Trump Assails News Accounts Linking Him to New Zealand Massacre

President Donald Trump complained Monday that the U.S. national news media “is working overtime to blame me for the horrible attack in New Zealand.”

He said on Twitter, “They will have to work very hard to prove that one. So Ridiculous!”  

Trump apparently was incensed that major U.S. news outlets reported that Brent Harris Tarrant, the Australian white supremacist accused in the massacre of 50 Muslim worshippers at two mosques in Christchurch, said in a manifesto he released Friday shortly before the attacks that he viewed Trump as “a symbol of renewed white identity and common purpose,” even though he did not support his policies.

Asked Friday after the attacks whether he sees an increase in white nationalism, Trump said, “I don’t really. I think it’s a small group of people that have very, very serious problems, I guess.”

Trump said he had not seen the manifesto.

The president has condemned the attack and voiced support for New Zealand.  But he has not commented on Tarrant’s apparent motive for allegedly carrying out the attacks — his avowed racism and hatred for immigrants and Muslims.

The White House on Sunday rejected any attempt to link Trump to Tarrant.

“The president is not a white supremacist,” acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney told “Fox News Sunday.” “I’m not sure how many times we have to say that. Let’s take what happened in New Zealand for what it is: a terrible evil tragic act.”

Trump’s dismissal that white nationalism is on the rise renewed criticism that he has not voiced strong enough condemnation of white nationalists.

Trump was widely attacked in the aftermath of a deadly white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017 when he equated white supremacists with counter-protesters, saying “both sides” were to blame and that there were “fine people” on both sides of the protest.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, one of numerous Democrats seeking the party’s presidential nomination to oppose Trump in the 2020 election, said on Twitter after the New Zealand attack, “Time and time again, this president has embraced and emboldened white supremacists and instead of condemning racist terrorists, he covers for them. This isn’t normal or acceptable.”

Mulvaney, in the Fox News interview, said, “I don’t think it’s fair to cast this person (Tarrant) as a supporter of Donald Trump any more than it is to look at his eco-terrorist passages in that manifesto and align him with (Democratic House Speaker) Nancy Pelosi or Ms. Ocasio-Cortez.”

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is a Democratic congresswoman from New York.

“This was a disturbed individual, an evil person,” Mulvaney said.

Scott Brown, U.S. ambassador to New Zealand, told CNN that he gave no credence to Tarrant’s comments about Trump in the manifesto, saying the accused gunman “is rotten to the core.” Brown said he hopes Tarrant is convicted “as quickly as he can be,” and “lock him up and throw away the key.”

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US Wages Wide-Ranging Campaign to Block Huawei

VOA’s Xu Ning contributed to this report.

Over the past several weeks, the U.S. government has launched a seemingly unprecedented campaign to block the Chinese telecom giant Huawei Technologies from competing in the global rollout of next-generation 5G mobile networking technology, claiming that the company is effectively an arm of the Chinese intelligence services.

In an effort that has included top-level officials from the departments of State, Justice, Defense, Homeland Security, and Commerce, as well as the president himself, the Trump administration has taken steps to curtail Huawei’s ability to operate within the U.S. It has also mounted an extraordinary effort to convince U.S. allies to bar the firm from operating on their soil.

Huawei has long been viewed with suspicion and distrust in many corners of the global economy. The company has a documented history of industrial espionage, and its competitiveness on the global stage has been boosted by massive subsidies from the government in Beijing. Still, the scope of the U.S. government’s current offensive against the company is remarkable.

“Huawei has been accused of many things for a very long time. This is nothing new. What is unique is the extent of the pressure campaign,” said Michael Murphree, assistant professor of International Business at the University of South Carolina’s Darla Moore School of Business. “In the grand scheme of international technology competition, this is certainly a very strong effort against a specific firm.”

