Trump declares national emergency over threats against US technology amid campaign against Huawei

President Donald Trump on Wednesday declared a national emergency over threats against American technology, the White House said.

The move, done via executive order, authorized the Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, in consultation with other top officials, to block transactions that involve information or communications technology that “poses an unacceptable risk to the national security of the United States.”

Following the order, the U.S. Department of Commerce announced the addition of Huawei Technologies and its affiliates to the Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) Entity List, making it more difficult for the Chinese telecom giant to conduct business with U.S. companies.

The addition means that U.S. companies cannot sell or transfer technology to Huawei without a license issued by the BIS. That could make it harder for Huawei to do business, as it depends on some U.S. suppliers for parts.

President Donald Trump backed the decision, which will “prevent American technology from being used by foreign owned entities in ways that potentially undermine U.S. national security or foreign policy interests,” Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said in a statement.

The announcement has been under discussion for a year. It comes as the U.S and China remain locked in a trade dispute and could escalate tensions between the world’s two largest economies.

The order had been opposed by small rural carriers, who continued to rely on Huawei equipment even after it was largely dropped by the larger telecommunications companies.

In a statement, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders wrote that the administration will “protect America from foreign adversaries who are actively and increasingly creating and exploiting vulnerabilities in information and communications technology infrastructure and services in the United States.”

The Trump administration has pushed allies around the world not to adopt the company’s next generation 5G network technology, which American officials have warned could be used for spying by the Chinese. Those efforts have had mixed results in Europe, where several countries declined to stop doing business with the company.

Huawei has forcefully denied allegations that it is not independent from the Chinese government.

In recent months, the U.S. has taken a number of steps against the firm.

In January, the Department of Justice announced a slew of charges against two units of the company, including for stealing trade secrets from T-Mobile USA. And both Huawei and ZTE, another Chinese technology firm, were barred from most U.S. government contract work by the 2019 Defense Authorization Act.

In December, Canadian authorities arrested Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou to serve an extradition request from the U.S. government, which has alleged that the company defrauded several banks by concealing payments from Iran in violation of sanctions against that country.

Huawei did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the executive order. Earlier Wednesday, David Wang, an executive at the company, told The Wall Street Journal that such an order would be misguided.

[NBC News]

Trump praises ‘respected’ Hungary Dictator Viktor Orbán

At a press conference, the US president said Mr Orbán was “respected all over Europe” and had “kept [Hungary] safe”.

The conservative Hungarian premier is a controversial figure over his stances on immigration, press freedom and Russia.

Critics of the visit, including some Republicans, argue that Mr Orbán has eroded democracy in Hungary.

Why is Orbán visiting?

US officials say the two leaders had a private meeting aimed at strengthening American “re-engagement” in central Europe, and to negotiate trade deals in arms and energy.Hungary PM defiant as EU debates action

Orbán’s spokesman, Zoltán Kovács, said in a statement that both countries have “much that keeps us close”, including “Nato, security co-operation, energy security, migration, pro-family policies, and the protection of our Judeo-Christian heritage”.

Why is the visit controversial?

Mr Orbán is a divisive figure in European politics and has been criticised for moves to consolidate power and curb the power of the judiciary and media.

Like Mr Trump, he is tough on immigration.

Critics also worry about his desire to strengthen Hungary’s ties with Russia.

He has been shunned by US presidents in the past. He first visited in 2001 during his initial term as prime minister, but was refused a meeting with President Bush.

In a joint letter, several Democrat lawmakers condemned the visit, saying Mr Orbán “represents so many things that are antithetical to core American values”.

What did Trump and Orbán say?

Speaking to reporters, Mr Trump said: “I know he’s a tough man, but he’s a respected man, and he’s done the right thing, according to many people, on immigration.”

Mr Orbán, in response, said Hungary was “proud to stand together” with the US “on fighting illegal migration, on terrorism and protecting Christian communities all around the world”.

