announcement.

During a briefing Friday morning, acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney said that Trump would take $600 million from a Treasury Department forfeiture fund, $2.5 billion from a Defense Department counter-drug fund, and another $3.6 billion from Pentagon military-construction money. Only the construction funds require an emergency declaration. Trump will not take money from disaster-relief funds, an idea that had been discussed.

The move is sure to draw legal challenges, and might not take effect exactly as Trump described. But the fact remains that the President has declared a national emergency in order to save face with anti-immigration members of the conservative media and his base, having been roundly defeated in a joust with Congress over funding. In essence, the president has created a new crisis to get himself out of a previous crisis—which he also created. And the timing of Trump’s announcement, after months of equivocating and congressional debate, hardly supports the idea of an acute crisis.

There is an irony to Trump’s declaration. Prior to being elected, Trump aggressively criticized then-President Barack Obama, saying that he could be impeached for using executive orders to change immigration policies.

“Now he has to use executive action and this is a very, very dangerous thing that should be overwritten easily by the Supreme Court,” Trump said in 2014.  The following year, Trump said, “The whole concept of executive order—it’s not the way the country is supposed to be run. He’s supposed to go through Congress and make a deal and go and talk to people and get the guys in there and, you know, whether you’re Republican or Democrat, is supposed to all get together. He’s supposed to make a deal, but he couldn’t make a deal, because it’s not his thing.” During the presidential campaign, Trump promised to withdraw Obama’s executive orders and accused him of abuses. Since becoming president, however, Trump has become a prolific user of executive orders.

Yet by declaring a national emergency, Trump is doing something more aggressive still. There is nuance to the situation: As the White House points out, Trump is using powers granted to him under a law passed by Congress in 1976, and not creating powers out of thin air. But it’s not clear that this situation fits within the letter of the law, and it’s all but impossible to say that it follows the spirit of the law.

Any declaration of emergency seems by definition distressing—either the president is announcing a bona fide emergency or the government is creating an opportunity for abuse of power, or both. The very point of emergency provisions is to circumvent standard protections and procedures. While that should be concerning to citizens in any case, it’s especially worthy of scrutiny coming from Trump, a president who has disregarded restraints, procedures, and laws even without claiming extraordinary powers; acted like the ruler of a one-party state; and expressed admiration for authoritarians.

As Elizabeth Goitein explained in The Atlantic recently, the 1976 National Emergencies Act superseded a range of laws that were designed to grant the president leeway to respond to an acute crisis. Congress concluded that there are times when the country needs to respond faster than the standard legislative process can act. Mulvaney said Friday that Trump is simply invoking this law.

“It actually creates zero precedent,” he said. “This is authority given to the president, given to the law already. It’s not like he didn’t get what he wants, so he’s waving his wand.”

This is only half true. The authority does exist, and critics saying otherwise are exaggerating. But it’s also exactly like he didn’t get what he wanted, so he’s waving a wand. There’s a legitimate argument to be had over whether a serious problem exists at the border, though the case that there is one is weak. While illegal immigration to the United States is rising, it remains well below the recent peak, in 2000. Trump allies have argued that recent incidents where the Border Patrol fired tear gas across the border show the menace posed by immigrants; however, as Press Secretary Sarah Sanders pointed out, tear-gassing was common during the Obama administration. The White House has also offered up a bogus statistic about terrorists trying to enter the United States.

But there’s no case to be made that Congress hasn’t had a chance to act. Trump has been asking lawmakers to fund his wall since he took office, in January 2017. He failed to persuade even a unified Republican Congress to give him the money. (On Friday morning, Trump repeatedly criticized those in the last Congress who didn’t push hard enough to fund the wall, a clear reference to former House Speaker Paul Ryan.) Since December, two Congresses—one with unified GOP control, and then another with a Democratic House and Republican Senate—have been extensively considering border funding, and they have decided, clearly, not to give Trump the money. The Constitution grants Congress the power to appropriate, and it has decided at length what it wants—a fact Mulvaney acknowledged.

