Trump formally pulls out of landmark Paris climate agreement

President Trump on Monday began the yearlong process of withdrawing the U.S. from the Paris climate accord.

The official announcement cements a promise Trump made in the White House Rose Garden in 2017 when he first announced his intention to withdraw from the global climate change agreement signed by every other country in the world.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced the move in a statement.

“President Trump made the decision to withdraw from the Paris Agreement because of the unfair economic burden imposed on American workers, businesses, and taxpayers by U.S. pledges made under the Agreement,” Pompeo said. “The United States has reduced all types of emissions, even as we grow our economy and ensure our citizens’ access to affordable energy.”

“The U.S. approach incorporates the reality of the global energy mix,” he added, arguing “innovation and open markets” will drive emissions reductions.

Trump’s views on the deal have been widely criticized by Democrats, environmentalists and even some Republicans, who say the U.S. is abdicating global leadership at a time when urgent action is required to stem the most dangerous impacts of climate change.

“It is shameful. It is cowardly when we need to be brave and act boldly. Long after the rest of us are gone, future generations will remember this president’s failure to lead on the greatest environmental challenge of our time,” said Sen. Tom Carper (Del.), the top Democrat on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. 

“By breaking America’s commitment to the Paris Accord, President Trump is reducing America’s standing in the world,” Carper added.

The president has repeatedly boasted about already withdrawing the U.S. from the deal, despite the rigid timelines required by the agreement for nations seeking to leave it.

The agreement allowed the U.S. to begin the process to withdraw on Monday and finalize the U.S. exit from the agreement on Nov. 4, 2020 — just one day after the presidential election.

The process will kick off just weeks ahead of a United Nations summit in Spain, where leaders will hammer out final details for complying with the agreement.

Democrats have already asked U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Kelly Craft to recuse herself from the withdrawal process, given her financial and personal ties to the fossil fuel industry. Craft’s husband, Joe Craft, is CEO of Alliance Resource Partners, one of the largest coal companies in the U.S.

Recommitting the U.S. to the Paris climate accord has become a box to tick for Democrats running for president in 2020, most of whom have said they would do so their very first day in office.

While some Republicans may have changed their rhetoric on the realities of climate change, many remain opposed to the deal, arguing the U.S. should not have to make efforts to curb emissions without more efforts from other countries first.

House Democrats have taken steps aimed at preventing Trump from leaving the climate pact, passing a resolution in May that would block the move.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) immediately said the bill “will go nowhere” in the Senate.

Climate experts have called the Paris deal the price of admission to the climate conversation, but warn that even the near-global effort may fall short of the action necessary to limit rising temperatures.

The landmark 2015 agreement signed by former President Obama requires the U.S. to reduce emissions about 28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025.

The withdrawal kickoff earned harsh rebuke from environmental groups.

“Donald Trump is the worst president in history for our climate and our clean air and water. Long after Trump is out of office, his decision to withdraw the United States from the Paris Agreement will be seen as a historic error. Trump has once again demonstrated that he is more interested in catering to the interests of the world’s worst polluters than he is in listening to the American people,” the Sierra Club said in a statement.

The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) called the move a “grave and reckless mistake.”

“Climate change won’t be solved without a global effort. It won’t happen without U.S. leadership. It won’t happen as long as the world’s second-largest climate polluter is backsliding on the climate pledge it has made to the rest of the world,” NRDC President Mitch Bernard said in a statement. 

[The Hill]

Trump Tweetstorms Amid Mounting Syria Criticism: Anyone Helping Protect Kurds Good With Me, Whether It’s ‘Russia, China, or Napoleon’

President Donald Trump went on a tweetstorm this afternoon standing by his Syria withdrawal decision amid mounting criticism from Republicans and the atrocities witnessed in northern Syria in the past few days.

Many Republicans have been critical of the decision (some blaming Trump, others going a slightly different route), and just yesterday a harrowing report from Fox News said there’s evidence of war crimes, as well as “civilians being targeted, and ISIS prisoners escaping.”

This morning the president hit back over comments from Fox News’ Brian Kilmeade, and this afternoon he went on a tweetstorm defending his decision, asking, “why should we be fighting for Syria and Assad to protect the land of our enemy?”, and invoking Napoleon for some reason.

[Mediaite]

Trump suggested shooting Hispanic migrants in the legs

President Trump suggested having migrants shot in their legs during a March meeting with White House advisers in the Oval Office, The New York Times reported Tuesday. 