The push to keep Huawei from playing a major role in the rollout of 5G comes at a time when the U.S. and China are in talks to end a costly trade war that the U.S. launched last year with the imposition of tariffs against hundreds of billions of dollars’ worth of Chinese exports. In another unprecedented move, President Donald Trump has even tied at least one of the government’s actions against Huawei — a federal indictment in which the company’s chief financial officer has been named — as a potential bargaining chip in trade discussions.

A corporate spokesman for Huawei declined to comment on the Trump Administration’s aggressive tactics.

The case against Huawei

U.S. officials cite a number of reasons to treat Huawei with extreme suspicion, some of them well-documented, others less so.

Top of the list is a National Intelligence law passed in China in 2017 that gives government intelligence services broad and open-ended powers to demand the cooperation of businesses operating in China in intelligence gathering efforts. U.S. policymakers argue that this presents an unambiguous threat to national security.

“In America we can’t even get Apple to crack open an iPhone for the FBI,” Florida Senator Marco Rubio said in a March 13 appearance on Fox Business Network. “In China, Huawei has to give the Chinese anything they ask for.” He added, “They should not be in business in America.”

And while Huawei has strongly denied that it operates as an arm of the Chinese intelligence services, at least two recent international espionage cases have come uncomfortably close to the firm.

 In January, the Polish government arrested a Huawei executive on charges of spying for China. The company itself has not been charged in the case, and Huawei announced that the employee, a sales manager, had been fired.

Early last year, the French newspaper Le Monde Afrique reported that over the course of several years, the computer systems in the Chinese-financed headquarters of the African Union in Addis Ababa were secretly transmitting data toservers in Shanghai every night, and that listening devices had been discovered implanted in the building. It was later revealed that the primary supplier of information and communications technology to the project had been Huawei.

No proof has ever been put forward that Huawei was involved in the data theft, and African Union officials have declined to go on the record confirming that the information transfers ever occurred.

One of the most frequent concerns expressed by U.S. officials about Huawei is the least substantiated: the idea that the company could install secret “backdoor” access to communications equipment that would give the Chinese government ready access to sensitive communications, or even enable Beijing to shut down communications in another country at will.

It’s a claim that Ren Zhengfei, Huawei’s 74-year-old founder and president, has personally ridiculed. The government would never make that request, and Huawei would never comply, he told the BBC recently. “Our sales revenues are now hundreds of billions of dollars. We are not going to risk the disgust of our country and our customers all over the world because of something like that. We will lose all our business. I’m not going to take that risk.”

The public battle over Huawei’s image

The sheer number of fronts on which the U.S. federal government is currently engaging with Huawei, sometimes very aggressively, is notable.

The most high-profile of these is a federal indictment of the company naming its Chief Financial Officer, Meng Wanzhou, in an alleged scheme to deceive U.S. officials in order to bypass U.S. sanctions on Iran. Meng was arrested in Canada at the request of U.S. prosecutors, and the Justice Department is seeking her extradition in order to have her face trial in New York. At the same time, a second federal indictment accusing the company of stealing trade secrets, was unsealed in the state of Washington.

It is the Meng case that President Trump has suggested he might use as leverage in ongoing trade talks. Speaking to reporters at the White House last month, he said, “We’re going to be discussing all of that during the course of the next couple of weeks. We’ll be talking to the U.S. attorneys. We’ll be talking to the attorney general. We’ll be making that decision. Right now, it’s not something we’ve discussed.”

There have also been active efforts to dissuade other countries from doing business with Huawei.

Last month, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned U.S. allies that if they use Huawei telecommunications equipment in their critical infrastructure, they will lose access to some intelligence collected by the United States “If a country adopts this and puts it in some of their critical information systems, we won’t be able to share information with them, we won’t be able to work alongside them,” Pompeo said in an interview with Fox Business Network.

On March 8, the U.S. Ambassador to Germany sent a letter to the German minister for economic affairs, reiterating the U.S. government’s concern about the potential for backdoors in Huawei systems and the threat of tampering during complex software updates. He said that U.S. intelligence sharing would be significantly scaled back if Germany uses Huawei products in its new telecommunications systems.

