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Chill in the Air as McConnell Readies to Sit Down With Trump

President Donald Trump blames the Senate’s Republican leader for the health overhaul failure, tantalizes deals with Democrats and watches his former strategist work to bulldoze the Republican establishment on Capitol Hill.

There’s no need for air conditioning at the White House with that chill in the air when Trump, a public official since January, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, first elected to Congress in 1984, meet on Monday.

 

“Mitch McConnell’s not our problem. Our problem is that we promised to repeal and replace Obamacare, and we failed. We promised to cut taxes and we have yet to do it,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican and a member of Congress since 1995. “If we’re successful, Mitch McConnell’s fine. If we’re not, we’re all in trouble. We lose our majority and I think President Trump will not get re-elected.”

 

Steve Bannon, back at Breitbart News after helping Trump win the presidency and serving in the West Wing, is committed to dumping McConnell, a Republican from Kentucky. In a speech to religious conservatives Saturday, Bannon put on notice some of those incumbents who are at risk of a challenge from his flank of the party. He said the lawmakers possibly can avoid that wrath if they disavow McConnell and meet other conditions.

 

“This is our war,” Bannon said. “The establishment started it…. You all are gonna finish it.”

 

Sen. Susan Collins, a Maine moderate who just passed up a run for governor and was a pivotal “no” vote on health care, said Bannon’s rhetoric is exactly what the American people are tired of. “They don’t want this hyper-partisanship. They want us to work together. And they want us to get things done,” she said.

 

Collins, who’s served in the Senate since 1997, added that Bannon’s “over-the-top rhetoric is not helpful. Mitch McConnell is the Senate majority leader. The president needs him. I’m glad they’re working together on tax reform and a lot of other issues. And I’m glad they’re meeting this week.”

Frustration abounds

McConnell responded to Trump’s Twitter barrage after the failed health care effort by saying that the challenges of governing should come as no surprise.

 

“A lot of people look at all that and find it frustrating, messy. Well, welcome to the democratic process. That’s the way it is in our country,” McConnell said at a Republican Party event in Kentucky this summer.

 

Trump, a former Democrat himself, cut a deal with Democratic leaders on raising the U.S. borrowing limit and keeping the government running into the winter. The president has also talked about future arrangements, though his recent list of immigration demands soured Democrats who had seen an earlier opening for legislative progress.

 

Hard-right conservatives frustrated by the stalled agenda in Congress wrote in a letter last week during the Senate’s break that McConnell and his leadership team should step aside. The senators’ weeklong recess also drew criticism from the White House: “They’re on another vacation right now. I think that we would all be a lot better off if the Senate would stop taking vacations, and start staying here until we actually get some real things accomplished,” Trump spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders had said.

 

Meanwhile, a McConnell-backed political committee spent millions and Trump endorsed Alabama Sen. Luther Strange in a recent primary election, but Bannon-backed Roy Moore prevailed. Moore, a former judge, has defied federal court orders, described Islam as a false religion and called homosexuality evil.

 

Senate Republicans had been upbeat about adding to their 52-48 edge in the chamber, especially with Democrats defending more seats next year – 10 in states Trump won in last year’s presidential election. But the Bannon challenge could cost them, leaving incumbents on the losing end in primaries or Republican candidates roughed up for the general election.

 

“If we don’t cut taxes and we don’t eventually repeal and replace Obamacare, then we’re going to lose across the board in the House in 2018. And all of my colleagues running in primaries in 2018 will probably get beat. It will be the end of Mitch McConnell as we know it. So this is a symptom of a greater problem,” Graham said.

 

He added that Bannon “can’t beat us if we’re successful. And if we’re not successful, it doesn’t matter who tries to beat us, they’ll be successful.”

 

Collins spoke on ABC’s “This Week,” and Graham appeared on CBS’ “Face the Nation.”

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Minority Residents, Massachusetts City Head to Federal Court

In May, 13 Asian and Hispanic residents of Lowell, Massachusetts, filed a voting rights lawsuit against the city government, alleging the at-large electoral system, in which the winner takes all, dilutes the minority vote and discriminates against the candidates from community of color running for office.

The plaintiffs asked the federal court to rule that the city’s electoral system “violates Section 2 the Voting Rights Act” and for “the adoption of at least one district-based seat.”