“They’re simply incapable of providing the amount of money necessary in the president’s eyes to address the present situation at the border,” he said. But it’s impossible to believe that Congress passed the National Emergencies Act for the purpose of the president sidestepping the Constitution simply because Congress decided it disagreed with him.

Image result for Mitch poodle McConnell

This is a fact other Republicans have acknowledged. Senator Susan Collins of Maine has called the emergency “dubious from a constitutional perspective.” Senator John Cornyn of Texas has expressed worry that a future Democratic President could use unilateral power in ways that would make Republicans uncomfortable. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said in the past that he hoped Trump would not declare an emergency. Yet on Thursday, Poodle McConnell announced he would support the declaration.

While the President does not need Congress’s say-so to declare an emergency, Congress does have the right to override him after the fact, with a vote of both houses. The House will likely do so, but it’s unclear whether enough Republicans in the Senate would join with Democrats to pass a measure there as well. In any case, Josh Dawsey of The Washington Post reports that Trump would veto such a resolution—which would be the first veto of his presidency.

Trump predicted in the Rose Garden that he would triumph in litigation.

“I’ll sign the final papers as soon as I get into the Oval Office,” he said, in a peculiar singsongy voice. “And we will have a national emergency. And we will then be sued and they will sue us in the Ninth Circuit even though it shouldn’t be there. And we will possibly get a bad ruling, and then we will get another bad ruling, and then we will end up in the Supreme Court, and hopefully we will get a fair shake and win in the Supreme Court, just like the [travel] ban.”

Ironically, even though Trump’s lengthy vacillation on whether to declare an emergency shows that the crisis is not as acute as he claims, it’s also helped inure the public to the declaration. But the declaration is still another huge violation of existing norms and constitutional protections.

The President appears single-mindedly focused on the wall, an unusually sustained focus for him. Given the concrete goal involved, this is probably not a situation in which Trump is likely touse the emergency as an excuse to take other, more extraordinary actions, such as declaring martial law or ordering military action. Moreover, Trump’s biggest projects have been repeatedly bedeviled by failures of execution and follow-through, though even a limited impact in this case could be substantial. The point is that he could do those things. That’s a dangerous tool in the hands of a scrupulous president with great respect for restraints on his power—much less Trump.

We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to letters@theatlantic.com.

David A. Graham is a staff writer at The Atlantic, where he covers U.S. politics and global news.

Trump has conjured a crisis out of thin air. That should worry us all.


January 16, 2019

Trump has conjured a crisis out of thin air. That should worry us all.

by Dr. Fareed Zakaria

ttps://fareedzakaria.com/columns/2019/1/10/trump-has-conjured-a-crisis-out-of-thin-air-that-should-worry-us-all

Image result for fareed zakaria

Watching the struggle over funding for a border wall, I am struck by the way in which, in one sense, President Trump has already achieved success. He has been able to conjure up a crisis out of thin air, elevate this manufactured emergency to national attention, paralyze the government and perhaps even invoke warlike authority and bypass Congress. He may still fail, but it should worry us that a president — any president — can do what Trump has done.

Image result for Trump and The Wall

Let’s be clear: There is no crisis. The number of undocumented immigrants in the United States has been declining for a decade. The number of people caught trying to sneak across the southern border has been on a downward trend for almost 20 years and is lower than it was in 1973.

As has often been pointed out, far more people are coming to the U.S. legally and then overstaying their visas than are crossing the southern border illegally. But it’s important to put these numbers in context. More than 52 million foreigners entered the U.S. legally in fiscal year 2017. Of this cohort, 98.7 percent left on time and in accordance with their visas. A large portion of those remaining left after a brief overstay, and the best government estimate is that maybe 0.8 percent of those who entered the country in 2017 had stayed on by mid-2018.

As for terrorism, the Cato Institute has found that, from 1975 to 2017, “there have been zero people murdered or injured in terror attacks committed by illegal border crossers on U.S. soil.”