In February, the U.S. government sent a large delegation to MWC Barcelona, the telecommunications industry’s biggest trade show, where they publicly excoriated the company as “duplicitous and deceitful.” The U.S. delegation included officials from the departments of State, Commerce, and Defense, as well as Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai. Also there were officials from the U.S. Agency for International Development, who made it clear that foreign aid dollars from the U.S. will not be available to help fund purchases from Chinese telecom firms.

In addition, a law signed by President Trump last year bars the federal government from buying equipment from Huawei and smaller Chinese telecom company ZTE. Trump has additionally floated the possibility of an executive order that would block Huawei from any participation at all in U.S 5G networks.

Huawei is fighting back, filing a lawsuit this month that claims it was unfairly banned from U.S. government computer networks. Deng Cheng, a senior research fellow at The Heritage Foundation in Washington, said the lawsuit may be aimed at determining what information the U.S. government is using to make its case.

 “There is information that the intelligence community may have that isn’t necessarily going to be made public,” he said. “What is admissible in court is not always the same as the information that is actually available. So I’m not really sure how this court case will even be adjudicated.”

Huawei’s lawsuit is likely also partly aimed at improving the firm’s reputation at a time when it is under siege by American officials.

The risk of pushback from China

At a time when the United States relations with even its closest traditional allies is under strain, Washington’s seemingly unilateral demand that a major global supplier be effectively shut out of an enormous marketplace is an audacious request.

For one thing, it is complicated by the fact that for countries and companies anxious to take advantage of 5G wireless technology, there may not be a ready substitute for the Chinese firm.

This seems to be reflected in recent reports that U.S. allies, in Europe, India, the United Arab Emirates and elsewhere, are showing real resistance to U.S, demands. A report in the New York Times late Sunday said that in Europe, the general sense is that any risk posed by Huawei is manageable through monitoring and selective use of the company’s products. The story noted that German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s response to the U.S. was a terse message that Germans would be “defining our standards for ourselves.”

And of course, there is always the possibility — even the likelihood — of Chinese retaliation against countries that accede to the United States’ requests. And in China, where the media is largely controlled by the Communist Party, and access to international news services is sharply limited, that retaliation would likely have widespread public support.

“The very strong perception is that Huawei is a great Chinese company that has done extraordinary things to move to the global frontier, in some respects to the head of the pack, and it is being unfairly treated and held back by the United States for specious reasons,” said Lester Ross, the partner-in-charge of the Beijing office of U.S. law firm Wilmer Hale.

 

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Trump Attacks General Motors for Laying Off Auto Workers

U.S. President Donald Trump is attacking General Motors, the country’s biggest automaker, for costing 5,400 factory workers their jobs when it closed a manufacturing plant where it built a compact model car that Americans were increasingly not interested in buying.

Trump said on Twitter he talked with Mary Barra, GM’s chief executive, on Sunday, telling her he was “not happy” that the automaker closed the manufacturing plant in the industrial heartland of the country in Lordstown, Ohio, where GM manufactured the Chevrolet Cruze, a smaller car the company says is still popular overseas but not in the U.S.

He said he was miffed that the Lordstown plant was closed earlier this month “when everything else in our Country is BOOMING. I asked her to sell it or do something quickly.”

The plant closure was an indication that prosperity is uneven geographically across the U.S., the world’s largest economy.

But with Trump facing several investigations surrounding his 2016 presidential campaign and his actions during the first 26 months of his presidency, he is counting on the country’s mostly robust economy as a key talking point to voters that he should be re-elected to another four-year term in the November 2020 election.

He wrote on Twitter that he is not happy about the closure.

Trump on Monday tweeted that GM, the fourth biggest automaker in the world, and the UAW are opening negotiations on a new contract in September and October.

But he demanded, “Why wait, start them now! I want jobs to stay in the U.S.A. and want Lordstown (Ohio), in one of the best economies in our history, opened or sold to a company who will open it up fast!”