The first hearing on the lawsuit is scheduled for Tuesday before the U.S. District Court in Boston. Lowell’s City Council filed a motion to dismiss in its first response to the residents’ lawsuit on Sept. 15.

At the Tuesday hearing, the judge will decide whether to allow the suit to move forward. If it does, Lowell will be going to trial against some of its residents.

“We’re not surprised” by the city’s response, said Oren Sellstrom, litigation director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Economic Justice.

Lowell prides itself as being a diverse city, but “it remains to be seen” whether the city wants to “reflect diversity in the hall of power,” Sellstrom said.

City officials said they could not discuss the lawsuit because the issue is still in executive session.

Voting Rights Act

The Voting Rights Act signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson in August 1965 is considered one of the most significant pieces of civil rights legislation ever enacted in the United States.

The Lowell citizens’ lawsuit is based on the section of that law that specifically prohibits state and local governments from using voting systems that result in discrimination against racial or ethnic minorities.

This is important in Lowell because altogether the minority populations of the former mill town come close — 49.2 percent — to being the majority. Of the minority population, Asian-Americans form the largest minority group, about 21 percent, a cohort that includes more than 30,000 Cambodians.

Since 1999, only four Asian and Hispanic candidates have been elected to the Lowell City Council, which is currently all white. No non-white candidates have ever been elected to the school committee, Lowell’s version of a school board.

Changes possible

No matter how the judge decides, the City Council will be looking at the possibility of changing the city’s form of government, which includes the voting system. There have been two public discussion sessions on the issue since August.

“It is better for us and the citizen to have a district representation with a combination of at-large councilor, and it is better for the public to elect the mayor,” said James Leary, a city councilor and one of the three councilors leading the ad hoc subcommittee on the charter review that was formed in June.

In the next few months, after organizing several public sessions across the city, the committee is expected to make recommendations to the City Council on changing or keeping the current form of government.

After reviewing the committee’s recommendation, the City Council will make a decision on which direction to take. Before anything changes in Lowell, though, residents will be faced with a ballot measure in November 2018 using the current system.

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Trump Won States Most Affected by End to Health Care Subsidies

President Donald Trump’s decision to end a provision of the Affordable Care Act that was benefiting roughly 6 million Americans helps fulfill a campaign promise, but it also risks harming some of the very people who helped him win the presidency.

Nearly 70 percent of those benefiting from the so-called cost-sharing subsidies live in states Trump won last November, according to an analysis by The Associated Press. The number underscores the political risk for Trump and his party, which could end up owning the blame for increased costs and chaos in the insurance marketplace.

The subsidies are paid to insurers by the federal government to help lower consumers’ deductibles and co-pays. People who benefit will continue receiving the discounts because insurers are obligated by law to provide them. But to make up for the lost federal funding, health insurers will have to raise premiums substantially, potentially putting coverage out of reach for many consumers.

Some insurers may decide to bail out of markets altogether.

“I woke up, really, in horror,” said Alice Thompson, 62, an environmental consultant from the Milwaukee area who purchases insurance on Wisconsin’s federally run health insurance exchange.

Thompson, who spoke with reporters on a call organized by a health care advocacy group, said she expects to pay 30 percent to 50 percent more per year for her monthly premium, potentially more than her mortgage payment. Officials in Wisconsin, a state that went for a Republican presidential candidate for the first time in decades last fall, assumed the federal subsidy would end when they approved premium rate increases averaging 36 percent for the coming year.

An estimated 4 million people were benefiting from the cost-sharing payments in the 30 states Trump carried, according to an analysis of 2017 enrollment data from the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Of the 10 states with the highest percentage of consumers benefiting from cost-sharing, all but one — Massachusetts — went for Trump.

Kentucky, for example

Kentucky embraced former President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act under its last governor, a Democrat, and posted some of the largest gains in getting its residents insured. Its new governor, a Republican, favors the GOP stance to replace it with something else.

Roughly half of the estimated 71,000 Kentuckians buying health insurance on the federal exchange were benefiting from the cost-sharing subsidies Trump just ended. Despite the gains from Obama’s law, the state went for Trump last fall even as he vowed to repeal it.

Consumers such as Marsha Clark fear what will happen in the years ahead, as insurers raise premiums on everyone to make up for the end of the federal money that helped lower deductibles and co-pays.

“I’m stressed out about the insurance, stressed out about the overall economy, and I’m very stressed out about our president,” said Clark, a 61-year-old real estate broker who lives in a small town about an hour’s drive south of Louisville. She pays $1,108 a month for health insurance purchased on the exchange.