[BBC]

Trump again says armed concertgoers could have prevented Paris attack

President Trump on Friday reiterated his claim that the 2015 terrorist attacks at the Bataclan nightclub in Paris might have been avoided if some concertgoers had been armed.

“Paris, France, they say has the strongest gun laws in the world,” Trump said Friday during his speech to gun rights advocates at the National Rifle Association’s (NRA) annual convention in Indianapolis.

“If there was one gun being carried by one person on the other side, it very well could have been a whole different result. The shooting went on so long and there wasn’t a thing you could do about it,” he said.

Trump used his fingers to emulate a gun being fired, saying, “Get over here, boom. Here, boom. And then they left. They were captured later.”

The president added that if a “tiny percent” of concertgoers had been able to carry weapons, the attack “probably wouldn’t have happened because the cowards would have known there were people and they’re having guns.”

Trump has weighed in before on the shooting, which left 90 people dead. Coordinated attacks from Islamist extremists at a concert hall, stadium, restaurants and bars killed 130 people and injured hundreds more on Nov. 13, 2015.

The president made very similar comments last year while speaking at the NRA conference in Dallas and was later condemned by the French government.

[The Hill]

Reality

Actually Trump is echoing the NRA’s own argument that if guns are not allowed near schools, churches, and government buildings then shootings cannot be stopped by a “good guy with a gun.” However the empirical evidence is not on Trump’s side.

In 2014 the FBI released a reported titled “A Study of Active Shooter Incidents in the United States Between 2000 and 2013” which looked over 13 years of data and a of total of 160 incidents, and concluded the concept of a good guy with a gun was unequivocally proven to be a myth. The number of times a shooting ended after armed citizens exchanged gunfire with the shooters only amounted to 5 times (3.1%). In contrast the number of times unarmed citizens safely and successfully disrupted the shootings was 21 times (13.1%).

Media

Trump claims Mexican soldiers ‘probably’ used armed confrontation with US troops as a diversion for drug smugglers

President Donald Trump on Wednesday said that Mexican soldiers “recently pulled guns” on American troops near the southern border, and accused the soldiers of “probably” doing so as a diversionary tactic for drug smugglers.

“Better not happen again! We are now sending ARMED SOLDIERS to the Border,” Trump wrote in a post on Twitter. “Mexico is not doing nearly enough in apprehending & returning!”

The confrontation between Mexican soldiers and U.S. troops happened April 13 on American territory. It was first made public by Newsweek, which reported that Mexican soldiers detained and searched the Americans briefly at gunpoint, thinking they were still in Mexico after mistakenly crossing into the United States.

In a press release issued Wednesday, Mexico’s foreign affairs ministry wrote that the incident was not out of the ordinary. Both governments, it said, were in contact throughout the situation.

“After a brief discussion between the soldiers from the two nations, the Mexican military members departed the area,” a spokesperson for the Pentagon told the outlet. “The U.S. soldiers immediately contacted CBP, who responded quickly. Throughout the incident, the U.S. soldiers followed all established procedures and protocols.”

[CNBC]

Trump repeats unproven claims of U.K. Intel spying

Donald Trump has repeated unproven and unverified accusations that British intelligence agencies spied on his election campaign, just a day after the UK confirmed he had been invited to London on a state visit to meet the Queen.

The tweet also prompted GCHQ to reiterate that the US president’s claims were “utterly ridiculous”, although the foreign secretary, Jeremy Hunt, maintained that the “special relationship” remained intact.

Trump was apparently tweeting in response to an item on the conservative cable cable channel One America News Network, repeating an unproven conspiracy theory that originally dates back to 2017.

The president had tweeted that “Former CIA analyst Larry Johnson accuses United Kingdom Intelligence of helping Obama Administration Spy on the 2016 Trump Presidential Campaign,” and added: “WOW! It is now just a question of time before the truth comes out, and when it does, it will be a beauty!”

When asked about Trump’s tweet, GCHQ referred reporters to its previous denials. Giving an on-the-record statement in response to a politician is almost unheard of for the secretive agency, which is reluctant to get drawn into public disputes.