About 4,500 workers at the Lordstown plant lost their jobs over the last two years as sales of the Cruze model declined sharply, along with another 900 at nearby car parts suppliers.

A small portion of the laid-off workers have found jobs at other GM plants far from the Ohio plant that was closed.

Some of the unemployed workers have sought retraining for new jobs, but often found their years of work on a manufacturing assembly line do not readily translate into the ability to handle jobs where newer technology-related skills are needed.

Annual sales of the Cruze in North America peaked at 273,000 in 2014, but last year totaled just 142,000, as Americans are buying fewer passenger cars and instead opting to purchase bigger sport utility vehicles or pickup trucks.

Even as it closed the Lordstown plant, GM is continuing to manufacture the Cruze model in Mexico, Argentina and China, where the wages it pays workers are substantially less than the wages it was paying the Lordstown employees.

GM says Cruze sales in foreign countries have remained stable, fallen less sharply than in the U.S.. or even increased, as is the case in South America.

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Beto O’Rourke Says He Raised $6.1M Online in 1st 24 Hours

Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke raised more than $6 million online during the first 24 hours after he announced his White House bid, the highest first-day number reported by any candidate, his campaign said Monday.

The “record-breaking” $6.1 million came “without a dime” from political action committees, corporations or special interests, O’Rourke spokesman Chris Evans tweeted.

The $6.1 million is just above what Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders reported for his first day as a candidate.

O’Rourke, a former Texas congressman, jumped into the 2020 presidential race on Thursday after months of speculation, shaking up the already packed Democratic field and pledging to win over voters from across the political spectrum.

O’Rourke raised an eye-popping $80 million in grassroots donations last year in his failed U.S. Senate race in Texas against incumbent Republican Ted Cruz, all while largely avoiding money from PACs. His early fundraising numbers in the presidential contest will be seen as an initial signal of whether his popularity during the Senate campaign will carry over to his White House bid.

The new figures set O’Rourke and Sanders apart from the rest of the Democratic field in launch-day fundraising. California Sen. Kamala Harris reported raising $1.5 million in the 24 hours after she launched her campaign in January. Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar reported raising $1 million in the 48 hours after launching her campaign in February.

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee said three days after starting his presidential campaign this month that he had raised more than $1 million, a notable haul for a governor less widely known than many of his competitors in a field dominated by senators.

Sanders has set the pace for 2020 grassroots donations. Aided by the $6 million he pulled in on his first day as a candidate, he took in more than $10 million in the first week, overwhelmingly from small donors.

O’Rourke, asked last week if he thought he would top Sanders, said only, “We’ll see.”

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Beto O’Rourke Says He Raised $6.1M Online in 1st 24 Hours

Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke raised more than $6 million online during the first 24 hours after he announced his White House bid, the highest first-day number reported by any candidate, his campaign said Monday.

The “record-breaking” $6.1 million came “without a dime” from political action committees, corporations or special interests, O’Rourke spokesman Chris Evans tweeted.

The $6.1 million is just above what Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders reported for his first day as a candidate.

O’Rourke, a former Texas congressman, jumped into the 2020 presidential race on Thursday after months of speculation, shaking up the already packed Democratic field and pledging to win over voters from across the political spectrum.

O’Rourke raised an eye-popping $80 million in grassroots donations last year in his failed U.S. Senate race in Texas against incumbent Republican Ted Cruz, all while largely avoiding money from PACs. His early fundraising numbers in the presidential contest will be seen as an initial signal of whether his popularity during the Senate campaign will carry over to his White House bid.

The new figures set O’Rourke and Sanders apart from the rest of the Democratic field in launch-day fundraising. California Sen. Kamala Harris reported raising $1.5 million in the 24 hours after she launched her campaign in January. Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar reported raising $1 million in the 48 hours after launching her campaign in February.

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee said three days after starting his presidential campaign this month that he had raised more than $1 million, a notable haul for a governor less widely known than many of his competitors in a field dominated by senators.