As for drugs, the greatest danger comes from fentanyl and fentanyl-like substances, which are at the heart of the opioid crisis. Most of this comes from China, either shipped directly to the United States or smuggled through Canada or Mexico. Trump has addressed the root of this problem by pressing the Chinese government to crack down on fentanyl exports, a far more effective strategy than building a physical barrier along the Mexican border.

Even the Drug Enforcement Administration acknowledged in a report last year that while the southern border is the conduit for most of the heroin entering the United States, the drug typically comes through legal points of entry, hidden in cars or mixed in with other goods in tractor-trailers. In other words, a wall would do little to stanch the flow.

And yet, the power of the presidency is such that Trump has been able to place this issue center-stage, shut down the government, force television networks to run an error-ridden, scaremongering Oval Office address, and now perhaps invoke emergency powers. This sounds like something that would be done by Presidents Vladimir Putin, Recep Tayyip Erdogan or Abdel Fatah al-Sissi, not the head of the world’s leading constitutional republic.

When the U.S. government has created this sense of emergency and crisis in the past, it has almost always been to frighten people, expand presidential powers and muzzle opposition. From the Alien and Sedition Acts to the Red Scare to warnings about Saddam Hussein’s arsenal, the United States has experienced periods of paranoia and foolishness. We look back on them and recognize that the problems were not nearly as grave, the enemy was not nearly as strong and the United States was actually far more secure. The actions taken — suspending civil rights, interning U.S. citizens and noncitizens of Japanese descent, taking the nation to war — were almost always terrible mistakes, often with disastrous long-term consequences.

And yet, presidential powers have kept expanding. Modern media culture has made it easier for presidents to set the agenda, because the White House is a central and perpetual point of focus and now receives far more attention than it ever had. Trump has managed to use this reality and turn good news into bad, turn security into danger and almost single-handedly fabricate a national crisis where there is none.

This whole episode highlights a problem that has become apparent in these past two years. The U.S. president has too many powers, formal and informal. This was not intended by the founders, who made Congress the dominant branch of government, and it is not how the country has been governed for much of its history. But over the past nine decades, the presidency has grown in formal and informal authority.

I have been an advocate of a strong executive for most of my life. I don’t much like how Congress operates. I now realize that my views were premised on the assumption that the president would operate within the bounds of laws, norms and ethics. I now believe that an urgent task for the next few years is for Congress to write laws that explicitly limit and check the powers of the president. I would take polarization over Putinism any day.

(c) 2019, Washington Post Writers Group

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Full Transcripts: Trump’s Speech on Immigration and the Democratic Response


January 9, 2019

 

 

 

President Trump addressed the nation on Tuesday night from the Oval Office.CreditPool photo by Carlos Barria
ImagPresident Trump addressed the nation on Tuesday night from the Oval Office. CreditCredit Pool photo by Carlos Barria

By The New York Times

 

 

 

 

 

President Trump delivered an address to the nation on Tuesday night from the Oval Office to make a broad-based public push for border wall funding.

After his speech, Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California and Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the Democratic leaders, delivered a response from Capitol Hill.

[Read our live analysis and fact checks of the remarks here.]

The following are transcripts of both Mr. Trump’s speech and the Democratic rebuttal, as prepared by The New York Times.

__________

 

PRESIDENT TRUMP: My fellow Americans, tonight I’m speaking to you because there is a growing humanitarian and security crisis at our southern border.

 

Every day, Customs and Border Protection agents encounter thousands of illegal immigrants trying to enter our country. We are out of space to hold them, and we have no way to promptly return them back home to their country. America proudly welcomes millions of lawful immigrants who enrich our society and contribute to our nation, but all Americans are hurt by uncontrolled illegal migration.

It strains public resources and drives down jobs and wages. Among those hardest hit are African-Americans and Hispanic-Americans. Our southern border is a pipeline for vast quantities of illegal drugs including meth, heroin, cocaine, and fentanyl. Every week, 300 of our citizens are killed by heroin alone. Ninety percent of which floods across from our southern border. More Americans will die from drugs this year than were killed in the entire Vietnam War.