While she earns too much to benefit from the cost-sharing subsidy, she is worried that monthly premiums will rise so high in the future that it will make insurance unaffordable.

Most beneficiaries in Florida

Sherry Riggs has a similar fear. The Fort Pierce, Florida, barber benefits from the deductible and co-pay discounts, as do more than 1 million other Floridians, the highest number of cost-sharing beneficiaries of any state.

She had bypass surgery following a heart attack last year and pays $10 a visit to see her cardiologist and only a few dollars for the medications she takes twice a day.

Her monthly premium is heavily subsidized by the federal government, but she worries about the cost soaring in the future. Florida, another state that swung for Trump, has approved rate increases averaging 45 percent.

“Probably for some people it would be a death sentence,” she said. “I think it’s kind of a tragic decision on the president’s part. It scares me because I don’t think I’ll be able to afford it next year.”

Double-digit premium increases

Rates were rising in the immediate aftermath of Trump’s decision. Insurance regulators in Arkansas, another state that went for Trump, approved premium increases Friday ranging from 14 percent to nearly 25 percent for plans offered through the insurance marketplace. Had federal cost-sharing been retained, the premiums would have risen by no more than 10 percent.

In Mississippi, another state Trump won, an estimated 80 percent of consumers who buy coverage on the insurance exchange benefit from the deductible and co-pay discounts, the highest percentage of any state. Premiums there will increase by 47 percent next year, after regulators assumed Trump would end the cost-sharing payments.

The National Association of Insurance Commissioners has estimated the loss of the subsidies would result in a 12 percent to 15 percent increase in premiums, while the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office has put the figure at 20 percent. Experts say the political instability over Trump’s effort to undermine Obama’s health care law could prompt more insurers to leave markets, reducing competition and driving up prices.

Trump’s move concerned some Republicans, worried the party will be blamed for the effects on consumers and insurance markets.

“I think the president is ill-advised to take this course of action, because we, at the end of the day, will own this,” Republican Rep. Charlie Dent of Pennsylvania said Friday on CNN. “We, the Republican Party, will own this.”

Dent is not running for re-election.

GOP support

In announcing his decision, Trump argued the subsidies were payouts to insurance companies, and the government could not legally continue to make them. The subsidies have been the subject of an ongoing legal battle because the health care law failed to include a congressional appropriation, which is required before federal money can be spent.

The subsidies will cost about $7 billion this year.

Many Republicans praised Trump’s action, saying Obama’s law has led to a spike in insurance costs for those who have to buy policies on the individual market.

Among them is Republican Rep. Andy Biggs of Arizona, a state Trump won. An estimated 78,000 Arizonans were benefiting from the federal subsidies for deductibles and co-pays.

“While his actions do not take the place of real legislative repeal and revitalization of free-market health care, he is doing everything possible to save Americans from crippling health care costs and decreasing quality of care,” Biggs said.

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Federal Attorneys: Trump May Block Critics on Twitter

President Donald Trump can block his critics from following him on Twitter without violating the First Amendment despite a lawsuit’s claims that it violates the Constitution to do so, government lawyers say.

Trial attorneys with the U.S. Department of Justice in Washington submitted papers late Friday to a New York federal judge, saying a lawsuit challenging Trump over the issue should be thrown out.

“The president uses the account for his speech, not as a forum for the private speech of others,” the lawyers wrote. “And his decision to block certain users allows him to choose the information he consumes and the individuals with whom he interacts — expressive choices that public officials retain the right to make, even when those choices are made on the basis of viewpoint.”

Not a state action

They say the president’s decision to stop some individuals from following him on his 8-year-old @realdonaldtrump account, which has more than 40 million followers, is not state action. Public officials, they add, sometimes announce a new policy initiative or make statements about public policy on the campaign trail or in meetings with leaders of a political party.

“The fact that an official chooses to make such an announcement in an unofficial setting does not retroactively convert into state action the decision about which members of the public to allow into the event,” the lawyers said.

The lawyers said his Twitter account “is not a right conferred by the presidency,” but rather is a private platform run by a private company.

In a warning that ruling against Trump might threaten the constitutional separation of powers, the lawyers wrote that “courts are prohibited from enjoining the discretionary conduct of the president.”