Sanders has set the pace for 2020 grassroots donations. Aided by the $6 million he pulled in on his first day as a candidate, he took in more than $10 million in the first week, overwhelmingly from small donors.

O’Rourke, asked last week if he thought he would top Sanders, said only, “We’ll see.”

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Trump Again Attacks McCain, Months After His Death, for Role in Russia Probe

U.S. President Donald Trump is firing new broadsides at the late-Sen. John McCain, nearly seven months after the one-time prisoner of war in Vietnam died from brain cancer.

In a trio of Twitter comments on Saturday and Sunday, Trump contended the Republican lawmaker helped instigate special counsel Robert Mueller’s long-running investigation of links between Trump’s 2016 election campaign and Russia, and complained again, as he has in the past, about McCain’s 2017 vote that doomed Trump’s attempted overhaul of national health care policies.

After the first attack on her late father, she said, “No one will ever love you the way they loved my father…. I wish I had been given more Saturday’s with him. Maybe spend yours with your family instead of on twitter obsessing over mine?”

When Trump launched another attack Sunday, McCain’s daughter said, “My father lives rent free in your head,” in a tweet that later appeared to have been deleted.

One of McCain’s closest friends in the U.S. Senate, Republican Lindsey Graham, a Trump ally, said, “As to @SenJohnMcCain and his devotion to his country: He stepped forward to risk his life for his country, served honorably under difficult circumstances, and was one of the most consequential senators in the history of the body. Nothing about his service will ever be changed or diminished.”

Democratic Sen. Chris Coons told ABC News, “I’ve long thought that his personal and direct attacks on Senator McCain was one of the most detestable things about President Trump’s conduct as a candidate,” calling on Trump to apologize for his most recent remarks.

Trump quoted former independent counsel Kenneth Starr, who investigated former President Bill Clinton two decades ago, as saying on the Fox News network that the fact that a McCain ally shared a dossier with the media that linked Trump to Russia was “unfortunately a very dark stain against John McCain.”

On Sunday, Trump claimed McCain was “last in his class” at the U.S. Naval Academy and that he had sent the dossier to the media “hoping to have it printed BEFORE the Election” on Nov. 8, 2016. “He & the Dems, working together, failed (as usual). Even the Fake News refused this garbage!”

Trump’s claims were wrong on three counts: McCain was fifth from last in his class of 1958. The senator did not learn of the dossier until 10 days after Trump had won the election and there is no evidence that McCain passed the dossier on to the media although a McCain aide said he did. McCain turned the file over to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Mueller’s investigation has resulted in guilty pleas and convictions of five key Trump aides and the indictment of a sixth.

Trump has long labeled the Mueller investigation as a “witch hunt” and rejected any suggestions that his campaign colluded with Russia to help him win or that, as president, he obstructed justice by trying to thwart the investigation.

The president has long shown his disdain for McCain, a fighter pilot before becoming a politician, who spent more than five years as a prisoner of war in North Vietnam in the 1960s after being shot down over Hanoi.

Trump, during the early months of his presidential campaign in 2015, disparaged McCain’s status as a POW, saying, “He’s not a war hero. He’s a war hero because he was captured. I like people that weren’t captured.”

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Trump Again Attacks McCain, Months After His Death, for Role in Russia Probe

U.S. President Donald Trump is firing new broadsides at the late-Sen. John McCain, nearly seven months after the one-time prisoner of war in Vietnam died from brain cancer.

In a trio of Twitter comments on Saturday and Sunday, Trump contended the Republican lawmaker helped instigate special counsel Robert Mueller’s long-running investigation of links between Trump’s 2016 election campaign and Russia, and complained again, as he has in the past, about McCain’s 2017 vote that doomed Trump’s attempted overhaul of national health care policies.

After the first attack on her late father, she said, “No one will ever love you the way they loved my father…. I wish I had been given more Saturday’s with him. Maybe spend yours with your family instead of on twitter obsessing over mine?”