In the last two years, ICE officers made 266,000 arrests of aliens with criminal records including those charged or convicted of 100,000 assaults, 30,000 sex crimes, and 4,000 violent killings. Over the years, thousands of Americans have been brutally killed by those who illegally entered our country and thousands more lives will be lost if we don’t act right now.

This is a humanitarian crisis. A crisis of the heart, and a crisis of the soul. Last month, 20,000 migrant children were illegally brought into the United States, a dramatic increase. These children are used as human pawns by vicious coyotes and ruthless gangs. One in three women are sexually assaulted on the dangerous trek up through Mexico. Women and children are the biggest victims, by far, of our broken system.

This is the tragic reality of illegal immigration on our southern border. This is the cycle of human suffering that I am determined to end.

My administration has presented Congress with a detailed proposal to secure the border and stop the criminal gangs, drug smugglers, and human traffickers. It’s a tremendous problem.

 

Our proposal was developed by law enforcement professionals and border agents at the Department of Homeland Security. These are the resources they have requested to properly perform their mission and keep America safe. In fact, safer than ever before.

The proposal from homeland security includes cutting edge technology for detecting drugs, weapons, illegal contraband and many other things. We have requested more agents, immigration judges to process the sharp rise of unlawful migration fueled by our very strong economy.

Our plan also contains an urgent request for humanitarian assistance and medical support. Furthermore, we have asked Congress to close border security loopholes so that illegal immigrant children can be safely and humanely returned back home.

Finally, as part of an overall approach to border security, law enforcement professionals have requested $5.7 billion for a physical barrier. At the request of Democrats it will be a steel barrier rather than a concrete wall. This barrier is absolutely critical to border security. It’s also what our professionals at the border want and need. This is just common sense.

The border wall would very quickly pay for itself. The cost of illegal drugs exceeds $500 billion a year. Vastly more than the $5.7 billion we have requested from Congress. The wall will also be paid for indirectly by the great new trade deal we have made with Mexico.

Senator Chuck Schumer, who you will be hearing from later tonight, has repeatedly supported a physical barrier in the past along with many other Democrats. They changed their mind only after I was elected president.

Democrats in Congress have refused to acknowledge the crisis and they have refused to provide our brave border agents with the tools they desperately need to protect our families and our nation.

 

The federal government remains shut down for one reason, and one reason only, because Democrats will not fund border security. My administration is doing everything in our power to help those impacted by the situation, but the only solution is for Democrats to pass a spending bill that defends our borders and reopens the government.

This situation could be solved in a 45 minute meeting. I have invited congressional leadership to the White House tomorrow to get this done. Hopefully we can rise above partisan politics in order to support national security.

Some have suggested a barrier is immoral. Then why do wealthy politicians build walls, fences, and gates around their homes? They don’t build walls because they hate the people on the outside but because they love the people on the inside. The only thing that is immoral is the politicians to do nothing and continue to allow more innocent people to be so horribly victimized.

America’s heart broke the day after Christmas when a young police officer in California was savagely murdered in cold blood by an illegal alien, just came across the border. The life of an American hero was stolen by someone who had no right to be in our country. Day after day, precious lives are cut short by those who have violated our borders.

In California, an air force veteran was raped, murdered, and beaten to death with a hammer by an illegal alien with a long criminal history. In Georgia, an illegal alien was recently charged with murder for killing, beheading, and dismembering his neighbor. In Maryland, MS-13 gang members who arrived in the United States as unaccompanied minors were arrested and charged last year after viciously stabbing and beating a 16-year-old girl.

Over the last several years I have met with dozens of families whose loved ones were stolen by illegal immigration. I have held the hands of the weeping mothers and embraced the grief stricken fathers. So sad, so terrible. I will never forget the pain in their eyes, the tremble in their voices, and the sadness gripping their souls. How much more American blood must we shed before Congress does its job?

