Democrats turn to Nevada, South Carolina after Sanders’ New Hampshire win

By John Whitesides and Amanda Becker

MANCHESTER, N.H. (Reuters) – Democrats vying for the right to challenge U.S. President Donald Trump turned their focus to Nevada and South Carolina after Bernie Sanders solidified his front-runner status with a narrow victory in New Hampshire, with Pete Buttigieg close behind him.

While Sanders, a U.S. senator from neighboring Vermont, and Buttigieg, a former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, finished first and second in Tuesday’s New Hampshire primary respectively, the contest also showed the growing appeal of U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, who placed third after surging over the past few days.

Two Democrats whose fortunes have been fading – U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and former Vice President Joe Biden – limped out of New Hampshire, finishing fourth and fifth respectively amid fresh questions about the viability of their candidacies.

New Hampshire was the second contest in the state-by-state battle to pick a Democratic nominee to face Trump, a Republican, in the Nov. 3 election. Sanders and Buttigieg finished in a virtual tie in the first contest last week in Iowa and won an equal number of delegates – who formally vote at the party’s convention in July to select a nominee – in New Hampshire, according to early projections.

The campaign’s focus now begins to shift to states more demographically diverse than the largely white and rural kickoff states of Iowa and New Hampshire. The next contest is on Feb. 22 in Nevada, where more than a quarter of the residents are Latino, followed a week later by South Carolina, where about a fourth are African-American.

After that, 14 states, including California and Texas, vote in the March 3 contests known as Super Tuesday, which will also be the first time voters see the name of billionaire former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg on the Democratic presidential ballot.

Democrats must decide whether their best choice to challenge Trump would be a moderate like Buttigieg, Klobuchar, Biden or Bloomberg – or a candidate further to the left like Sanders or Warren.

Only one of the candidates has public events planned on Wednesday. Bloomberg, a billionaire media mogul, plans rallies in Chattanooga and Nashville, Tennessee.

With an eye toward a potential general election campaign against Trump, Bloomberg on Wednesday also announced the opening of a campaign office in New Hampshire headed by Democratic strategist Liz Purdy.

Bloomberg also picked up endorsements from three black members of the U.S. House of Representatives after he came under scrutiny over his past support for a policing tactic known as stop and frisk, which disproportionately affected racial minorities.

In New Hampshire, Sanders had 26% of the vote and Buttigieg had 24%. Klobuchar had 20%, Warren 9% and Biden 8%.

Buttigieg on Wednesday said his strong results in Iowa and New Hampshire showed he had momentum going forward, “settling the questions of whether we could build a campaign across age groups and different kinds of communities.”

Buttigieg, who would be the first openly gay U.S. president if elected, still faces questions about what opinion polls show is his weakness with black voters, one of the most loyal and vital Democratic voting blocs.

‘A WHOLE NEW LOOK’

Asked about how he could gain the confidence of racial minority voters, Buttigieg told MSNBC he was focused on economic empowerment and suggested he had learned lessons, sometimes “the hard way,” as mayor of South Bend. He pointed to a plan he released last summer aimed at fighting racism.

“I think we’re getting a whole new look from black and Latino voters who have so much riding on making sure that we defeat Donald Trump, because they are among those with most to lose if they have to endure yet another term of this president,” he told MSNBC.

In a sign of the growing rivalry between Sanders, 78, and Buttigieg, 38, supporters for the senator booed and chanted “Wall Street Pete!” when Buttigieg’s post-primary speech was shown on screens.

“This victory here is the beginning of the end for Donald Trump,” Sanders told supporters in Manchester, New Hampshire, late on Tuesday.

The Democratic field shrank to nine main candidates after businessman Andrew Yang and U.S. Senator Michael Bennet, who had trailed in the polls and performed poorly on Tuesday, dropped out.

Biden, 77, who was once the front-runner in the Democratic race, stumbled to his second consecutive poor finish after placing fourth in Iowa. He is certain to face growing questions about his ability to consolidate moderate support against a surging Buttigieg and Klobuchar.

Klobuchar’s campaign said it was spending more than $1 million on ads in Nevada.

“We have beaten the odds every step of the way,” Klobuchar, 59, told supporters in Concord. “Because of you, we are taking this campaign to Nevada. We are going to South Carolina. And we are taking this message of unity to the country.”