The Times’ report is based on interviews with more than a dozen White House administration officials involved in the events the week of the meeting. The article is adapted from a forthcoming book by reporters Mike Shear and Julie Hirschfield Davis, titled “Border Wars: Inside Trump’s Assault on Immigration.” It will be published Oct. 8. 

The aides told the Times Trump suggested to advisors during the Oval Office meeting that they should shoot migrants in the legs to slow them down. 

The suggestion came after Trump had publicly suggested shooting migrants if they threw rocks, the Times reports. Trump had made the suggestion about shooting migrants that threw rocks during a speech in November

Officials who spoke to the Times also recall Trump often suggesting fortifying a border wall with a water-filled trench, stocked with snakes or alligators. 

Trump also “wanted the wall electrified, with spikes on top that could pierce human flesh,” the Times reports. 

When advisors told Trump some of his suggestions were not allowed, he reportedly became frustrated. 

“You are making me look like an idiot!” Trump shouted, according to the Times, citing multiple officials in the room’s description. “I ran on this. It’s my issue.”

The meeting was set for 30-minutes and the Times reports it lasted more than an hour. Officials in the room included then Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Customs and Border Protection Chief Kevin McAleenan, acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney and Steven Miller, according to the Times. 

A White House spokesperson was not immediately available for comment.

[The Hill]

Trump admin delays funds for human-trafficking victims that would help non-citizens

 The Trump administration abruptly delayed a $13.5 million grant to house human trafficking victims just five days after saying that “non-citizens” could be served by the program.

The program’s funds, which were approved two years ago by multiple federal agencies, are now in limbo with no indication when money will be distributed and no public explanation for the change.

The money was intended to support housing and supportive services for victims of sex and labor trafficking, including immediate emergency shelter and short-term housing of up to 24 months, according to the notice of funding availability. The money could also be used for providing trafficking victims with furniture, child care services, trauma therapy, cell phones and household items.

The grants were to be dispersed by the Department of Housing and Urban Development, in collaboration with the Department of Justice and Health and Human Services. HUD hosted a webinar on August 22 through the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness for organizations interested in applying for the money, which the council described on August 13 as an “unprecedented partnership” between the DOJ and HUD.

On September 4, the funding announcement was updated to “allow recipients [of the funds] to serve non-citizens,” including lawful permanent residents and foreign national victims, the funding notice said.

Five days later, the grant solicitation was cancelled, according to the federal government’s grants.gov website, which currently states: “This Funding Opportunity has been CANCELLED and is NO longer accepting applications.”

A spokesperson for the Justice Department told NBC News the program has been “postponed,” not cancelled and that a separate HUD website describing the grant as “cancelled” is a mistake. DOJ has not explained why, but the agency asked for the funds back from HUD and the spokesperson says DOJ will now run the program itself.

HUD did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, sent a letter to HUD and DOJ on Friday criticizing the administration for abruptly stopping the grant and asked the agencies to explain what had happened. “Survivors of trafficking must have access to safe and affordable housing,” wrote Brown, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs. “A decision to postpone these housing and services grants into oblivion will be a decision to waste anti-trafficking resources already on the table.”

[NBC News]

Trump goes to the United Nations to argue against everything it stands for

 In his third annual speech to the United Nations General Assembly, President Donald Trump delivered a clear message in favor of nationalism and national sovereignty and against globalism.

But three years into Trump’s presidency, that kind of rhetoric is no longer as shocking as it once was. Most of the world has heard it from him before.

Trump, in an oddly subdued speech in New York on Tuesday, reprised his case that all nations should exert their sovereignty, protect their borders, and reject any mutual and international cooperation that doesn’t put their country’s own interests first. For Trump, it’s “America First;” for everyone else it’s “[Insert Country Here] First.”

“If you want democracy, hold on to your sovereignty,” Trump said. “And if you want peace, love your nation.”

Trump touted the “great” new trade deals he’s working on and lambasted China’s trade practices. He criticized the Iranian regime for its “bloodlust.” He tried to elevate his stalled diplomacy with North Korea. He condemned the socialist regime of Nicolás Maduro in Venezuela. He denounced illegal immigration and even made time to complain about perceived censorship of conservative viewpoints by social media companies and to attack social justice advocates.

It was classic Trump — only without the enthusiasm he usually displays when discussing these pet topics. If anything, Trump seemed bored by his own speech.

There were two rare but notable exceptions: Trump’s stern notice to China that the US is closely watching how it handles the unrest in Hong Kong, and his call to end the criminalization of homosexuality around the world.

