Iran‘s Revolutionary Guard has shot down a US drone to send a “clear message” to the Trump administration after US secretary of state Mike Pompeo blamed the regime for an attack on two foreign oil tankers in the Strait of Hormuz last week.
Donald Trump has yet to address the incident but did give in an interview to Sean Hannity of Fox News on Wednesday night in which he urged the host not to “worry about a thing” regarding tensions on the world stage with Iran, China and Russia.
In Capitol Hill, Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee were left frustrated by White House stonewalling after their eight-hour, behind-closed-doors interview with ex-Trump aide Hope Hicks was thwarted by lawyers claiming “absolute immunity” on behalf of the executive, preventing the witness from answering questions about her tenure as a spokesperson for the Oval Office.
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Since choosing to decide he was “exonerated” by the Mueller report when it explicitly says he wasn’t, Trump has resumed his attack on defeated 2016 opponent Hillary Clinton with a vengeance.
Is she bothered?
Mark Morgan, acting director of Trump’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) squad, says his agents will have no remorse about deporting whole families as part of the aggressive purge of “illegal aliens” the president trailed on Monday.
“It’s straightforward: if you’re here illegally, then you should be removed and in this case, that includes families,” Morgan said during a press call on Wednesday, adding that the families have had due process.
“To uphold the rule of law… the men and women of ICE must follow through and enforce judicial orders against those who have had their due process and have been ordered removed by a federal immigration judge,” he continued.
“We should not exempt a certain demographic from the rule of law. If you’re here illegally there should be consequences applied.”
Morgan said ICE will continue to pursue people who have committed violent offenses but added “just because that demographic is a priority does not mean we should exempt all other categories.”
Here he is joining in the attack on AOC.
Whether ICE really has the capacity to realise the president’s threat is another matter, given that it is already overwhelmed, lacking staff, funding and detention space.
Between 2009 and 2012, the Obama administration deported 1.6m immigrants. About 2m were deported during the eight years of the George W Bush administration.
An effort to rapidly deport more than a million as Trump demands is “a fantasy,” said John Sandweg, a former ICE head under Obama.
“ICE is always working at 100 per cent of its capacity. The president wants to create this illusion that he’s let go of the reins that other administrations were holding but that’s just not true.”
And here’s Chris Stevenson on how his Democratic challengers might respond.
These were his biggest falsehoods of the evening.
Here’s some reaction to the president’s big 2020 launch event at the Amway Center in Orlando, Florida, on Tuesday night.
Clark Mindock was there and offers this.
Democratic star Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez remains under fire for likening US border detention centres to concentration camps, with Republican Kevin McCarthy, the House minority leader, calling on her to apologise “not only to the nation but to the world”.
She’s not backing down though.
Yesterday was Juneteenth in America, a holiday commemorating the announcement of the abolition of slavery on 19 June 1865 in Texas, paving the way for the emancipation of African Americans across the former Confederate states in the aftermath of the Civil War.
To honour the date, a House Judiciary subcommittee held a hearing on reparations for slavery, with Hollywood actor Danny Glover and writer Ta-Nehisi Coates among those speaking. Glover spoke about being the great-grandson of a slave…
…while Coates took Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell to task for his crass indifference to the subject.
McConnell had said he’s against paying reparations as “none of us currently living are responsible for it” and: “We’ve tried to deal with the original sin of slavery by passing civil rights legislation and electing an African American president.”
Trump’s pick for US ambassador to the UN, Kelly Craft, had her first confirmation hearing yesterday and broke with the president on climate change, saying the phenomenon “poses real risks”.
Craft told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee she would “be an advocate for all countries to do their part in addressing climate change”.
President Trump famously considers the matter a “hoax” – much like anything else he disagrees with – and recently dismissed global warming as a “change of weather” on his trip to Britain to commemorate D-Day.
“Human behaviour has contributed to the changing climate,” Craft told senators on Wednesday, having previously been flaky on the subject herself. “Let there be no doubt: I take this matter seriously.”
“Fossil fuels have played a part in climate change,” she added.
Craft is the current US ambassador to Canada, the first woman to hold that post, and has been chosen by the president to succeed Nikki Haley, who resigned last October.
She was put to the sword yesterday as to why she had spent more than 300 days outside of Canada since taking the Ottawa-based job in October 2017.
“I find this staggering amount of time away from her post very troubling and an abdication of leadership,” the committee’s leading Democrat Bob Menendez commented, forcing Craft to insist that all her trips away had been carried out according to state department regulations.
Trump believes he has the authority to replace Federal Reserve chairman Jerome Powell and demote him to be a board governor, but is not planning to do so just yet, according to Bloomberg.
The Federal Reserve Act provides explicit protection for Fed governors against removal by the president except “for cause.”