 

(Reporting by John Whitesides, James Oliphant, Simon Lewis, Michael Martina and Amanda Becker in New Hampshire, additional reporting by Susan Heavey in Washington; Writing by Will Dunham; Editing by Scott Malone, Peter Cooney and Jonathan Oatis)

New Hampshire votes as Democratic presidential hopefuls seek momentum

By Simon Lewis and Amanda Becker

SALEM/ROCHESTER, N.H. – New Hampshire voters were casting ballots on Tuesday in the second contest in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination, with U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders and former South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg jostling to remain atop a crowded field after strong performances last week in Iowa.

A parade of Democrats seeking the right to face President Donald Trump in the Nov. 3 election made final pitches to voters in the small New England state that often plays an outsized role is determining party presidential picks.

Senator Amy Klobuchar, who has jumped to third place in opinion polls in New Hampshire after a debate last Friday, is looking to gain momentum from the primary while former Vice President Joe Biden hopes to avoid another disappointment after a fourth-place showing in Iowa. Senator Elizabeth Warren, third in Iowa, rounds out the top of the slate.

New Hampshire Democrats were hoping for smoother sailing after embarrassing technical problems in the Iowa caucuses delayed the release of those results for days.

The New Hampshire ballot has a list of 33 names, including candidates who dropped out weeks ago, but will not include former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a billionaire who entered the contest later and will face his first electoral test early next month.

Recent state polls showed Sanders leading the field, followed by Buttigieg and Klobuchar.

Supporters of Buttigieg, 38, greeted him at a Manchester polling place before dawn, waving blue and yellow “Pete 2020” campaign signs and chanting “President Pete.”

“It feels good out here,” Buttigieg said, smiling as reporters asked how he thought he would fare in the primary.

Sanders, who represents neighboring Vermont in the Senate, won the New Hampshire primary handily over rival Hillary Clinton in his unsuccessful bid for the party’s nomination four years ago, securing 60% of the vote. In a crowded field this time, it is highly unlikely any of the candidates will draw that level of support by the voters.

Sanders, a self-described democratic socialist, addressed a young crowd of more than 7,500 people on Monday night at the University of New Hampshire’s campus at Durham.

“This turnout tells me why we’re going to win here in New Hampshire, why we’re going to win the Democratic nomination and why we are going to defeat the most dangerous president in the history of America, Donald Trump,” Sanders, 78, said.

Voters in New Hampshire and the rest of the contests in the state-by-state battle for the Democratic nomination will have to decide whether they want a moderate or a more left-leaning challenger to Trump. Sanders and Warren are the two progressive standard-bearers in the field, though Warren has been sliding in the polls. Like Sanders, New Hampshire voters are very familiar with Warren, who represents neighboring Massachusetts in the Senate. The moderates include Buttigieg, Klobuchar of Minnesota and Biden.

The prominent role of Iowa and New Hampshire, small and rural states with predominantly white populations, has come under increased criticism this year by Democrats for poorly representing the diversity of the party and the country.

THE ROAD AHEAD

The Feb. 22 caucuses in Nevada, which has a large Latino population, and the Feb. 29 primary in South Carolina, which has a large African-American population, will pose a new test for the 11 remaining Democratic candidates.

Biden in particular is banking on South Carolina, where he has enjoyed strong support among African-American voters. He served as vice president for eight years under Barack Obama, the first black U.S. president.

Support for Biden, the former front-runner in the race, has tumbled nationally since his poor performance in Iowa and he has said he might suffer another weak finish in New Hampshire.

Klobuchar, who arrived at a polling location in Manchester on Tuesday morning, noted her gradual rise in the polls and said she was prepared to keep fighting.

“I’m a different kind of candidate,” Klobuchar told CNN. “… I have also been able to bring people with me.”

Biden, also appearing on CNN, pressed the point that he can win over black and working-class voters and that no one in the South will vote for a democratic socialist.

Warren started her day by visiting a polling location in Portsmouth. She handed out donuts to volunteers and took photos with voters, along with her husband Bruce Mann and dog Bailey.

In Manchester, voter Sara Lutat said she cast her ballot for Buttigieg.

“I think he’s the one who can beat Trump,” she said.

Fellow Manchester voter Rebecca Balzano called Buttigieg “too new, too young” and said she voted for Sanders.