When Trump launched another attack Sunday, McCain’s daughter said, “My father lives rent free in your head,” in a tweet that later appeared to have been deleted.

One of McCain’s closest friends in the U.S. Senate, Republican Lindsey Graham, a Trump ally, said, “As to @SenJohnMcCain and his devotion to his country: He stepped forward to risk his life for his country, served honorably under difficult circumstances, and was one of the most consequential senators in the history of the body. Nothing about his service will ever be changed or diminished.”

Democratic Sen. Chris Coons told ABC News, “I’ve long thought that his personal and direct attacks on Senator McCain was one of the most detestable things about President Trump’s conduct as a candidate,” calling on Trump to apologize for his most recent remarks.

Trump quoted former independent counsel Kenneth Starr, who investigated former President Bill Clinton two decades ago, as saying on the Fox News network that the fact that a McCain ally shared a dossier with the media that linked Trump to Russia was “unfortunately a very dark stain against John McCain.”

On Sunday, Trump claimed McCain was “last in his class” at the U.S. Naval Academy and that he had sent the dossier to the media “hoping to have it printed BEFORE the Election” on Nov. 8, 2016. “He & the Dems, working together, failed (as usual). Even the Fake News refused this garbage!”

Trump’s claims were wrong on three counts: McCain was fifth from last in his class of 1958. The senator did not learn of the dossier until 10 days after Trump had won the election and there is no evidence that McCain passed the dossier on to the media although a McCain aide said he did. McCain turned the file over to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Mueller’s investigation has resulted in guilty pleas and convictions of five key Trump aides and the indictment of a sixth.

Trump has long labeled the Mueller investigation as a “witch hunt” and rejected any suggestions that his campaign colluded with Russia to help him win or that, as president, he obstructed justice by trying to thwart the investigation.

The president has long shown his disdain for McCain, a fighter pilot before becoming a politician, who spent more than five years as a prisoner of war in North Vietnam in the 1960s after being shot down over Hanoi.

Trump, during the early months of his presidential campaign in 2015, disparaged McCain’s status as a POW, saying, “He’s not a war hero. He’s a war hero because he was captured. I like people that weren’t captured.”

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France Starts New Chapter in National Debate Aimed to End Yellow-Vest Crisis

After wrapping up thousands of town hall meetings, France starts a new chapter of its “great debate,” aimed to address longstanding public grievances and offer solutions to the yellow vest protest movement.

But the broader crisis lingers, seen with upsurge of violence in Paris Saturday, where about 10,000 yellow vests marked their 18th straight week of protests.

Demonstrators smashed and looted businesses on the iconic Champs Elysees and hurled cobble stones at police, who responded with tear gas and water cannons. Others participated in a peaceful climate march that brought together tens of thousand of people—underscoring the diffuse, unorganized complexity of the leaderless protest movement.

Eight weeks of citizen debates, launched in January by an embattled President Emmanuel Macron, have received mixed reviews. Some consider them a groundbreaking experiment in participative democracy. Others dismiss them as a public relations stunt.

The bigger question is whether and how Macron’s centrist government plans to transform the public feedback into tangible policy change that can address pent-up resentments and find an exit to the unrest.

“The problems start now” said analyst Jean Petaux of Sciences-Po Bordeaux University. “To totally finish with the yellow vests, the government has to address at least part of their demands, which are very disparate. And give the sense it is offering credible solutions.”

For Macron, the immediate takeaways have been largely positive. Up to half-a-million French participated in 10,000 town-hall-style meetings nationwide that tackled pre-set topics, ranging from taxes and pubic services, to democracy and the environment. Organizers also received more than 1.4 million online comments outlining other issues of public concern, including jobs and immigration.

“People are learning that politics and how to change a system is a very difficult process,” said Bernard Reber, an expert on participative citizenship at the Paris-based National Center for Scientific Research, citing one early achievement.

A mixed review

The debates have also given the president and his government some breathing room — time that will last through the current “phase two,” which ends in April. Citizens are being randomly selected to participate in regional meetings aimed to prioritize the myriad demands.