“The allegations that GCHQ was asked to conduct ‘wire tapping’ against the then president-elect are nonsense. They are utterly ridiculous and should be ignored,” the statement from the wire-tapping agency said.

Johnson was described as a “conservative conspiracy theorist” by the US media monitoring organisation Media Matters for America, which said he has made a series of untrue allegations about collusion, originally on the Russian television network RT.

On Tuesday, Britain confirmed that Trump had been invited to London for a state visit from 3 to 6 June – just before events to mark the 75th anniversary of D-Day – including dinner at Buckingham Palace.

Hailing the visit, Theresa May said the UK and US had “a deep and enduring partnership”. The prime minister addedthat the trip would be an opportunity “to strengthen our already close relationship in areas such as trade, investment, security and defence”.

Trump has been on the offensive for several days after a long-awaited special report from special counsel Robert Mueller said there was no evidence that he had conspired with Russia in pursuit of the presidency. But Mueller also concluded he could not reach a verdict on whether the president illegally obstructed justice.

Meanwhile, Hunt tweeted a picture of the bust of Winston Churchill in the US president’s Oval Office, in an attempt to reassert the so-called UK-US special relationship.

The British minister was doing so after Gérard Araud, the outgoing French ambassador in Washington, said British influence in the US capital was now negligible, partly due to the UK’s preoccupation with Brexit.

Araud told the Financial Times: “The UK has vanished. The British ambassador told me – and I loved it – that every time the British military is meeting the American military, the Americans are talking about the French.”

Hunt tweeted back to Araud: “I am sure you enjoyed making hay with the UK’s temporary Brexit travails but until there is a French president’s bust in the Oval Office we will not take any lessons in having good relations with Washington.”

[The Guardian]

Trump praises his Scottish golf course for its beauty and diplomatic links with UK

President Donald Trump’s seemingly out-of-the blue praise Saturday for his Aberdeen golf course in Scotland — and its purported contribution to British relations with the United States — comes only days after he was ordered to pay the legal fees in his losing effort to an offshore wind farm in sight of the course.

“Very proud of perhaps the greatest golf course anywhere in the world,” he tweeted. “Also, furthers U.K. relationship!”

Trump’s tweets — which reach 59 million people — will likely have less impact on the British foreign office than his golf business, although he says he has stepped down from running the Trump Organization to avoid potential conflict of interests.

Trump’s relations with locals near the Aberdeen course have long been strained. Environmental and planning authorities objected to plans for an additional 18-hole course as a threat to the delicate 14-mile sand dunes systems and sought to block a project to develop 550 luxury homes and lodges near the course.

The Herald Scotland newspaper said local critics view Trump as an “international pariah” with a brand so toxic it can only damage the reputation of Aberdeenshire. 

Trump, however, had his own concerns about disturbing the North Sea coastline when he strongly opposed the construction of 11 offshore turbines that he said would spoil the view from his course at Menie, about 9 miles north of Aberdeen.

“I am not thrilled — I want to see the ocean, I do not want to see windmills,” he said in 2006, according to the BBC.

In 2015, he lost that battle over the wind project, which began generating power last July. 

While losing on the merits of the case, Trump took a second hit last week when the Court of Session ruled that Trump International Golf Club Scotland Ltd. should also pay legal fees over the lawsuit, the BBC reports.

In his tweet, Trump, perhaps, was also touting the course as part of a current two-week recruitment drive to hire 100 additional staff for the resort.

The course, which Trump built from scratch on 1,800 acres in 2005, has proved to be a divisive force within the local community. Legal challenges have sought to block the development of the second course as well as the sprawling housing development nearby that was to include luxury homes and resort lodges. The Scotsman newspaper reported last week that the Trump Organization has quietly agreed to relocate some of the lodges.

Sarah Malone, executive vice-president of Trump International, told Scotland on Sunday that such readjustments are “standard practice” and that the organization is “entirely satisfied and confident in our plans.”