To those who refuse to compromise in the name of border security, I would ask, imagine if it was your child, your husband, or your wife whose life was so cruelly shattered and totally broken. To every member of Congress: pass a bill that ends this crisis. To every citizen, call Congress, and tell them to finally, after all of these decades, secure our border.

 

This is a choice between right and wrong, justice and injustice. This is about whether we fulfill our sacred duty to the American citizens we serve. When I took the oath of office, I swore to protect our country and that is what I will always do so help me god.

Thank you and good night.

__________

SPEAKER NANCY PELOSI: Good evening.

Politics|Full Transcripts: Trump’s Speech on Immigration and the Democratic Response

 

President Trump addressed the nation on Tuesday night from the Oval Office.CreditPool photo by Carlos Barria
Image
President Trump addressed the nation on Tuesday night from the Oval Office.CreditCreditPool photo by Carlos Barria

By The New York Times

 

President Trump delivered an address to the nation on Tuesday night from the Oval Office to make a broad-based public push for border wall funding.

After his speech, Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California and Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the Democratic leaders, delivered a response from Capitol Hill.

[Read our live analysis and fact checks of the remarks here.]

The following are transcripts of both Mr. Trump’s speech and the Democratic rebuttal, as prepared by The New York Times.

__________

PRESIDENT TRUMP: My fellow Americans, tonight I’m speaking to you because there is a growing humanitarian and security crisis at our southern border.

 

Every day, Customs and Border Protection agents encounter thousands of illegal immigrants trying to enter our country. We are out of space to hold them, and we have no way to promptly return them back home to their country. America proudly welcomes millions of lawful immigrants who enrich our society and contribute to our nation, but all Americans are hurt by uncontrolled illegal migration.

It strains public resources and drives down jobs and wages. Among those hardest hit are African-Americans and Hispanic-Americans. Our southern border is a pipeline for vast quantities of illegal drugs including meth, heroin, cocaine, and fentanyl. Every week, 300 of our citizens are killed by heroin alone. Ninety percent of which floods across from our southern border. More Americans will die from drugs this year than were killed in the entire Vietnam War.

This is your last free article.

Subscribe to The Times


In the last two years, ICE officers made 266,000 arrests of aliens with criminal records including those charged or convicted of 100,000 assaults, 30,000 sex crimes, and 4,000 violent killings. Over the years, thousands of Americans have been brutally killed by those who illegally entered our country and thousands more lives will be lost if we don’t act right now.

This is a humanitarian crisis. A crisis of the heart, and a crisis of the soul. Last month, 20,000 migrant children were illegally brought into the United States, a dramatic increase. These children are used as human pawns by vicious coyotes and ruthless gangs. One in three women are sexually assaulted on the dangerous trek up through Mexico. Women and children are the biggest victims, by far, of our broken system.

This is the tragic reality of illegal immigration on our southern border. This is the cycle of human suffering that I am determined to end. My administration has presented Congress with a detailed proposal to secure the border and stop the criminal gangs, drug smugglers, and human traffickers. It’s a tremendous problem.

A

Our proposal was developed by law enforcement professionals and border agents at the Department of Homeland Security. These are the resources they have requested to properly perform their mission and keep America safe. In fact, safer than ever before.

The proposal from homeland security includes cutting edge technology for detecting drugs, weapons, illegal contraband and many other things. We have requested more agents, immigration judges to process the sharp rise of unlawful migration fueled by our very strong economy.

Our plan also contains an urgent request for humanitarian assistance and medical support. Furthermore, we have asked Congress to close border security loopholes so that illegal immigrant children can be safely and humanely returned back home.

Finally, as part of an overall approach to border security, law enforcement professionals have requested $5.7 billion for a physical barrier. At the request of Democrats it will be a steel barrier rather than a concrete wall. This barrier is absolutely critical to border security. It’s also what our professionals at the border want and need. This is just common sense.

The border wall would very quickly pay for itself. The cost of illegal drugs exceeds $500 billion a year. Vastly more than the $5.7 billion we have requested from Congress. The wall will also be paid for indirectly by the great new trade deal we have made with Mexico.