The rest, though, was standard Trump fare, and few of the world leaders gathered to hear him speak seemed surprised or rattled by his words. He couldn’t even manage to garner any of last year’s surprised laughs.

The world knows by now who Trump is.

Trump’s schtick isn’t shocking anymore. But it shows just how much of an outlier the US is.

“The future does not belong to globalists; it belongs to patriots,” Trump said at the start of his speech.

It seemed like a throwaway line but it was actually a clear articulation of what Trump and leaders of his ilk have been arguing for the past few years: Populist nationalism is the future andmultinational cooperation and mutual trust is the past — even if that’s the very vision the United Nations is trying to promote and protect.

And that message has permeated. Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, who spoke shortly before Trump, cited the US president’s defense of the sanctity of national sovereignty to push back against worldwide criticism of Bolsonaro’s handling of the Amazon fires. “They even called into question that which we hold as a most sacred value, our sovereignty,” Bolsonaro said at one point.

Trump was sandwiched between a slew of authoritarians and wanna-be authoritarians (Bolsonaro before and Egypt’s Abdel Fattah el-Sisi and then Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdoğan afterward), and while the US president paid lip service to democracy, his defense of it didn’t fit with his nationalistic rhetoric.

Trump and some of these other speeches stood in stark contrast to that of UN Secretary-General António Guterres, who addressed the crowd before the world leaders began to take the stage and warned of the “disquiet” currently plaguing the world.

He was mostly referring to the world’s problems — armed conflicts, increasing inequality, the threat of climate change. But Guterres’s argument is that nations need to band together to address these challenges and to promote the rights of all citizens, no matter their homeland. Guterres believes the forum to do so is the United Nations.

Trump’s argument is, as it always has been, that every country needs to look after itself.

[Vox]

Trump backs Brazilian president as he rejects aid for fighting Amazon fires

President Donald Trump gave Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro his full backing Tuesday as South America struggles to contain wildfires wreaking havoc in the Amazon rainforest and as Bolsonaro rejected a pot of international aid to fight the blazes.

“I have gotten to know President @jairbolsonaro well in our dealings with Brazil,” Trump tweeted. “He is working very hard on the Amazon fires and in all respects doing a great job for the people of Brazil – Not easy. He and his country have the full and complete support of the USA!”

Brazil on Tuesday said it would reject$20 million in aid money offered Monday by G-7 nations to battle the massive fires that have threatened one of the world’s greatest sources of biodiversity.

“The Amazon are the lungs of the planet, and the consequences are dire for the planet,” French President Emmanuel Macron said in announcing the aid fund earlier this week. The assistance was not intended solely for Brazil, but for the nearly dozen states that make up the Amazon region in South America, including French Guiana. Canada and Britain pledged an additional $11 million and $12 million in aid, respectively, during the G-7 summit.

Bolsonaro’s decision to spurn the aid money from France and other economic giants comes amid a public spat with Macron that resulted Monday in the French president openly wishing Brazil would soon have a new leader. Bolsonaro insisted Macron had called him a liar and insulted him by questioning his handling of the crisis. The Brazilian president said that once Macron retracted some of those comments, “then we can speak,” according to The Associated Press.

Critics have accused Bolsonaro, a right-wing populist dubbed the “Trump of the tropics,” of facilitating the fires and of taking a lax approach to preventing mass deforestation of the rainforest while also being too slow to respond to the fires. Macron last week threatened to upend a major trade deal between the European Union and the South American Mercosur trade bloc over the issue, claiming Bolsonaro was not living up to environmental commitments that had been made under the deal.

Brazil’s ambassador to France, Luís Fernando Serra, said on French TV on Tuesday that his country is rejecting the aid because the decision was made without involving his country and the “language is ambiguous.”

“We refuse because we see interference,” he said, calling the aid “help we didn’t ask for.”

Bolsonaro’s chief of staff went further, taking personal shots at Macron and suggesting the aid might be better spent reforesting his own backyard. And he knocked the massive blaze earlier this year at Paris’ historic Notre Dame Cathedral, adding, “Macron cannot even avoid a predictable fire in a church that is part of the world’s heritage, and he wants to give us lessons for our country?”

[Politico]

Trump Swipes at Emmanuel Macron Over Attempts to Broker Iran Talks: Nobody Speaks for the US but the US Itself

President Donald Trump said Thursday that the US would not participate in discussions with Iran should France attempt to be the mediator.