The Aberdeen course, one of Trump’s biggest investments, lost $4.5 million in 2017, its fourth consecutive year in the red, The Washington Post reported.

Trump, whose mother was born in Scotland, has proved a magnet for protesters when he visits his Scottish properties. Thousands of demonstrators turned out for Trump’s appearance at his other Scottish club, Turnberry, last July, including a paraglider bearing a banner that read “Trump well below par,” The Herald reports.

[USA Today]

Trump warns Europe he will free ISIS fighters if allies won’t prosecute them

President Donald Trump threatened Sunday to release hundreds of Islamic State fighters being held in Syria if allies in Europe don’t agree to take custody of the militants.

“The United States is asking Britain, France, Germany and other European allies to take back over 800 ISIS fighters that we captured in Syria and put them on trial,” Trump said in a late-night tweet. “The Caliphate is ready to fall. The alternative is not a good one in that we will be forced to release them.”

Trump, who intends to pull U.S. troops out of northern Syria, said the likely destination for the militants would be European countries. “The U.S. does not want to watch as these ISIS fighters permeate Europe, which is where they are expected to go,” Trump said.

During the civil war in Syria, hundreds of militants flooded into the country, many coming from Europe to join ISIS’ ranks. It’s unclear how many of the militants Trump is referring to are actually European citizens.

Trump’s comments come as global leaders wrap up three days of security talks in Munich, where the conflict in Syria was among the agenda items.

James Jeffrey, the U.S.’s special representative on Syria issues, said in Munich that the U.S. will leave northeastern Syria, but the troop pullout will not be abrupt.

“It will be an orderly step-by-step withdraw,”Jeffrey said without offering a timeline.

In December, Trump called for a complete withdraw of U.S. forces in the country. And on Saturday, Vice President Mike Pence reiterated that the U.S. still plans to wind down the mission in Syria.

Still, the U.S. said it intends to keep its coalition together and wants allies to play a larger role in the broader campaign to root out ISIS elements.

Jeffrey said there are hundreds of ISIS cells scattered throughout the region. U.S. air power will remain ready to respond when needed, he said.

Trump has essentially declared victory over the group, which has been forced out of all its former strongholds in Iraq and Syria. But there remain concerns that ISIS could regroup if the U.S. pulls out. Trump said the time has come for other countries to pick up the slack.

“We do so much, and spend so much – Time for others to step up and do the job that they are so capable of doing. We are pulling back after 100% Caliphate victory!,” Trump tweeted.

[Stars and Stripes]

Reality

Trump promised in the campaign he had a secret plan to defeat ISIS in 90 days. Instead:

1. 90 days came and went.

2. Said you’ll have a plan soon.

3. Your plan was to give the generals 90 days to formulate a plan.

4. Their plan was Obama’s strategy.

5. You take credit for #winning.

Trump Orders Big Troop Reduction in Afghanistan

A day after a contested decision to pull American military forces from Syria, officials said Thursday that President Trump has ordered the start of a reduction of American forces in Afghanistan.

More than 7,000 American troops will begin to return home from Afghanistan in the coming weeks, a U.S. official said. The move will come as the first stage of a phased drawdown and the start of a conclusion to the 17-year war that officials say could take at least many months. There now are more than 14,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

Mr. Trump announced Wednesday that he would pull all of the more than 2,000 American troops from Syria.

Taken together, the Syria withdrawal and the likely Afghan drawdown represent a dramatic shift in the U.S. approach to military engagement in hot spots around the world, reflecting Mr. Trump’s aversion to long-running military entanglements with their high costs and American casualties.

“I think it shows how serious the president is about wanting to come out of conflicts,” a senior U.S. official said of how the Syria decision affects his thinking on Afghanistan. “I think he wants to see viable options about how to bring conflicts to a close.”

The shifts may have proven too drastic for some in the administration. On Thursday, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis submitted a letter expressing his intent to leave, saying, “you have the right to have a secretary of defense whose views are better aligned with yours.”

