Trump urges Venezuelan military to abandon Maduro or ‘lose everything’

FILE PHOTO: Soldiers with their faces painted march during a military parade to celebrate the 205th anniversary of Venezuela's independence in Caracas, Venezuela July 5, 2016. REUTERS/Carlos Jasso/File Photo

By Steve Holland

MIAMI (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump on Monday warned members of Venezuela’s military who remain loyal to socialist President Nicolas Maduro that they are risking their future and their lives and urged them to allow humanitarian aid into the country.

U.S. President Donald Trump pauses speaks about the crisis in Venezuela during a visit to Florida International University in Miami, Florida, U.S., February 18, 2019.   REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

U.S. President Donald Trump pauses speaks about the crisis in Venezuela during a visit to Florida International University in Miami, Florida, U.S., February 18, 2019.   REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

Speaking to a cheering crowd mostly of Venezuelan and Cuban immigrants in Miami, Trump said if the Venezuelan military continues supporting Maduro, “you will find no safe harbor, no easy exit and no way out. You’ll lose everything.”

Maduro retaliated late on Monday that Trump’s speech was “nazi-style” and said he acted as if he were the owner of Venezuela and its citizens his slaves.

Trump offered strong backing for Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido, whom the United States, many of Venezuela’s neighbors and most Western countries have recognized as interim president of Venezuela.

But Maduro, who won a second term last year in an election that critics denounced as a sham, retains the backing of Russia and China and control of Venezuelan state institutions, including the security services.

Trump cautioned Venezuelan armed forces not to harm Guaido or other opposition politicians, urged them to accept the National Assembly leader’s offer of amnesty and demanded that they allow in food, medicine, and other supplies.

Guaido, who invoked constitutional provisions to declare himself the country’s leader last month, has said that aid will enter Venezuela from neighboring countries by land and sea on Saturday.

The United States has sent tons of aid that is being stockpiled on Colombia’s border with Venezuela, but Maduro has refused to let it in.

Maduro calls the aid a U.S.-orchestrated show and denies any crisis despite many Venezuelans’ scant access to food and medicine.

“We will not make of the honorable Venezuela a Venezuela of beggars,” he said in televised comments on Monday. “We will not accept it.”

Maduro said Venezuela already received “humanitarian assistance” on a daily basis. Russia, for example, was sending 300 tonnes of aid to the country by plane on Wednesday, he said, albeit clarifying this was not a donation but supplies for which Venezuela had paid.

BROAD ATTACK ON SOCIALISM

“We seek a peaceful transition of power but all options are open,” Trump said. It was a further hint of Trump’s repeated insistence that military options remain on the table, though most Latin America experts believe such action is unlikely.The United States has had direct communications with members of Venezuela’s military urging them to abandon Maduro, a senior White House official told Reuters this month, and Trump’s aides have openly predicted more defections.

But so far, few military officers have turned against Maduro.

A source in Washington close to the opposition expressed doubts whether the Trump administration has done sufficient groundwork to spur a wider mutiny in the ranks, where many officers are suspected of benefiting from corruption and drug trafficking.

Guaido, in a videotaped message to the crowd at Florida International University, called it a “decisive moment” to exert pressure on Maduro from inside and outside the country.

Trump also used his speech to rail against socialism as a “dying” ideology in the Western Hemisphere and to brand Maduro a “puppet” of communist-ruled Cuba.

While the Republican president did not directly equate socialism with the Democratic party, as he appeared to do in his State of the Union speech this month, he alluded to his earlier criticism of domestic policies proposed by some liberal Democrats.

“America will never be a socialist country,” he said.

Trump wants to boost support among Florida’s Hispanic voters as he looks ahead to his re-election campaign in 2020, when Florida is again expected to be an important swing state.

(Reporting by Steve Holland, Jeff Mason and Matt Spetalnick; additional reporting by Sarah Marsh; Editing by Tom Brown, Howard Goller and Dan Grebler)

No need for Shinzo Abe: Trump already nominated for Nobel Peace Prize

FILE PHOTO - U.S. President Donald Trump listens to Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe during a bilateral meeting on the sidelines of the 73rd session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York, U.S., September 26, 2018. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

By Gwladys Fouche

OSLO (Reuters) – Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is not saying whether or not he nominated Donald Trump for this year’s Nobel Peace Prize, but the question may be moot: the U.S. president has been put forward by others for the prestigious award.

