Trump exhorts Republicans to ‘get tougher’ against impeachment inquiry

President Donald Trump speaks during a Cabinet meeting in the White House, Monday, Oct. 21, 2019, in Washington. (AP Photo)
Updated 22 October 2019

Trump exhorts Republicans to ‘get tougher’ against impeachment inquiry

  • Trump made his comments during a White House Cabinet meeting as Democrats sought to build public support for their fast-moving impeachment inquiry
  • House Speaker Nancy Pelosi issued a video and ‘fact sheet’ that may give hints about articles of impeachment — formal charges — Democrats may pursue against Republican Trump

WASHINGTON: President Donald Trump on Monday exhorted fellow Republicans to get tougher and fight for him, saying the Democratic-led US House of Representatives wants to impeach him “as quick as possible” over his request that Ukraine investigate a domestic political rival.
Trump made his comments during a White House Cabinet meeting as Democrats sought to build public support for their fast-moving impeachment inquiry and the administration pressed its efforts to stonewall a probe that threatens his presidency.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi issued a video and “fact sheet” that may give hints about articles of impeachment — formal charges — Democrats may pursue against Republican Trump, accusing him of abuse of power, a “shakedown” involving Ukraine and a cover-up.
Few Republican lawmakers have shown an inclination to remove Trump from office even as Democrats focus on his pushing a vulnerable foreign ally to interfere to his benefit in the 2020 US election by providing political dirt on Joe Biden, a leading contender for the Democratic presidential nomination to run against Trump in the November 2020 election.
But Trump, who has denied wrongdoing, has come under sharp criticism from Republican Senator Mitt Romney.
And other Republicans have expressed misgivings about Trump policies, including criticism by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senator Lindsey Graham of his withdrawal of US troops in northeastern Syria, exposing US-allied Kurdish fighters to a Turkish cross-border offensive.
Approval of articles of impeachment in the House would prompt a trial in the Republican-led Senate on whether to remove Trump from office.
“The Republicans have to get tougher and fight. We have some that are great fighters, but they have to get tougher and fight, because the Democrats are trying to hurt the Republican Party before the election,” Trump said.
Trump said the Democrats are “vicious and they stick together.”
“They don’t have Mitt Romney in their midst. They don’t have people like that. They stick together,” Trump added.
In an interview aired with “Axios on HBO,” Romney denounced Trump’s requests to Ukraine and China to investigate Biden, questioned Trump’s character, criticized his decision to “abandon” Kurdish allies in the Syria war and deplored his hush money payment to an adult film star. Romney was the 2012 Republican presidential nominee.
Trump also labeled as “phony” an anti-corruption clause in the US Constitution that Democrats have accused him of violating through the operation of his businesses including a hotel in downtown Washington. The so-called emoluments clause bars a president from receiving any gifts, payment or other things of value from a foreign country.
An accusation of violating the emoluments clause could figure into the articles of impeachment against Trump.
Democrats mocked Trump. “It is literally in the Constitution,” Democratic congressman Eric Swalwell said on Twitter.
Asked if it is a foregone conclusion that House Democrats will vote to impeach him, Trump said that “they’re not going to beat me in the election, so of course they want to impeach.”
“They want to impeach. And they want to do it as quick as possible,” Trump added.
Trump, a wealthy real estate developer, also said serving as president has personally cost him $2 billion to $5 billion dollars. Trump also expressed annoyance at having to reverse his decision to stage the Group of Seven summit in June at his Trump National Doral golf resort in the Miami area.
His plan to host the international gathering at a business he owns was criticized by Democrats and Republicans who said it gave the impression he was profiting from being president.
“I would’ve made a fortune if I just ran my business. I was doing it really well. I have a great business. I have the best properties,” Trump told reporters.
At the heart of the inquiry is a July 25 phone call in which Trump asked Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to investigate Biden and his son Hunter Biden, who had been a director of a Ukrainian energy company, as well as a discredited theory that Ukraine, and not Russia, interfered in the 2016 US election.
Another round of crucial testimony in the inquiry is set for this week, including by Bill Taylor, the top US diplomat in Ukraine, on Tuesday.
Acting White House budget director Russell Vought said both he and Michael Duffey, associate director for national security programs at the Office of Management and Budget, would not provide depositions to the committees leading the inquiry.
Duffey had been scheduled to testify behind closed doors on Wednesday as Democrats scrutinize Trump’s decision to withhold $391 million in security aid to Ukraine before he asked its president to investigate Biden.
A planned deposition on Wednesday by Philip Reeker, the acting US assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs who oversaw US policy toward Ukraine, has been postponed at the request of the lawmakers carrying out the inquiry and no new date has been set, a source familiar with the matter said.