” Nobody speaks for the United States but the United States itself. No one is authorized in any way, shape, or form, to represent us!” the president tweeted Thursday. He added that Iran “desperately wants to talk to the US” but is given “mixed signals” by those “purporting to represent” US interests.

The U.S. has been ramping up pressure on Iran in the form of strict sanctions as of late. Sanctions specifically have been imposed upon  Iran’s foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif accusing him of being an “apologist” for the Islamic Republic.

Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani has been asking French President Emmanuel Macron to mediate discussions between the US and Iran regarding sanctions. Iran has reacted to renewed US sanctions aimed at strangling its oil trade by retreating from commitments to limit nuclear activity. Since the US pulled out of the nuclear deal last year,France, Britain and Germany have worked to salvage the deal.

Rouhani’s office quoted him as having told Macron, “Concurrent with attempts by Iran and France to reduce tensions and create helpful conditions for lasting coexistence in the region, we are witnessing provocative actions by the Americans,” according to Radio Farda, the Iranian branch of the US government-funded Free Europe/Radio Liberty.

[Mediaite]

Emails show Stephen Miller pressed hard to limit green cards

White House senior adviser Stephen Miller wasn’t getting an immigration regulation he wanted. So he sent a series of scorching emails to top immigration officials, calling the department an “embarrassment” for not acting faster, according to emails obtained by POLITICO.

The regulation in question would allow the Department of Homeland Security to bar legal immigrants from obtaining green cards if they receive certain government benefits. The rule will likely be released in the coming days, according to a pair of current and former Trump officials briefed on the timeline.

The emails, which POLITICO obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, shed new light on how aggressively Miller has pressured the Department of Homeland Security to move faster on regulations to limit immigration. Critics say the new rule will be used to shore up Trump’s political base in the coming election year, and that it’s an illegitimate tool to reduce legal immigration. 

One former Trump official said Miller has maintained a “singular obsession” with the public charge rule, which he’s argued would bring about a transformative change to U.S. immigration.

At the receiving end of Miller’s pressure campaign was U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service Director Francis Cissna, an immigration hawk with strong support from restrictionist groups who resigned in May amid a broader Homeland Security Department shakeup that also saw the exit of former Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and other top officials.

In an email sent on June 8, 2018, Miller lambasted Cissna for the pace of his efforts to implement the public charge rule. “Francis — The timeline on public charge is unacceptable,” Miller wrote. “The public charge reg has been in the works for a year and a half. This is time we don’t have. I don’t care what you need to do to finish it on time. You run an agency of 20,000 people.”

In the message, Miller derided Cissna’s overall performance at USCIS, the agency charged with screening visa applicants and processing immigration paperwork. Cissna was known for his deliberate approach to the regulatory process.

“It’s an embarrassment that we’ve been here for 18 months and USCIS hasn’t published a single major reg,” Miller barked.

According to a version of the rule proposed in October 2018, the regulation would allow federal immigration officials to deny green cards to legal immigrants who’ve received food stamps, welfare, Medicaid, prescription drug subsidies or Section 8 housing vouchers. It could also deny green cards to immigrants deemed likely to receive such government benefits in the future.

With Trump poised to make immigration a centerpiece of his 2020 reelection campaign, a new crackdown on legal immigrants who receive government assistance could energize voters who view immigration — even when done legally — as a fiscal drain and cultural danger.

“This is something that will play well going into the next election, especially considering the prevailing view among the Democratic candidates who are talking about admitting more immigrants and offering more benefits,” said Jessica Vaughan, a director with the Center for Immigration Studies, which pushes for lower levels of both legal and illegal immigration. 

But Miller’s previously undisclosed emails could raise legal questions about whether the public charge rule was rushed to completion. The regulatory process will almost certainly be challenged in court, according to opponents bracing for the change.

In addition, the emails could reinvigorate Democratic efforts to compel Miller to testify before Congress. The White House in April denieda voluntary invitation to testify before the House Oversight Committee, which is chaired by Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.). The committee chairman had pressed Miller to explain his role in the development of what he called “troubling” immigration policies.

Acting USCIS Director Ken Cuccinelli — Cissna’s replacement at the agency and another immigration hawk — said the public charge regulation will demonstrate that Trump remains committed to his immigration agenda.

According to a version of the rule proposed in October 2018, the regulation would allow federal immigration officials to deny green cards to legal immigrants who’ve received food stamps, welfare, Medicaid, prescription drug subsidies or Section 8 housing vouchers. It could also deny green cards to immigrants deemed likely to receive such government benefits in the future.