(Reporting by John Whitesides, James Oliphant, Simon Lewis and Amanda Becker in New Hampshire; Writing by Will Dunham and Scott Malone; Editing by Peter Cooney and Paul Simao)

U.S. Republican senators ask Treasury for suspicious activity reports on Hunter Biden

By Richard Cowan and Valerie Volcovici

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Republican chairmen of two U.S. Senate committees have asked the Treasury Department to provide any reports of money laundering or fraud related to former Vice President Joe Biden’s son’s business dealings with a Ukraine energy firm, according to a letter seen by Reuters on Friday.

The letter seeks “suspicious activity reports,” which are documents that financial institutions file with the Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network whenever there is a suspected case of money laundering or fraud. It was unclear whether any such reports exist related to Hunter Biden, the former vice president’s son.

The request comes as Republicans seek to defend President Donald Trump against a Democrat-led impeachment probe into whether the president improperly pressured Ukraine to investigate the Bidens to improve his reelection chances.

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley and Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Ron Johnson sent the request in a letter dated Nov. 15 to Treasury Department Director of Financial Crimes Enforcement Network Ken Blanco.

The chairmen said they want information by Dec. 5 related to Hunter Biden, who was on the board of directors of Burisma Holdings, which had been under investigation in Ukraine.

In their letter the senators noted Burisma was paying Hunter Biden as much as $50,000 a month and that their panels are investigating “potentially improper actions by the Obama administration with respect to Burisma Holdings and Ukraine.”

Grassley and Johnson, citing a story by a reporter with conservative ties, said Burisma’s consulting firm Blue Star Strategies used Biden’s board membership to gain access to Obama administration officials at the State Department.

The Bidens have denied any wrongdoing.

The elder Biden is a leading Democratic candidate for president in next year’s U.S. elections in which Trump is seeking a second four-year term.

Grassley and Johnson also said on Friday that they have asked the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration for records of 2016 White House meetings between Obama administration officials, Ukrainian government representatives and officials of the Democratic National Committee.

Trump and Republicans in Congress have been ramping up their rhetoric on the Bidens as the November 2020 U.S. elections near and as Democrats in the House of Representatives intensify their impeachment investigation of Trump.

Democrats are looking into whether Trump used the withholding of U.S. aid to Ukraine as leverage to press Kiev to launch investigations into the Bidens and allegations Ukraine meddled in the 2016 U.S. elections to hurt the Trump campaign. U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded it was Russia that tried to influence the 2016 election in favor of Trump.

On Thursday, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham, an ally of Trump’s, wrote to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo requesting documents related to 2016 contacts between the Bidens, other Obama administration officials and former Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko.

Trump has denied doing anything improper in Ukraine and has called the impeachment inquiry a witch hunt.

(Reporting by Valerie Volcovici and Richard Cowan; editing by Richard Valdmanis and Cynthia Osterman)

Ukraine president says Trump didn’t seek to blackmail him

By Natalia Zinets and Pavel Polityuk

KIEV (Reuters) – Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said on Thursday that U.S. President Donald Trump did not seek to blackmail him during a phone call in July or a meeting in September.

Zelenskiy said he had not known that U.S. military aid to Ukraine had been blocked at the time of the call. Having been made aware of this by his defense minister later, he raised the issue during a separate meeting in September in Poland with Vice President Mike Pence.

The U.S. House of Representatives has launched an impeachment inquiry against Trump, focused on whether he used congressionally approved aid to Ukraine as leverage to pressure Zelenskiy to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden, one of Trump’s main Democratic rivals as he seeks re-election in 2020.

Trump has made allegations, without evidence, that Biden engaged in improper dealings in Ukraine. Biden’s son Hunter was on the board of Ukrainian gas company Burisma.

Zelenskiy told reporters that his aim in having a phone call with Trump was to arrange a subsequent meeting and that he had asked the White House to change its rhetoric on Ukraine.

He said Kiev was open to a joint investigation into Biden but added that Ukraine was an independent country with independent law enforcement agencies that he could not influence.

“There was no blackmail. This was not the subject of our conversation,” Zelenskiy said about his call with Trump, speaking to reporters in a day-long series of televised briefings with the press, held at a Kiev food court.

Zelenskiy said there were no conditions attached to him meeting Trump, including whether he should investigate the activities of Hunter at Burisma.

The White House published its summary of the call between Zelenskiy and Trump in September. Asked whether the Ukrainian version matched up to the U.S. one, Zelenskiy said: “I didn’t even check, but I think that it matches completely.”