First day of Afghan truce as Taliban instruct fighters to cease violence 

Updated 56 min 38 sec ago

First day of Afghan truce as Taliban instruct fighters to cease violence 

  • US and Taliban forces enforce mutually agreed seven-day reduction in violence in Afghanistan, starting midnight on Friday
  • Peace pact to be signed on Feb 29, intra-Afghan negotiations to follow soon after to deliver “permanent cease-fire“

ISLAMABAD: The Taliban military commission has instructed fighters of the insurgency to cease violence from February 22, the group said in a statement on Friday as the United States and the Taliban announced that they would sign a peace pact on February 29 to end America’s longest war after more than 18 years. 

Arab News reported on February 17 that the long-awaited peace agreement was scheduled to be signed on February 29 in Doha, Qatar, in the presence of international dignitaries and guarantors. 

On Friday, the Taliban military commission instructed its fighters not to carry out out any more attacks, including suicide and rocket assaults against US and allied forces in all provincial headquarters, foreign forces bases, Kabul city and all military corps of the Kabul administration, according to a statement and two audio recordings that Arab News is privy to.

The pause in attacks will continue until February 29, according to the Pashto-language order. In return, foreign and Afghan government forces will not conduct attacks, drone strikes, bombings, night raids, rocket and missile attacks on Taliban bases, the Taliban said in the letter send to its commanders.

“All governors and responsible persons should maintain round-the-clock contacts with and no one has the right to establish any contact with the enemy,” the order said. “Those will face severe punishment who will enter the area under the control of the enemy.”

On Friday, following a Taliban statement, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also confirmed that a peace pact would be signed on February 29.

“The only way to achieve a sustainable peace in Afghanistan is for Afghans to come together and agree on the way forward,” Pompeo said in a statement issued by the US State Department.

The statements came hours before US and Taliban forces enforced a mutually agreed seven-day reduction in violence in Afghanistan, starting midnight on Friday, meaning neither side would conduct offensive operations.

Intra-Afghan negotiations will start soon after February 29 and “build on this fundamental step to deliver a comprehensive and permanent cease-fire and the future political roadmap for Afghanistan,” Pompeo said.

Taliban political spokesman Suhail Shaheen told Arab News on Thursday that no final decision had as yet been taken about the venue of an intra-Afghan dialogue, tentatively to be held on March 10. 

US officials have said the success of the temporary deal would enable the two sides to move ahead with the signing ceremony scheduled in Doha, the Qatari capital, which houses the Taliban’s political office and where the two negotiating teams have hammered out a comprehensive draft agreement after talks spread over a period of 18 months.

The Taliban said in a statement that both parties would now create a “suitable security situation” in advance of the agreement signing date, extend invitations to senior representatives of numerous countries and organizations to participate in the signing ceremony and make arrangements for the release of prisoners.

Senior Taliban negotiator Abdul Salam Hanafi said this week that 5,000 Taliban prisoners would be released under the agreement while the Taliban would set free 1,000 Afghans.

Shaheen tweeted that all foreign forces would leave Afghanistan under the agreement and no one would be allowed to use Afghan soil to launch attacks.

Experts pointed to possible challenges in implementing the peace agreement and the cease-fire.

“In case there are breaches/violations in the cease-fire it would manifest that either the Taliban factions are dissatisfied with the cease-fire or the spoilers inside Afghanistan may also take advantage and indulge in violence and put the responsibility on the shoulders of the Taliban,” Pakistan’s former ambassador Asif Khan Durrani told Arab News.

Also, the peace pact is meant to be followed by talks between the Taliban and the government in Kabul, a process that will certainly be complicated by a bitterly disputed presidential election, in which the opposition candidate claimed victory despite President Ashraf Ghani having been declared the winner. With rival claimants to legitimacy, experts say it is unclear who would negotiate with the Taliban following the peace pact, whether they would be prepared to enter talks while struggling to control the government, or what kind of mandate they would have.