With Trump poised to make immigration a centerpiece of his 2020 reelection campaign, a new crackdown on legal immigrants who receive government assistance could energize voters who view immigration — even when done legally — as a fiscal drain and cultural danger.

“This is something that will play well going into the next election, especially considering the prevailing view among the Democratic candidates who are talking about admitting more immigrants and offering more benefits,” said Jessica Vaughan, a director with the Center for Immigration Studies, which pushes for lower levels of both legal and illegal immigration. 

But Miller’s previously undisclosed emails could raise legal questions about whether the public charge rule was rushed to completion. The regulatory process will almost certainly be challenged in court, according to opponents bracing for the change.

In addition, the emails could reinvigorate Democratic efforts to compel Miller to testify before Congress. The White House in April denieda voluntary invitation to testify before the House Oversight Committee, which is chaired by Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.). The committee chairman had pressed Miller to explain his role in the development of what he called “troubling” immigration policies.

Acting USCIS Director Ken Cuccinelli — Cissna’s replacement at the agency and another immigration hawk — said the public charge regulation will demonstrate that Trump remains committed to his immigration agenda.

[Politico]

Trump: ‘Wacky’ UK ambassador a ‘very stupid guy’

President Trump early Tuesday ramped up his criticism of the British ambassador to the United States, who called Trump “inept” in leaked cables, saying Kim Darroch is “a very stupid guy” and a “pompous fool.”

“The wacky Ambassador that the U.K. foisted upon the United States is not someone we are thrilled with, a very stupid guy. He should speak to his country, and Prime Minister May, about their failed Brexit negotiation, and not be upset with my criticism of how badly it was handled,” Trump tweeted.

Trump also again attacked British Prime Minister Theresa May over Brexit, saying he told her “how to do that deal, but she went her own foolish way-was unable to get it done.”

“A disaster!” he continued. “I don’t know the Ambassador but have been told he is a pompous fool. Tell him the USA now has the best Economy & Military anywhere in the World, by far and they are both only getting bigger, better and stronger…..Thank you, Mr. President!”

Darroch reportedly described Trump as “incompetent” and “inept” in memos and notes sent to the United Kingdom’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office. Barroch also described conflicts within the Trump administration as “knife fights” and said he doesn’t believe the White House will “ever look competent.”

Trump tweeted on Monday after the leaked cables were reported that he would “no longer deal with” Darroch.

“I do not know the Ambassador, but he is not liked or well thought of within the U.S. We will no longer deal with him,” he said.

Shortly after Trump’s tweet, an administration official said Darroch was disinvited from a Monday night dinner hosted by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin with Trump and the emir of Qatar.

[The Hill]

Trump tells other countries to protect own Gulf shipping

President Donald Trump on Monday told other countries to protect their own Gulf oil shipments, declaring that the United States has only limited strategic interest in the “dangerous” region.

In a pair of tweets, Trump said US aims regarding Iran boil down to “No Nuclear Weapons and No Further Sponsoring of Terror.”

As for Iran’s threats to shut sea lanes used to transport a large portion of the world’s oil exports through the Persian Gulf, Washington is not concerned, Trump said.

Stating that the United States is now the world’s biggest energy producer, thereby weaning itself off decades of dependence on Middle Eastern oil, Trump said “we don’t even need to be there.”

And the US military should not be depended upon to keep the narrow sea routes along Iran’s coast free.

“Why are we protecting the shipping lanes for other countries (many years) for zero compensation,” he asked. “All of these countries should be protecting their own ships on what has always been a dangerous journey.”

As for Tehran, Trump said, his only demand is that the country not pursue nuclear weapons and halts what the United States claims is backing for terrorist groups.

“The U.S. request for Iran is very simple,” he wrote.

Iran insists that it does not have a nuclear weapons program and it signed onto an international pact in 2015 meant to ensure that its nuclear industry sticks to civilian uses. Trump pulled the United States out of the deal in 2017, seeking its collapse.

Trump’s latest signalling of a pullback from what has long been a region featuring an intense US presence comes amid growing military tension between the United States and Iran.

On Friday, Trump called off a bombing strike on Iranian facilities that had been planned as retaliation for the downing by Iran of a US spy drone.

Earlier, mysterious attacks were carried out on oil tankers transiting the same area. They were blamed on Iran by Washington, although the Iranians say they were not involved.

Trump’s tweets add to his record of seeking a wider drawdown of the US diplomatic and military footprint around the world.

[Raw Story]

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