Biden for the first time on Wednesday made a direct call for Trump’s impeachment. Trump meanwhile continued to paint the probe as a partisan smear and accused the U.S. intelligence officer who filed the whistleblower complaint that sparked the impeachment row of having political motives.

Zelenskiy said he had no desire to interfere in the U.S. election.

Zelenskiy said he had been made aware by his defense minister that Washington had frozen military aid to Ukraine.

He raised the issue at a meeting with Pence in Warsaw when they met at a commemoration to mark the 80th anniversary of the start of the Second World War.

“I told him … please help to resolve it,” Zelenskiy recalls asking Pence. “And after our meeting America unblocked the aid.”

(Reporting by Pavel Polityuk, Natalia Zinets, Maria Tsvetkova and Matthias Williams; Writing by Matthias Williams; Editing by John Stonestreet and Peter Graff)

Trump pressed Ukraine president to probe Biden activities: call summary

By Andy Sullivan and Patricia Zengerle

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump asked Ukraine’s president in a July phone call to investigate whether a political rival, former Vice President Joe Biden, had shut down an investigation into a gas company that employed his son, according to a summary of the call released by the Trump administration on Wednesday.

Setting up a dramatic political showdown that threatens Trump’s presidency, House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Tuesday said the Democratic-led chamber was launching an official impeachment inquiry and directed six committees to proceed with investigations of the president’s actions.

Democrats have accused Trump, a Republican who is seeking re-election next year, of soliciting Ukraine’s help to smear Biden, the front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination, before the 2020 election.

“There’s a lot of talk about Biden’s son, that Biden stopped the prosecution and a lot of people want to find out about that, so whatever you can do with the attorney general would be great,” Trump said in the July 25 call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, according to the summary provided by the Justice Department.

“Biden went around bragging that he stopped the prosecution so if you can look into it. … It sounds horrible to me,” Trump said, according to the memo.

The call occurred after Trump had ordered the U.S. government to freeze nearly $400 million in American aid to Ukraine. The administration later released the aid.

The House inquiry could lead to articles of impeachment in the House that could trigger a trial in the Senate on whether to remove Trump from office.

Trump told Zelenskiy that Attorney General William Barr, the top U.S. law enforcement official, would reach out to him about re-opening the investigation into the Ukrainian gas company.

But Trump did not ask Barr to contact Ukraine, Justice Department spokeswoman Kerri Kupec said, and Barr has not communicated with Ukraine about a possible investigation or any other subject. Barr, a Trump appointee, first found out about the conversation several weeks after it took place, Kupec said.

Trump told Zelenskiy to speak with his lawyer Rudy Giuliani, a political ally who has no formal role in the U.S. government. Zelenskiy said one of his assistants had already spoken with Giuliani and that they looked forward to another meeting when the former New York mayor came to Ukraine, according to the summary of the call.

Trump has withstood repeated scandals since taking office in 2017. House Democrats had considered, but never moved ahead with, pursuing articles of impeachment over Trump’s actions relating to Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election aimed at boosting his candidacy.

Under the U.S. Constitution, the House has the power to impeach a president for “high crimes and misdemeanors.” No president has ever been removed from office through impeachment. Democrats currently control the House and Trump’s fellow Republicans control the Senate.

“The actions of the Trump presidency revealed a dishonorable fact of the president’s betrayal of his oath of office, betrayal of our national security and betrayal of the integrity of our elections,” Pelosi said on Tuesday.

Justice Department officials concluded last week that Trump’s conduct on the call did not amount to a criminal violation of campaign finance law because what he was asking for – an investigation of a political rival – did not amount to a quantifiable “thing of value,” said a senior Justice Department official, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The department’s Office of Legal Counsel, however, said the complaint had been referred to the department’s criminal division for review.

Trump, who on Twitter on Tuesday called the House impeachment inquiry “Witch Hunt garbage,” in recent days has defended his actions in the Ukraine matter as appropriate.

On Tuesday, Trump said the call with Ukraine’s president was “perfect” and “couldn’t have been nicer,” adding, “There was no pressure put on them whatsoever.” Trump has repeatedly suggested wrongdoing by Biden and his son but has offered no evidence to back up the assertion.

Biden, who served as U.S. vice president from 2009 to 2017, is leading a field of other Democrats vying for the party’s nomination to face Trump, who is seeking a second four-year term in the November 2020 election.