Senator Chuck Schumer, who you will be hearing from later tonight, has repeatedly supported a physical barrier in the past along with many other Democrats. They changed their mind only after I was elected president.

Democrats in Congress have refused to acknowledge the crisis and they have refused to provide our brave border agents with the tools they desperately need to protect our families and our nation.

 

The federal government remains shut down for one reason, and one reason only, because Democrats will not fund border security. My administration is doing everything in our power to help those impacted by the situation, but the only solution is for Democrats to pass a spending bill that defends our borders and reopens the government.

This situation could be solved in a 45 minute meeting. I have invited congressional leadership to the White House tomorrow to get this done. Hopefully we can rise above partisan politics in order to support national security.

Some have suggested a barrier is immoral. Then why do wealthy politicians build walls, fences, and gates around their homes? They don’t build walls because they hate the people on the outside but because they love the people on the inside. The only thing that is immoral is the politicians to do nothing and continue to allow more innocent people to be so horribly victimized.

America’s heart broke the day after Christmas when a young police officer in California was savagely murdered in cold blood by an illegal alien, just came across the border. The life of an American hero was stolen by someone who had no right to be in our country. Day after day, precious lives are cut short by those who have violated our borders.

In California, an air force veteran was raped, murdered, and beaten to death with a hammer by an illegal alien with a long criminal history. In Georgia, an illegal alien was recently charged with murder for killing, beheading, and dismembering his neighbor. In Maryland, MS-13 gang members who arrived in the United States as unaccompanied minors were arrested and charged last year after viciously stabbing and beating a 16-year-old girl.

Over the last several years I have met with dozens of families whose loved ones were stolen by illegal immigration. I have held the hands of the weeping mothers and embraced the grief stricken fathers. So sad, so terrible. I will never forget the pain in their eyes, the tremble in their voices, and the sadness gripping their souls. How much more American blood must we shed before Congress does its job?

To those who refuse to compromise in the name of border security, I would ask, imagine if it was your child, your husband, or your wife whose life was so cruelly shattered and totally broken. To every member of Congress: pass a bill that ends this crisis. To every citizen, call Congress, and tell them to finally, after all of these decades, secure our border.

 

This is a choice between right and wrong, justice and injustice. This is about whether we fulfill our sacred duty to the American citizens we serve. When I took the oath of office, I swore to protect our country and that is what I will always do so help me god.

Thank you and good night.

__________

SPEAKER NANCY PELOSI: Good evening.

Image result for nancy pelosi

 

I appreciate the opportunity to speak directly to the American people tonight about how we can end this shutdown and meet the needs of the American people. Sadly much of what we heard from President Trump throughout this senseless shutdown has been full of misinformation and even malice. The president has chosen fear. We want to start with the facts.

The fact is on the very first day of this Congress, House Democrats passed Senate Republican legislation to reopen government and fund smart, effective border security solutions. But the president is rejecting these bipartisan bills which would reopen government over his obsession with forcing American taxpayers to waste billions of dollars on an expensive and ineffective wall, a wall he always promised Mexico would pay for.

The fact is, President Trump has chosen to hold hostage critical services for the health, safety, and well-being of the American people, and withhold the paychecks of 800,000 innocent workers across the nation, many of them veterans.

He promised to keep the government shutdown for months or years, no matter whom it hurts. That’s just plain wrong. The fact is, we all agree we need to secure our borders while honoring our values. We can build the infrastructure and roads at our ports of entry. We can install new technology to scan cars and trucks for drugs coming into our nation. We can hire the personnel we need to facilitate trade and immigration at the border. We can fund more innovation to detect unauthorized crossings.

The fact is, the women and children at the border are not a security threat. They are a humanitarian challenge, a challenge that President Trump’s own cruel and counterproductive policies have only deepened. And the fact is, President Trump must stop holding the American people hostage and stop manufacturing a crisis, and must reopen the government.

Thank you. Leader Schumer.