Trump is pressuring the Fed to reduce rates, saying in October that the central bank had “gone crazy” under Powell, breaking with decades of custom that the White House not interfere with monetary policy out of respect for the central bank. He is understood to be annoyed with treasury secretary Steve Mnuchin for first nominating the man to his post.
Trump has regularly accused Powell of not doing enough to bolster the economy. The president has called for lower interest rates as he seeks to offset the headwinds created by his trade war with China and to create a favorable backdrop for his re-election campaign next year.
He told ABC News on Friday that he disagreed with the chairman “entirely,” adding that “if we had a different person in the Federal Reserve that wouldn’t have raised interest rates so much,” economic growth would have been stronger.
But Chairman Powell is not going anywhere.
“I think the law is clear that I have a four-year term, and I fully intend to serve it,” he said at a press conference in Washington on Wednesday after policy makers met to discuss interest rates.
The Fed said yesterday it was ready to battle growing global and domestic economic risks with interest rate cuts beginning as early as next month. The central bank left its benchmark interest rate unchanged for now.
Trump often likes to denigrate the Democrats as “angry” but yesterday they really were, after the House Judiciary Committee spent eight long hours interviewing ex-White House aide Hope Hicks behind closed doors to little avail as White House lawyers claimed “absolutely immunity”, preventing her from answering questions about her tenure as communications director for the Oval Office.
Chairman Jerrold Nadler had hoped to ask Hicks about the obstruction of justice evidence raised in the Mueller report but, in practice, she wasn’t even able to confirm where her desk had been.
Trump couldn’t resist intervening on behalf of the “wonderful” Hicks.
This was Nadler’s assessment at close of play.
His fellow representatives were more exasperated.
What an exit Hicks made though. Cool as you like.
Here’s Andrew Buncombe’s report on a ludicrous day on Capitol Hill.
Perhaps not the most important development of the day but Hannity spend some of his time with the president bragging about his investments in art.
The painting in question? The Forgotten Man (2011) by McNaughton, a “patriotic painter” whose style owes a debt to Emanuel Leutze, best known for Washington Crossing the Delaware (1851).
The work that meant so much to the Fox host condemns Obama’s passing of the Affordable Care Act.
“Don’t worry about a thing”, Trump told Sean Hannity of Fox News in a phone last night when asked about US foreign policy and Trump’s ever-more tangled relations with Iran, China and Russia.
Trump otherwise used his latest phone interview with his favourite anchor to rave about his performance in Orlando and push his most cherished conspiracy theory: that Barack Obama had his 2016 campaign wiretapped,
He said he would be meeting with Vladimir Putin as well as Xi Jinping at the G20 in Japan next week and also had the audacity to attempt to rebrand himself “an environmentalist”, despite denying climate change, working to rollback countless green regulations and protections and attempting to revive American fossil fuel production.
Discussing his use of Twitter, Trump came out with a surprise attack on his host.
Criticising the rest of the media, the president said Fox was one of the few networks he could trust because its presenters are “patriots” before backtracking to accuse them of being more interested in ratings.
“Outside of you and a few other great people – I call them patriots, actually – but you’re not really patriots as much as you want ratings. You getting great ratings, Sean, last night you had tremendous – I heard the speech got you fantastic ratings,” he said, reminding Hannity how valuable an asset he is to Fox, impressing on him the importance of staying in his good graces.
At the close, Hannity found himself jostling with rival broadcaster Laura Ingraham for the president’s attention, seemingly jealous at having to share his big scoop.
Iran has shot down a US military drone using a surface-to-air missile, Iranian and American military officials said, amid an escalating row over alleged attacks on two foreign oil tankers in the Strait of Hormuz.
The commander of the Revolutionary Guard said the downing of the unmanned aerial vehicle had sent “a clear message” to America. In a speech delivered on state television, General Hossein Salami added that Iran does “not have any intention for war with any country, but we are ready for war.”
The two nations have been at daggers drawn since last year when Donald Trump withdrew the US from an international nuclear deal with Iran, which granted it sanctions relief in exchange for tight controls on the state’s nuclear programme.
President Trump has yet to comment on the downing of the drone but it was confirmed last night he had been briefed on a second incident in the region – a cruise missile strike in Saudi Arabia. Yemen’s Iran-aligned Houthis said they had struck a power station in the city of Al-Shuqaiq in the Saudi province of Jizan.
Here’s Adam Withnall and Richard Hall with more on the escalating tensions in the Middle East, which were ramped up last week when US secretary of state Mike Pompeo presented night-vision footage of what he said was a member of the Iranian navy removing an unexploded limpet mine from the hull of the stricken Kokuka Courageous as evidence of Tehran’s responsibility for the bombing of the tankers.
Hello and welcome to The Independent‘s rolling coverage of the Donald Trump administration.