Mr. Mattis’s unexpected departure raises questions about whether Mr. Trump’s plans will proceed as he directed.

The plans for troop withdrawals also reflect Mr. Trump’s campaign promises and his “America First” approach to overseas involvements. In a Twitter message on Thursday, he wrote, “Time to come home & rebuild.”

In both the Afghan and Syrian conflicts, Mr. Trump earlier this year voiced an interest in bringing troops home within the year or less, moves that were widely opposed within the U.S. national security establishment.

But Mr. Trump’s impatience has deepened, and in recent days, the debate has grown more pointed, according to those familiar with the discussions. The Pentagon over the last weekend fended off a push by Mr. Trump to start bringing troops home from Afghanistan starting in January, officials said.

Mr. Trump’s decision on Syria, like earlier foreign-policy decisions including his decision to leave the 2015 Iran nuclear agreement, was made without a formal consultative process within his cabinet, officials and lawmakers said, cementing his inclination to make key national security decisions on his own or in small groups that include national security adviser John Bolton and a few others. He also apprised few international leaders of his intentions.

The Pentagon and U.S. Central Command declined to comment on the Afghanistan plans. The move to reduce U.S. military involvement in the Middle East and Africa comes alongside a new national security strategy that designates geopolitical competitors such as Russia and China greater threats than terrorists or failed states.

Mr. Trump’s decision on Syria was widely criticized by Democrats and Republican alike in Congress and national security experts across the government, an outcome that also is likely to greet his decision on Afghanistan.

[Wall Stree Journal]

Trump told Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer off camera that ‘new NAFTA’ bill would make Mexico pay for the wall

President Donald Trump is willing to shut down the government if he doesn’t get funding for “the wall” on the U.S.-Mexico border. Trump said throughout the 2016 campaign that Mexico would pay for his wall, but now he’s saddling the American taxpayer with the cost as part of the next government funding bill.

Yet, when the cameras were off, CNN reporter Josh Dawsey tweeted that Trump told the two Democratic leaders that Mexico would still be paying for the wall because it was folded into the new NAFTA bill.

Trump got Mexico and Canada to sign a “new NAFTA” last week, but Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau humiliated Trump at the time for the agreement being essentially the same as the old NAFTA.

If it was true that the new NAFTA paid for the wall, it’s unclear why Trump still needs the funds from the American taxpayer.

[Raw Story]

Trump points to French riots to justify pulling out of Paris climate deal

President Trump on Tuesday cited recent riots in France as justification for his decision to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris climate deal, which he called “fatally flawed.”

“I am glad that my friend @EmmanuelMacron and the protestors in Paris have agreed with the conclusion I reached two years ago. The Paris Agreement is fatally flawed because it raises the price of energy for responsible countries while whitewashing some of the worst polluters in the world,” Trump wrote on Twitter.

The president argued that he has “been making great strides in improving America’s environment,” but suggested the Paris agreement put the burden for environmentally-friendly policies on American taxpayers.

The president’s tweet came after France on Tuesday delayed plans to implement steep taxes on diesel fuel and gasoline as part of Macron’s effort to reduce emissions.

“No tax is worth putting in danger the unity of the nation,” Prime Minister Édouard Philippe said in announcing the delay.

The announcement was preceded by intense protests in Paris, where demonstrators vandalized monuments and clashed with police, injuring more than 100 people. The protesters had lashed out against the planned fuel tax and, more broadly, Macron’s leadership.

Trump announced in June 2017 that the U.S. would withdraw from the Paris agreement, which includes nearly every country as part of a global effort to combat climate change. The accord does not allow nations to submit exit paperwork until November 2019, and the United States’s departure would not be effective until November 2020.

The president has long voiced skepticism about the existence of climate change, and his administration has undone a number of environmental regulations established during the Obama years.

Trump late last month dismissed the findings of a government report that warned of dire consequences if the country does not address climate change. The president went on to dispute the scientific consensus that human activity contributes to climate change.

[The Hill]

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