Image result for chuck schumer

SENATOR CHUCK SCHUMER: Thank you, Speaker Pelosi.

My fellow Americans, we address you tonight for one reason only. The president of the United States, having failed to get Mexico to pay for his ineffective, unnecessary border wall, and unable to convince the Congress or the American people to foot the bill, has shut down the government.

 

American democracy doesn’t work that way. We don’t govern by temper tantrum. No president should pound the table and demand he gets his way or else the government shuts down. Hurting millions of Americans who are treated as leverage.

 

Tonight, and throughout this debate and throughout his presidency, president trump has appealed to fear, not facts. Division, not unity. Make no mistake, Democrats and the president both want stronger border security. However, we sharply disagree with the president about the most effective way to do it.

So, how do we untangle this mess? Well, there’s an obvious solution. Separate the shutdown from arguments over border security. There is bipartisan legislation supported by Democrats and Republicans to reopen government while allowing debate over border security to continue.

There is no excuse for hurting millions of Americans over a policy difference. Federal workers are about to miss a paycheck. Some families can’t get a mortgage to buy a new home. Farmers and small businesses won’t get loans they desperately need.

Most presidents have used Oval Office addresses for noble purposes. This president just used the backdrop of the Oval Office to manufacture a crisis, stoke fear, and divert attention from the turmoil in his administration.

My fellow Americans, there is no challenge so great that our nation cannot rise to meet it. We can reopen the government and continue to work through disagreements over policy. We can secure our border without an ineffective, expensive wall. And we can welcome legal immigrants and refugees without compromising safety and security.

The symbol of America should be the Statue of Liberty, not a 30 foot wall. So our suggestion is a simple one. Mr. President, reopen the government, and we can work to resolve our differences over border security. But end this shutdown now.

Thank you.

 

 

 

Walls, Partisanship and the Shutdown


January 9, 2019

Newsbook

Newsbook

By Concepción de León

 

Eighteen days into the partial government shutdown, President Trump is preparing to deliver a national address on immigration to make his case for a border wall again. These three books offer perspective on the current shutdown: the inner workings of the government offices affected, the political precedent for the present bipartisanship and the debate over a border wall.

Image

THE FIFTH RISK
By Michael Lewis
221 pages. W.W. Norton & Company. (2018)

Lewis has a reputation for livening otherwise dry material, and according to our reviewer, “you’ll be turning the pages” of this story about government bureaucracy. The fifth risk in his title (after an attack by North Korea or war with Iran, for instance) is project management, or rather the mismanagement he details within the Trump administration. Key government positions remain unfilled, and others are occupied by nonexperts in their respective offices. “The Fifth Risk” provides insight into how government offices function, particularly under the current administration.

Image

 

THE RED AND THE BLUE
The 1990s and the Birth of Political Tribalism
By Steve Kornacki
497 pp. Ecco/HarperCollins Publishers. (2018)

 

In this book, Kornacki argues that the political battles between President Bill Clinton and Newt Gingrich, including a 21-day long government shutdown over budget disagreements, set the stage for the political divisions of today. “The early Clinton era is presented as a parade of confrontations — over welfare, balanced budgets, health care — that, for a time, emboldened Gingrich’s showdown wing of Republicanism,” wrote our reviewer. The government shutdown of 1995-96 is the longest on record, and this book explains the political tensions that caused it.

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WALLS
A History of Civilization in Blood and Brick
David Frye
320 pp. Scribner. (2018)

The idea of building walls to protect and separate societies is not new, and in this accessible history, Frye chronicles walls from ancient Greece to Berlin to China. He explains that early walls were built as protection from neighboring tribes, and how the walls in China assured traders safe passage. In addition to exploring walls’ role in the development of civilization, Frye also reckons with the psychological impact they can have on the migrants and refugees they keep out.

Follow New York Times Books on Facebook and Twitter (@nytimesbooks), sign up for our newsletter or our literary calendar. And listen to us on the Book Review podcast.

 

 

 

Related Coverage

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/01/08/books/trump-shutdown-wall-immigration.html