Donald Trump is said to be “not happy” after his acting chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, appeared to confirm the US had withheld military aid to Ukraine for political purposes, acknowledging the quid pro quo Democrats pursuing the president’s impeachment have sought to prove.
While Mr Trump was quick to hail the ceasefire his vice president Mike Pence agreed with Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Ankara over the Syria crisis, his DC rivals denounced the measure as a “sham” as the fighting continued between the Turkish military and the Syrian Democratic Forces.
At his latest rally in Dallas, Texas, the president compared the Turks and Kurds to brawling children (“Sometimes you have to let them fight”) and branded House speaker Nancy Pelosi “nuts” after their recent spat at the White House. He was, meanwhile, brutally ridiculed by his own former defence secretary Jim Mattis at a white tie dinner in New York.
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Former defense secretary James Mattis responded to Donald Trump’s criticism of him by referencing how the US president avoided the draft during the Vietnam war.
“I earned my spurs on the battlefield; Donald Trump earned his spurs from the doctor,” he said.
The former general was a keynote speaker at the Al Smith Memorial Foundation dinner on Thursday when he made the comments in response to Mr Trump calling him the “world’s most overrated general”.
The president had reportedly made the comments during an earlier “acrimonious” White House meeting on his decision to pull American forces from northern Syria.
Democrats described as “chilling” the way Mr Trump set out his backing of Ankara’s violent creation of a “safe zone” in Syria, which was triggered by the president’s own actions.
“They had to have it cleaned out,” Mr Trump said of Turkey’s offensive to expel Kurdish fighters and their families from the area. Ankara launched its incursion against the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) a week ago, days after the Republican announced he was withdrawing American troops from the area. The SDF had been US allies in the fight against Isis.
Addressing reporters in Fort Worth, Texas, on Thursday, Mr Trump touted the agreement his administration had reached with Mr Erdogan, for a 120-hour pause allowing Kurds to retreat from where they had been living, as an “incredible outcome”.
“In days gone by, I used to compare the Trump presidency with the Arab dictatorships. He took preposterous pleasure in the company of Egypt’s Sisi (60,000 political prisoners) and his ibioreportse ramblings had much in common with those of Muammar Gaddafi, who also “authored” a book he never wrote but whom Trump never met (albeit that Tony Blair and Gaddafi kissed each other on the cheek). But over the past week, I’ve begun to realise that the crackpot in the White House has much more in common with ancient Rome.”
Read more from Robert Fisk here:
Former US Energy Secretary Rick Perry has said the scandal surrounding the Trump administration’s dealings with Ukraine had nothing to do with his resignation. “It has absolutely nothing to do with Ukraine,” Perry said of his planned departure in a Fox News interview. He went on to say he did not know whether he would cooperate with House Democrats’ impeachment inquiry.
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Donald Trump has likened Turkey’s invasion of Kurdish-held regions in northern Syria to a squabble among children, while endorsing Ankara’s objective of pushing out Kurdish fighters and their families from a so-called “safe zone”.
Turkey’s military and Turkish-backed Syrian fighters unleashed an offensive against the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) a week ago, two days after the US president announced he was ordering American troops out of the area. The SDF had fought against Isis alongside US special forces.
Ankara views the YPG, which constitutes a large contingent of the SDF, as an extension of the Kurdish Workers’ Party – a banned separatist group based in Turkey and Iraq. Mr Trump has signalled that Ankara will face no long-term consequences for its actions.
Addressing a rally in Dallas, Texas, on Thursday night, the president said: “It was unconventional, what I did. I said, ‘They’re going to have to fight a little while’. Sometimes you have to let them fight a little while. Then people find out how tough the fighting is … Sometimes you have to let them fight. It’s like two kids in a lot, you’ve got to let them fight and then you pull them apart.
A US diplomat overseeing the previous administration’s Ukraine policy reportedly told House investigators he was “turned away” by a staffer to then-Vice President Joe Biden after sharing concerns about his son’s work in the country.
George Kent, a deputy assistant secretary of state, said that he approached an aide to Mr Biden in early 2015 with concerns about Hunter Biden’s position on the board of the Ukrainian energy company Burisma, according to the Washington Post.
He reportedly warned that Ukrainian officials might believe they could use the younger Biden for currying influence with the vice president.
Three people familiar with his testimony told the outlet that Mr Kent was concerned the issue would undermine efforts by US diplomats working with Ukraine to root out corruption and conflicts of interest within its own government.
Here’s my story on the president’s latest comments surrounding the Syria troop withdrawal and US-brokered ceasefire:
The president has ended his media availability.
Donald Trump said “over a thousand people” are expected to work at the new Louis Vutton factory that opened in Texas yesterday.
“We have lost not a drop of blood since we started what I started,” Donald Trump said about his decision to withdraw US troops from Syria.
“They’re back to the full pause,” Donald Trump said after acknowledging the ceasefire temporarily failed earlier this morning.
He also says “there are no shots being fired” and that the US has secured the oil in the region.
Donald Trump is now attacking Joe Biden and claiming he has “tremendous problems” with Ukraine.
“This is a terrible witch hunt, this is so bad for our country,” he said.
Donald Trump said the two female astronauts are “two great people” who are “very brave”.
He has now moved on to attacking the Democrats and “crooked” House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff.
Donald Trump said the “whole program was dead when I took office,” though it is not clear if he was discussing NASA or what else.
“We’re creating a new force, and it’s called the Space Force, so that’ll be a new thing,” he added.
Donald Trump is now discussing with officials NASA plans to land a woman and man on the moon by 2024.
The president posted a series of tweets on Friday claiming “big progress being made” in Syria a day after Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visited Turkey to map out a 120-hour ceasefire in northeastern Syria. The vice president announced the ceasefire on Thursday afternoon after five hours of negotiations with Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan.
Despite reports of shelling in Syria, Mr Trump said the Turkish president “very much wants the ceasefire, or pause, to work.”
“Likewise, the Kurds want it, and the ultimate solution, to happen,” he added. “Too bad there wasn’t this thinking years ago.”
Story to come…
Donald Trump has acknowledged a US-brokered ceasefire in northeastern Syria was at least temporarily disrupted by “minor sniper and mortar fire” after his decision to withdraw troops threw the region into violent instability.
Trump is saying he has spoken to Erdogan and is seeking to downplay the resumption of hostilites in Syria that continued in spite of yesterday’s ceasefire agreement.
“Big progress being made!!!!” he says, before tweeting the Turkish president himself with the words: “DEFEAT TERRORISM!”
If that’s his concern, why remove US troops from the region and positively invite the resurgence of Isis?
Here’s Bel Trew with the latest.
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