AID TO UKRAINE

The United States has been giving military aid to Ukraine since Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014. The $391.5 million in aid at issue in the current controversy was approved by the U.S. Congress to help Ukraine deal with an insurgency by Russian-backed separatists in the eastern part of the country.

Trump on Sunday acknowledged that he discussed Biden and Biden’s son Hunter, who had worked for a company drilling for gas in Ukraine, with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy. Trump on Monday denied trying to coerce Zelenskiy in the July 25 phone call to launch a corruption investigation into Biden and his son in return for the U.S. military aid.

Trump has offered differing reasons for why he wanted the money for Ukraine frozen, initially saying it was because of corruption in Ukraine and then saying it was because he wanted European countries like France and Germany, not the United States, to take the lead in providing assistance to Kiev.

The current controversy arose after a whistleblower from within the U.S. intelligence community brought a complaint with an internal watchdog relating to Trump’s conversation with Zelenskiy. Even though federal law calls for such complaints to be disclosed to Congress, the Trump administration has not done so.

Pelosi on Tuesday said Trump’s actions had “seriously violated the Constitution,” and accused his administration of violations of federal law.

The U.S. Senate voted unanimously on Tuesday, with no objections from Trump’s fellow Republicans, for a resolution calling for the whistleblower’s report to be sent to Congress. The House is due to vote on a similar non-binding resolution on Wednesday.

The Justice Department concluded that the whistleblower complaint did not need to be shared with Congress because the relevant law only covers conduct by intelligence officials, not the president, according to a legal analysis released by the department’s Office of Legal Counsel.

U.S. intelligence agencies and a special counsel named by the Justice Department previously concluded that Russia boosted Trump’s 2016 presidential election bid with a campaign of hacking and propaganda aimed at harming his Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton.

(Reporting by Andy Sullivan and Patricia Zengerle; Writing by Doina Chiacu; Editing by Will Dunham)

Turkish forces deepen push into Syria, draw U.S. rebuke

Turkish armoured personnel carriers drive towards the border in Karkamis on the Turkish-Syrian border in the southeastern Gaziantep province, Turkey, August 27,

By Lisa Barrington and Umit Bektas

BEIRUT/KARKAMIS, Turkey (Reuters) – Turkish-backed forces pushed deeper into northern Syria on Monday and drew a rebuke from NATO ally the United States, which said it was concerned the battle for territory had shifted away from targeting Islamic State.

At the start of Turkey’s now almost week-long cross-border offensive, Turkish tanks, artillery and warplanes provided Syrian rebel allies the firepower to capture swiftly the Syrian frontier town of Jarablus from Islamic State militants.

Since then, Turkish forces have mainly pushed into areas controlled by forces aligned to the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a coalition that encompasses the Kurdish YPG militia and which has been backed by Washington to fight the jihadists.

A group monitoring the tangled, five-year-old conflict in Syria said 41 people were killed by Turkish air strikes as Turkish forces pushed south on Sunday. Turkey denied there were any civilian deaths, saying 25 Kurdish militants were killed.

“We want to make clear that we find these clashes – in areas where ISIL is not located – unacceptable and a source of deep concern,” said Brett McGurk, U.S special envoy for the fight against Islamic State, using an acronym for the jihadists.

“We call on all armed actors to stand down,” he wrote on his official Twitter account, citing a statement from the U.S. Department of Defense.

Turkey, which is battling a Kurdish insurgency on its soil, has said its campaign has a dual goal of “cleansing” the region of Islamic State and stopping Kurdish forces filling the void and extending the area they control near Turkey’s border.

That puts Ankara at odds with Washington and adds to tensions when Turkey’s government is still reeling from last month’s failed coup, which it says Washington was too slow to condemn. U.S. Vice President Joe Biden sought to patch up ties in a visit last week, just as Turkish forces entered Syria.

“ETHNIC CLEANSING”

On Monday, Turkish-backed forces advanced on Manbij, a city about 30 km (20 miles) south of Turkey’s border captured this month by the SDF, in which Kurdish fighters play a major part, with U.S. help. The thud of artillery was heard in the Turkish border town of Karkamis.

SDF-aligned militia said they were reinforcing Manbij but insisted none of the troops in the region or the extra fighters heading to the city were from the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia.