Surveys show the majority of French have broadly given the national debates a thumbs up. More than eight in 10 respondents said the meetings gave citizens an opportunity to express themselves, while smaller majorities said they addressed their personal problems and those aired by the yellow vests, according to a Harris Interactive-Agence Epoka poll published this week, echoing others.

But many appear skeptical that all the talking will amount to much. Another survey found roughly two-thirds doubt the government will ultimately take the public feedback into account.

France’s leading Le Monde newspaper, however, gave the effort a careful, initial thumbs up. Critics who dismissed the debates as a diversion “were misguided,” it wrote in an editorial, while the yellow vests “were eclipsed and marginalize by this exercise in democracy.”

“Macron has not yet won,” it added, “he needs to show he hasn’t just listened but heard the country.”

Government members insist that will happen.

“The idea we have to do things differently is obvious,” Territorial Collectives Minister Sebastien Lecornu, who helped to organizing the debates, told the weekly Le Journal du Dimanche. “We may beef up certain themes, accelerate or correct others.”

But Prime Minister Edouard Philippe offered a more cautionary note, those expecting a flurry of government measures emerging from the debates were misguided.

The months of yellow vest protests have slowed Macron’s reformist agenda. The protest movement, named after the fluorescent jackets French keep in their cars, has morphed well beyond its initial opposition to a planned fuel tax hike, to embrace a hodgepodge of grievances of a largely rural and working class France left behind.

The French president took an initial step back by repealing the fuel tax increase. Then in December, he went further, announcing billions of dollars of aid for the most vulnerable and laying out plans the debates. Yellow vests dismissed the announcements as insufficient, the most extreme calling for Macron’s resignation.

“Emmanuel Macron now has to show that his statements — that there is a before and and after the yellow vests — are translated into acts,” says analyst Petaux. “Otherwise, it’s just talk.”

The next step?

So far, there are at least stylistic changes. Often dismissed as arrogant and aloof, Macron has rolled up his sleeves — literally — and participated in roughly a dozen public debates, in a style reminiscent of his presidential campaign.

Political opponents grumble the French leader has hogged media coverage ahead of May European Parliament elections. And indeed, polls show Macron’s approval rating jumped eight points by early March, to reach 28 percent, and his Republic on the March party inching up to overtake the far-right opposition National Rally.

Still, some observers note the debates ultimately involved only a small slice of the population — including many elderly, with time on their hands. “The great majority of French stayed home,” said analyst Petaux. “It’s not that they were sidelined. It’s that they don’t care. They have other things to do.”

But analyst Reber, who attended roughly 30 of the town hall meetings, believes the debates should not be underestimated. “They’ve been unprecedented in every sense,” he said.

A few months ago, he said, many would have dismissed the idea that French would show up and hash out often deeply divisive issues. “But that’s not been the case,” Reber added. “People mobilized — and stayed for a long time. I don’t know many countries in the world that allow citizens to participate in hours-long debates.”

Macron is expected to announce the after-debate roadmap next month. So far, the French president has given little indication of his long-term exit strategy. Some believe he doesn’t yet have one.

 “I’m not sure the government has a clear idea of what it’s going to do with this mass of information” Reber said. “But it has all kinds of options.

A referendum may be the most obvious path, many analysts say. But it carries risks — not only in terms timing, notably whether to schedule such a vote during May European Parliament elections — but also the chance French may vote against it.

The next steps for the yellow vests are also unclear. A number of analysts believe the movement will slowly die out.

Some diehards will likely continue and harden the protests, Petaux believes, while another group will be absorbed into existing politics parties — mostly on the far right and far left.

A third “will relive the nostalgia of the Republic of roundabouts,” he said, remembering the solidarity and friendships struck during the protests.

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White House Rejects Any Trump Link to Accused New Zealand Shooter

The White House on Sunday rejected any attempt to link President Donald Trump to the white supremacist accused of gunning down 50 people at two New Zealand mosques.