Institute responds

The lawsuit was filed in July by the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University and seven people rejected by Trump after criticizing the president.

Jameel Jaffer, the institute’s director, said Trump’s lawyers were wrong in their legal analysis and to accept their statement that the courts had no say over the issue could have “far-reaching and intolerable” implications.

“The president isn’t above the law,” Jaffer said in a statement.

Katie Fallow, a senior staff attorney with the institute, said the argument by government lawyers that Trump’s Twitter feed is a personal account “is not defensible given that the president routinely uses it for official purposes and both the president and his aides have publicly described the account as official.”

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Kerry on Trump Nuclear Deal: ‘Reckless Abandonment of Facts’

John Kerry, the former U.S. Secretary of State, had harsh criticism for President Donald Trump’s decision not to certify that Iran is in compliance with the nuclear deal signed by six world powers in 2015.  

Kerry said the decision is a “reckless abandonment of facts in favor of ego and ideology.” Kerry, who negotiated the deal, added that Trump “weakens our hand, alienates us from our allies, empowers Iranian hardliners, makes it harder to resolve North Korea and risks moving us closer to military conflict.”

Iran’s president said Friday the nuclear deal it signed with six world powers in 2015 could not be revoked.   

In a nationally televised speech following Trump’s remarks, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani urged all signatories to the agreement to honor their commitments. He called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) “an outstanding achievement” in international diplomacy and said Iran would continue to comply with it.

 

“The Islamic Republic of Iran will not be the first to withdraw from the deal. But if its rights and interests in the deal are not respected, it will stop implementing all its commitments and will resume its peaceful nuclear program without any restrictions” Rouhani said.

 

The Iranian leader also hit back at Trump’s characterization of Iran as a “dictatorship” and “rogue regime,” calling the American president a “liar” and a “dictator.”

 

“Today the U.S. is more isolated than ever against the nuclear deal, isolated than any other time in its plots against [the] people of Iran,” Rouhani said.

He rejected Trump’s remarks listing Tehran’s support for international terrorism, calling the examples “baseless accusations” and adding that the “Iranian nation does not expect anything else from you.”

Nancy Pelosi, the top Democrat in the U.S. House, said the president’s decision was “a grave mistake” that threatens U.S. security and credibility.  

She said Trump ignored “the overwhelming consensus of nuclear scientists, national security experts, generals and his own Cabinet, including, reportedly, his secretary of defense and secretary of state.”

EU reaction

German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel said the Iran agreement “has shown for the first time that it is possible to prevent war by negotiations and, above all, to prevent a country from arming itself with nuclear weapons.” Gabriel added, ” We need such examples, for example, to convince countries like North Korea , but perhaps also others, that it is possible to create security without obtaining nuclear weapons.”  

European Union Foreign Policy Chief Federica Mogherini said, “It is not in the hands of any president of any country in the world to terminate an agreement of this sort.  She said, ” The president of the United States has many powers (but) not this one.”

 

She noted the multilateral agreement was unanimously endorsed by the United Nations Security Council Resolution 2231.

 

The EU foreign policy chief noted the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has verified eight times that Iran is meeting all its nuclear-related commitments in line with the “comprehensive and strict” monitoring system.

 

IAEA Director Yukiya Amano released a statement, saying Iran is already subject to the world’s most robust nuclear verification regime and is implementing the deal’s requirements.

In a joint statement British Prime Minister Theresa May, French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel said they are concerned by the possible implications of Trump’s decision not to recertify the Iran nuclear deal.

 

“Preserving the JCPOA is in our shared national security interest. The nuclear deal was the culmination of 13 years of diplomacy and was a major step toward ensuring that Iran’s nuclear program was not diverted for military purposes,” the European leaders said in the statement.

Sees opportunity

Asked if he was confident he could get the Europeans to renegotiate the Iran deal, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Friday he thinks there is a real opportunity to address all the threats that are posed by Iran.

“I fully expect that our allies and friends in Europe and in the region are going to be very supportive in efforts undertaken to deal with Iran’s threats,” Tillerson told reporters.

In Moscow, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Moscow is committed to supporting the Iran nuclear deal.

Ahead of Trump’s remarks, the Kremlin warned that if the United States abandons the Iran nuclear deal, Tehran would be likely to quit it as well. Russia is a signatory to the JCPOA, along with the United States, Iran, Britain, Germany and France.

Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Hua Chunying also voiced support for the Iran nuclear deal Friday.

“China’s position on the Iranian nuclear issue has been consistent. The JCPOA has played a key role in upholding international nuclear non-proliferation regime and the peace and stability of the Middle East region,” she said. “We hope that all relevant parties will continue to uphold and implement the JCPOA.”

Praise for Trump’s tough stance on Iran came from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who released a video statement.

 

“I congratulate President Trump for his courageous decision today. He boldly confronted Iran’s terrorist regime,” Netanyahu said.  The Israeli leader has long been one of the deal’s fiercest opponents.

Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain also expressed their strong support for Trump’s shift in policy toward Iran.

The Saudi Press Agency said Riyadh praised Trump’s “vision” and commitment to work with U.S. allies in the region in order to face common challenges, particularly “Iran’s aggressive policies and actions.”

U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan said he backs Trump’s decision, describing the Obama administration deal as “fatally flawed.”

Nobel winner

 

But the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, strongly criticized Trump’s decision.

 

The group’s executive director, Beatrice Fihn, said Trump’s “attempt to disrupt” the Iran deal, despite Tehran’s compliance, is a reminder of the “immense nuclear danger now facing the world” and the  “urgent need” to prohibit and eliminate nuclear weapons.

 

“In a time with great global tension, with increasing threats of nuclear war, the U.S. president is igniting new conflict rather than working to reduce the risk of nuclear war,” Fihn said.

 

 

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Trump Says Iran Non-Compliant with Nuke Deal

President Donald Trump has announced that he is decertifying Iran’s compliance with a multinational 2-year-old nuclear deal and slapping Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps with new counter-terrorism sanctions. VOA White House Bureau Chief Steve Herman reports, however, the president is stopping short of calling for the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) to be scrapped.

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US Special Counsel Questions Trump’s Former Chief of Staff

A lawyer representing former White House chief of staff Reince Priebus said a team of US government investigators interviewed Priebus on Friday as part of an ongoing probe on whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russia

during last year’s US presidential election.   

“He was happy to answer all of their questions,” said Priebus’ lawyer, William Burck.

Priebus was head of the Republican National Committee during Trump’s presidential campaign and served as the president’s chief of staff when Trump took office, before he resigned in July.

Special counsel Robert Mueller and his team of investigators are also looking into some of the actions the US President has taken since assuming office in January, including the firing of FBI Director James Comey.  Among other things, Mueller’s

team is trying to see whether the president might have obstructed justice earlier this year by persuading Comey to drop an investigation on then-National Security Advisor Michael Flynn.  

Flynn resigned in February following reports he had met with the Russian ambassador .  

Investigators expect to speak to a number of current and former officials in the coming weeks.  

President Trump has not been accused of any wrongdoing.

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Transcript of Trump Speech on Iran Nuclear Deal

THE WHITE HOUSE

 

Office of the Press Secretary


For Immediate Release                            October 13, 2017

 

 

REMARKS BY PRESIDENT TRUMP

ON IRAN STRATEGY

 

Diplomatic Reception Room

 

 

 

12:53 P.M. EDT

 

 

     THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you very much.  My fellow Americans:  As President of the United States, my highest obligation is to ensure the safety and security of the American people.  

 

History has shown that the longer we ignore a threat, the more dangerous that threat becomes.  For this reason, upon taking office, I’ve ordered a complete strategic review of our policy toward the rogue regime in Iran.  That review is now complete.

 

Today, I am announcing our strategy, along with several major steps we are taking to confront the Iranian regime’s hostile actions and to ensure that Iran never, and I mean never, acquires a nuclear weapon.  

 

Our policy is based on a clear-eyed assessment of the Iranian dictatorship, its sponsorship of terrorism, and its continuing aggression in the Middle East and all around the world.

 

Iran is under the control of a fanatical regime that seized power in 1979 and forced a proud people to submit to its extremist rule.  This radical regime has raided the wealth of one of the world’s oldest and most vibrant nations, and spread death, destruction, and chaos all around the globe.

 

Beginning in 1979, agents of the Iranian regime illegally seized the U.S. embassy in Tehran and held more than 60 Americans hostage during the 444 days of the crisis.  The Iranian-backed terrorist group Hezbollah twice bombed our embassy in Lebanon — once in 1983 and again in 1984.  Another Iranian-supported bombing killed 241 Americans — service members they were, in their barracks in Beirut in 1983.