Turkey has said its warplanes and artillery have bombarded positions held by the Kurdish YPG militia in recent days. It accuses the YPG of seeking to take territory where there has not traditionally been a strong Kurdish ethnic contingent.

“The YPG is engaged in ethnic cleansing, they are placing who they want to in those places,” Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told a news conference in Ankara, demanding Kurdish forces withdraw east of the Euphrates river, a natural boundary with areas of eastern Syria under Kurdish control.

The YPG, a powerful Syrian Kurdish militia in the SDF that Washington sees as a reliable ally against jihadists in the Syrian conflict, have dismissed the Turkish allegation and say any forces west of the Euphrates have long since left.

“Turkey’s claims that it is fighting the YPG west of the Euphrates have no basis in truth and are merely flimsy pretexts to widen its occupation of Syrian land,” Redur Xelil, chief spokesman for the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia, told Reuters.

U.S. Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook said the U.S. “reiterated our view that the YPG must cross back to the eastern side of the Euphrates and understand that has largely occurred.”

Turkish-backed forces say they have seized a string of villages south of Jarablus in a region controlled by groups aligned to the U.S.- and Kurdish-backed SDF. They also say they have taken a few places to the west in Islamic State areas.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which monitors Syria’s conflict, said Turkey-backed rebels had managed to seize at least 11 villages in 48 hours, bringing the total to at least 21 villages in the south and west Jarablus countryside captured since 25 August.

Syria’s conflict began in 2011 as an uprising against President Bashar al-Assad. Since then it has drawn in regional states and world powers, with a proliferation of rival rebel groups, militias and jihadists adding to the complexity.

(Additional reporting by Tom Perry in Beirut, Orhan Coskun and Ece Toksabay in Ankara, and Can Sezer, David Dolan and Nick Tattersall in Istanbul; Writing by Edmund Blair; Editing by Nick Tattersall and Dominic Evans)

Turkey’s Erdogan says U.S. has no excuse to keep Gulen

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan makes a speech during a meeting at the Presidential Palace in Ankara, Turkey, August 24, 2016.

ANKARA (Reuters) – Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday said he would tell U.S. Vice President Joe Biden that Washington has “no excuse” for not handing over the Pennsylvania-based cleric blamed for last month’s failed coup.

Erdogan, who is due to meet with Biden in Ankara later on Wednesday, said Turkey would continue to provide U.S. officials with documents to demand the extradition of Fethullah Gulen, who has lived in self-imposed exile in the United States since 1999.

Gulen, once an Erdogan ally, denies any involvement in the July 15 coup attempt and has condemned it. But Turkish officials say a network of Gulen supporters for years infiltrated Turkey’s military and public offices to create a “parallel state”.

“We will tell him that FETO’s leader is in your country,” Erdogan said, using an acronym for “Gulenist Terror Organisation”, the name Ankara has given Gulen’s network. “If a country wants a criminal in your country to be extradited, you have no rights to argue with that.”

Erdogan said Turkey and Washington were strategic partners and keeping Gulen would not benefit the United States.

Biden, who arrived in Turkey on Wednesday, was guided by Turkish officials around the parliament, which was damaged during the coup attempt. He is also expected to meet with the prime minister.

Rogue troops commandeered tanks, jets and helicopters to attack state institutions in Istanbul and Ankara last month in the failed coup bid that killed 240 people and triggered a massive purge of thousands of suspected Gulen followers in Turkey’s armed forces and civil service.

Washington has said it needs clear evidence to extradite Gulen. Its failure to do so – and the perception of a slow response to the coup from Western allies – has angered Erdogan and chilled relations with Washington and the European Union.

The U.S. State Department has confirmed documents submitted by Ankara constituted a formal extradition request, although not on issues related to the coup.

Hours before Biden’s arrival, Turkish forces launched a major operation inside Syria to clear Islamic State militants out of the Syrian frontier town Jarablus, backed by U.S.-led coalition warplanes.

Turkey is both a NATO member and part of the U.S. coalition in the fight against Islamic State in Syria and Iraq.

But U.S.-Ankara relations have been complicated by that conflict. Washington backs the Syrian Kurdish YPG rebels against Islamic State. Ankara is worried the YPG’s advance emboldens Kurdish insurgents in its mainly Kurdish southeast.

(Reporting by Ayla Jean Yackley and Ece Toksabay; writing by Patrick Markey; Editing by David Dolan)