“The president is not a white supremacist,” acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney told the “Fox News Sunday” show. “I’m not sure how many times we have to say that. Let’s take what happened in New Zealand [Friday] for what it is: a terrible evil tragic act.”

Alleged gunman Brenton Harris Tarrant, a 28-year-old Australian, said in a 74-page manifesto he released shortly before the massacre unfolded at mosques in Christchurch that he viewed Trump as “a symbol of renewed white identity and common purpose” but did not support his policies.

The statement renewed criticism that Trump has not voiced strong enough condemnation of white nationalists.

Asked Friday after the mosque attacks whether he sees an increase in white nationalism, Trump said, “I don’t really. I think it’s a small group of people that have very, very serious problems, I guess.” He said he had not seen the manifesto.

Mulvaney said, “I don’t think it’s fair to cast this person as a supporter of Donald Trump any more than it is to look at his eco-terrorist passages in that manifesto and align him with [Democratic House Speaker] Nancy Pelosi or Ms. Ocasio-Cortez,” Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a Democratic congresswoman.

“This was a disturbed individual, an evil person,” he said.

Scott Brown, the U.S. ambassador to New Zealand, told CNN that he gave no credence to Tarrant’s comments about Trump in the manifesto, saying the accused gunman “is rotten to the core.” Brown said he hopes Tarrant is convicted “as quickly as he can be” and the key to his prison cell thrown away.

Trump was widely attacked in the aftermath of a deadly white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017 when he equated white supremacists with counter-protesters, saying “both sides” were to blame and that there were “fine people” on both sides of the protest.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, one of numerous Democrats seeking the party’s presidential nomination to oppose Trump in the 2020 election, said on Twitter after the New Zealand attack, “Time and time again, this president has embraced and emboldened white supremacists and instead of condemning racist terrorists, he covers for them. This isn’t normal or acceptable.”

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White House Rejects Any Trump Link to Accused New Zealand Shooter

The White House on Sunday rejected any attempt to link President Donald Trump to the white supremacist accused of gunning down 50 people at two New Zealand mosques.

“The president is not a white supremacist,” acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney told the “Fox News Sunday” show. “I’m not sure how many times we have to say that. Let’s take what happened in New Zealand [Friday] for what it is: a terrible evil tragic act.”

Alleged gunman Brenton Harris Tarrant, a 28-year-old Australian, said in a 74-page manifesto he released shortly before the massacre unfolded at mosques in Christchurch that he viewed Trump as “a symbol of renewed white identity and common purpose” but did not support his policies.

The statement renewed criticism that Trump has not voiced strong enough condemnation of white nationalists.

Asked Friday after the mosque attacks whether he sees an increase in white nationalism, Trump said, “I don’t really. I think it’s a small group of people that have very, very serious problems, I guess.” He said he had not seen the manifesto.

Mulvaney said, “I don’t think it’s fair to cast this person as a supporter of Donald Trump any more than it is to look at his eco-terrorist passages in that manifesto and align him with [Democratic House Speaker] Nancy Pelosi or Ms. Ocasio-Cortez,” Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a Democratic congresswoman.

“This was a disturbed individual, an evil person,” he said.

Scott Brown, the U.S. ambassador to New Zealand, told CNN that he gave no credence to Tarrant’s comments about Trump in the manifesto, saying the accused gunman “is rotten to the core.” Brown said he hopes Tarrant is convicted “as quickly as he can be” and the key to his prison cell thrown away.

Trump was widely attacked in the aftermath of a deadly white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017 when he equated white supremacists with counter-protesters, saying “both sides” were to blame and that there were “fine people” on both sides of the protest.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, one of numerous Democrats seeking the party’s presidential nomination to oppose Trump in the 2020 election, said on Twitter after the New Zealand attack, “Time and time again, this president has embraced and emboldened white supremacists and instead of condemning racist terrorists, he covers for them. This isn’t normal or acceptable.”

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