 

In 1996, the regime directed another bombing of American military housing in Saudi Arabia, murdering 19 Americans in cold blood.

 

Iranian proxies provided training to operatives who were later involved in al Qaeda’s bombing of the American embassies in Kenya, Tanzania, and two years later, killing 224 people, and wounding more than 4,000 others.

 

The regime harbored high-level terrorists in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, including Osama bin Laden’s son.  In Iraq and Afghanistan, groups supported by Iran have killed hundreds of American military personnel.

 

The Iranian dictatorship’s aggression continues to this day.  The regime remains the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism, and provides assistance to al Qaeda, the Taliban, Hezbollah, Hamas, and other terrorist networks.  It develops, deploys, and proliferates missiles that threaten American troops and our allies.  It harasses American ships and threatens freedom of navigation in the Arabian Gulf and in the Red Sea.  It imprisons Americans on false charges.  And it launches cyberattacks against our critical infrastructure, financial system, and military.

 

The United States is far from the only target of the Iranian dictatorship’s long campaign of bloodshed.  The regime violently suppresses its own citizens; it shot unarmed student protestors in the street during the Green Revolution.  

 

This regime has fueled sectarian violence in Iraq, and vicious civil wars in Yemen and Syria.  In Syria, the Iranian regime has supported the atrocities of Bashar al-Assad’s regime and condoned Assad’s use of chemical weapons against helpless civilians, including many, many children.

 

Given the regime’s murderous past and present, we should not take lightly its sinister vision for the future.  The regime’s two favorite chants are “Death to America” and “Death to Israel.”

 

Realizing the gravity of the situation, the United States and the United Nations Security Council sought, over many years, to stop Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons with a wide array of strong economic sanctions.

 

But the previous administration lifted these sanctions, just before what would have been the total collapse of the Iranian regime, through the deeply controversial 2015 nuclear deal with Iran.  This deal is known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA.

 

As I have said many times, the Iran Deal was one of the worst and most one-sided transactions the United States has ever entered into.  The same mindset that produced this deal is responsible for years of terrible trade deals that have sacrificed so many millions of jobs in our country to the benefit of other countries.  We need negotiators who will much more strongly represent America’s interest.

 

The nuclear deal threw Iran’s dictatorship a political and economic lifeline, providing urgently needed relief from the intense domestic pressure the sanctions had created.  It also gave the regime an immediate financial boost and over $100 billion dollars its government could use to fund terrorism.

 

The regime also received a massive cash settlement of $1.7 billion from the United States, a large portion of which was physically loaded onto an airplane and flown into Iran.  Just imagine the sight of those huge piles of money being hauled off by the Iranians waiting at the airport for the cash.  I wonder where all that money went.

 

Worst of all, the deal allows Iran to continue developing certain elements of its nuclear program.  And importantly, in just a few years, as key restrictions disappear, Iran can sprint towards a rapid nuclear weapons breakout.  In other words, we got weak inspections in exchange for no more than a purely short-term and temporary delay in Iran’s path to nuclear weapons.

 

What is the purpose of a deal that, at best, only delays Iran’s nuclear capability for a short period of time?  This, as President of the United States, is unacceptable.  In other countries, they think in terms of 100-year intervals, not just a few years at a time.  

 

The saddest part of the deal for the United States is that all of the money was paid up front, which is unheard of, rather than at the end of the deal when they have shown they’ve played by the rules.  But what’s done is done, and that’s why we are where we are.  

 

The Iranian regime has committed multiple violations of the agreement.  For example, on two separate occasions, they have exceeded the limit of 130 metric tons of heavy water.  Until recently, the Iranian regime has also failed to meet our expectations in its operation of advanced centrifuges.   

 

The Iranian regime has also intimidated international inspectors into not using the full inspection authorities that the agreement calls for.  

 

Iranian officials and military leaders have repeatedly claimed they will not allow inspectors onto military sites, even though the international community suspects some of those sites were part of Iran’s clandestine nuclear weapons program.

 

There are also many people who believe that Iran is dealing with North Korea.  I am going to instruct our intelligence agencies to do a thorough analysis and report back their findings beyond what they have already reviewed.

 

By its own terms, the Iran Deal was supposed to contribute to “regional and international peace and security.”  And yet, while the United States adheres to our commitment under the deal, the Iranian regime continues to fuel conflict, terror, and turmoil throughout the Middle East and beyond.  Importantly, Iran is not living up to the spirit of the deal.

 

So today, in recognition of the increasing menace posed by Iran, and after extensive consultations with our allies, I am announcing a new strategy to address the full range of Iran’s destructive actions.

 

First, we will work with our allies to counter the regime’s destabilizing activity and support for terrorist proxies in the region.

 

Second, we will place additional sanctions on the regime to block their financing of terror.

 

Third, we will address the regime’s proliferation of missiles and weapons that threaten its neighbors, global trade, and freedom of navigation.

 

And finally, we will deny the regime all paths to a nuclear weapon.

 

Today, I am also announcing several major steps my administration is taking in pursuit of this strategy.  

 

The execution of our strategy begins with the long-overdue step of imposing tough sanctions on Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.  The Revolutionary Guard is the Iranian Supreme Leader’s corrupt personal terror force and militia.  It has hijacked large portions of Iran’s economy and seized massive religious endowments to fund war and terror abroad.  This includes arming the Syrian dictator, supplying proxies and partners with missiles and weapons to attack civilians in the region, and even plotting to bomb a popular restaurant right here in Washington, D.C.

 

I am authorizing the Treasury Department to further sanction the entire Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps for its support for terrorism and to apply sanctions to its officials, agents, and affiliates.  I urge our allies to join us in taking strong actions to curb Iran’s continued dangerous and destabilizing behavior, including thorough sanctions outside the Iran Deal that target the regime’s ballistic missile program, in support for terrorism, and all of its destructive activities, of which there are many.  

 

Finally, on the grave matter of Iran’s nuclear program: Since the signing of the nuclear agreement, the regime’s dangerous aggression has only escalated.  At the same time, it has received massive sanctions relief while continuing to develop its missiles program.  Iran has also entered into lucrative business contracts with other parties to the agreement.

 

When the agreement was finalized in 2015, Congress passed the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act to ensure that Congress’s voice would be heard on the deal.  Among other conditions, this law requires the President, or his designee, to certify that the suspension of sanctions under the deal is “appropriate and proportionate” to measure — and other measures taken by Iran to terminate its illicit nuclear program.  Based on the factual record I have put forward, I am announcing today that we cannot and will not make this certification.

 

We will not continue down a path whose predictable conclusion is more violence, more terror, and the very real threat of Iran’s nuclear breakout.

 

That is why I am directing my administration to work closely with Congress and our allies to address the deal’s many serious flaws so that the Iranian regime can never threaten the world with nuclear weapons.  These include the deal’s sunset clauses that, in just a few years, will eliminate key restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program.

 

The flaws in the deal also include insufficient enforcement and near total silence on Iran’s missile programs.  Congress has already begun the work to address these problems.  Key House and Senate leaders are drafting legislation that would amend the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act to strengthen enforcement, prevent Iran from developing an inter- — this is so totally important — an intercontinental ballistic missile, and make all restrictions on Iran’s nuclear activity permanent under U.S. law.  So important.  I support these initiatives.  

 

However, in the event we are not able to reach a solution working with Congress and our allies, then the agreement will be terminated.  It is under continuous review, and our participation can be cancelled by me, as President, at any time.

 

As we have seen in North Korea, the longer we ignore a threat, the worse that threat becomes.  It is why we are determined that the world’s leading sponsor of terrorism will never obtain nuclear weapons.

 

In this effort, we stand in total solidarity with the Iranian regime’s longest-suffering victims: its own people.  The citizens of Iran have paid a heavy price for the violence and extremism of their leaders.  The Iranian people long to — and they just are longing, to reclaim their country’s proud history, its culture, its civilization, its cooperation with its neighbors.

 

We hope that these new measures directed at the Iranian dictatorship will compel the government to reevaluate its pursuit of terror at the expense of its people.

 

We hope that our actions today will help bring about a future of peace, stability, and prosperity in the Middle East –- a future where sovereign nations respect each other and their own citizens.

 

We pray for a future where young children — American and Iranian, Muslim, Christian, and Jewish — can grow up in a world free from violence, hatred, and terror.

 

And, until that blessed day comes, we will do what we must to keep America safe.

 

Thank you, God bless you, and God bless America.  Thank you.

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A Day After Criticism, Trump Offers Support to Puerto Rico

President Donald Trump is assuring residents of hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico that he “will always be with them.”

His tweet Friday morning comes a day after he lashed out at the island, insisting that the federal government can’t keep sending help “forever.” He’d also suggested the U.S. territory is to blame for its financial struggles.

 

He took a softer tone on Friday, saying that “the wonderful people of Puerto Rico” have an “unmatched spirit.” He tweeted, “I will always be with them!”

 

But he also said again that residents “know how bad things were before” the hurricanes.

 

Much of the island remains without power weeks after the storm.

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Trump Weathering Turbulent Times at Home and Abroad

President Donald Trump, who is no stranger to political chaos, found himself in turbulent times this week.

Trump faces critical foreign policy challenges on Iran and North Korea and he remains frustrated with the prospect of a stalled domestic agenda at home. Adding to the turbulence in recent days was the president’s Twitter feud with Republican Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee and a resurgence of Trump’s long-running spat with the mainstream news media.

On Thursday, White House Chief of Staff John Kelly made a rare appearance before reporters at the daily White House briefing to knock down reports that he is frustrated in his job.

“I don’t think I’m being fired today, and I’m not so frustrated in this job that I’m thinking of leaving,” Kelly said.

As for Trump, even as he highlighted tax reform at a rally in Pennsylvania Wednesday, he complained again that he has gotten little credit for his achievements so far.

“The confidence in our country is back like it hasn’t been in many, many years,” Trump said to cheers at the event in Middletown, Pennsylvania.

He seemed a bit wistful at one point about his life before politics: “I had a very good life. But you know what? I am having a better life now and I’m helping a lot of people.”

Feuds and spats

But the president has been irritated this week over criticism from Senator Corker, warning that Trump’s temperament and rhetoric could risk “World War III.”

He also lashed out at the media in the Oval Office over reports from NBC News that he wanted to expand the U.S. nuclear arsenal by a factor of ten, something both he and his defense secretary denied.

“And it is frankly disgusting the way the press is able to write whatever they want to write, and people should look into it,” he said.

Trump’s rally in Pennsylvania was an attempt to refocus attention on tax reform. He is eager for a legislative victory he can point to in advance of next year’s congressional midterm elections.

But Republican divisions over the issue and the opposition of Democrats pose a threat to the tax plan being enacted.

“They say it is tax cuts for the middle class. It’s not. It is aimed at the rich,” Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said.

Success on tax reform is also important to Republicans, especially those running for re-election next year.

“The best way for us to help people and advance our principles is that we stay unified and advance this agenda that we are working on like tax reform,” House Speaker Paul Ryan told reporters at the Capitol.

Watch: President Trump Facing Turbulent Times at Home and Abroad

Looking to the base

Amid what some see as chaos on many fronts, Trump continues to turn to his political base for solace and support.

“I think he still gets the populist moments,” Republican strategist John Feehery said. “He still gets the fact that Washington is extraordinarily unpopular. He understands that the media is extraordinarily unpopular with the Republican voters.”

But Feehery added that the president’s habit of picking fights with both opponents and allies continues to provide major distractions from getting his agenda passed in Congress.

“His biggest problem right now is that the national media does not like him. The Republican Party, by and large, the establishment, does not like him,” he said. “Democrats obviously hate him, and so it has been very difficult for him to gain any traction, and there is also the problem of his own volatile nature.”

Despite the recent turmoil, Trump is counting on his core supporters to stick with him and he made that clear to the crowd in Pennsylvania this week. “You finally have a government that is going to defend you and stand up for you and your country,” he told the crowd.

Mixed polls

Analysts say for the most part Trump’s base is hanging with him.

“With 38 percent of the electorate, 80-plus percent of the Republican Party strongly behind him, it is unlikely that we are going to see a lot of Republicans break from him and really challenge him in meaningful ways,” George Washington University political scientist Matthew Dallek said.

But all that focus on shoring up the president’s base does come with a political cost, Gallup pollster Frank Newport said.

“For him to get a higher approval rating, he has got to somehow move those Democrats and some independents, where he is getting about a 30 percent approval now, and that is very hard,” Newport said.

In the latest Quinnipiac University poll, Republicans approved of the president’s job performance by a margin of 81 to 12 percent.

His overall approval rating was at 38 percent, up slightly from last month. That is about even with the job approval average of several polls calculated daily by Real Clear Politics, which has Trump at 38.8 percent approval, 55.4 disapproval.

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