During a White House news conference on Friday, Trump said the Japanese premier had given him “the most beautiful copy” of a five-page nomination letter to the Norwegian Nobel Committee.

Since then Abe has declined to say whether he had done so. Regardless, Trump has already been nominated by two Norwegian lawmakers.

“We have nominated him of course for the positive developments on the Korean Peninsula,” Per-Willy Amundsen, who was Justice Minister in Prime Minister Erna Solberg’s cabinet in 2016-2018, told Reuters.

“It has been a very difficult situation and the tensions have since lowered and a lot of it is due to Trump’s unconventional diplomatic style,” he added.

Amundsen, who is a member of the rightwing Progress Party, wrote a letter to the award committee together with his parliamentary colleague Christian Tybring-Gjedde, he said.

The letter was submitted in June, immediately after a summit Trump held in Singapore with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un aimed at easing tensions and tackling Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons program.

Tybring-Gjedde, who sits on the Norwegian Parliament’s Foreign Affairs and Defence Committee, also confirmed the joint nomination of Trump when contacted by Reuters.

“A possible award would, of course, depend on the talks leading to a credible disarmament deal,” he said.

A wide range of people can nominate for the Nobel Peace Prize, including members of parliaments and governments, heads of state, university professors of history, social sciences or law and past Nobel Peace Prize laureates, among others.

The deadline for nominations for the 2019 prize, which will be announced on Oct. 11., was Jan. 31.

The five-strong Norwegian Nobel Committee, which decides who wins the award, does not comment on nominations, keeping secret for 50 years the names of nominators and unsuccessful nominees.

Still, it did say earlier this month that 304 candidates were nominated for this year’s prize, of which 219 are individuals and 85 are organizations.

Last year’s prize was jointly awarded to Congolese doctor Denis Mukwege and Yazidi human rights activist Nadia Murad.

(Editing by Frances Kerry)

Trump says he’ll declare emergency on U.S.-Mexico border

A U.S. Border Patrol agent listens from the front row as President Donald Trump declares a national emergency at the U.S.-Mexico border during remarks about border security in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, U.S., February 15, 2019. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

By Roberta Rampton and Richard Cowan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Donald Trump on Friday announced he would declare a national emergency at the U.S.-Mexico border, a move Democrats vowed to challenge as an unconstitutional attempt to fund his promised border wall without approval from Congress.

“I’m going to be signing a national emergency,” Trump said from the Rose Garden of the White House.

“We have an invasion of drugs, invasion of gangs, invasion of people, and it’s unacceptable,” he said.

The president said he would sign the authorizing paperwork later in the day in the Oval Office.

Trump was also expected on Friday to sign a bipartisan government spending bill approved by Congress on Thursday that would prevent another partial federal government shutdown by funding several agencies that otherwise would have closed on Saturday morning.

The bill, which contains no money for his wall, is a defeat for Trump in Congress, where his demand for $5.7 billion in barrier funding yielded no results, other than a record-long, 35-day December-January partial government shutdown that damaged the U.S. economy and his opinion poll numbers.

Reorienting his wall-funding quest toward a legally uncertain strategy based on declaring a national emergency could plunge Trump into a lengthy battle with Democrats – and divide his fellow Republicans.

Fifteen Democrats in the Republican-controlled Senate introduced legislation on Thursday to prevent the transfer of funds from accounts Trump likely would target to pay for his wall.

Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic Speaker of the House of Representatives, and Chuck Schumer, the Senate’s top Democrat, swiftly responded to Trump’s declaration.

“The president’s actions clearly violate the Congress’s exclusive power of the purse, which our Founders enshrined in the Constitution,” they said in a statement. “The Congress will defend our constitutional authorities in the Congress, in the courts, and in the public, using every remedy available.”

The president acknowledged that his order would face a lengthy legal challenge. “We’ll win in the Supreme Court,” Trump said.

Trump has argued the wall is needed to curb illegal immigrants and illicit drugs streaming across the southern border despite statistics that show illegal immigration there is at a 20-year low and that many drug shipments are likely smuggled through legal ports of entry.

At Friday’s White House event, a half-dozen women holding poster-sized pictures of family members killed by illegal immigrants preceded Trump into the Rose Garden. He cited their presence in announcing the emergency declaration.

A senior White House official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the administration had found nearly $7 billion to reallocate to the wall, including $600 million from a Treasury Department forfeiture fund, $2.5 billion from a Defense Department drug interdiction fund and $3.5 billion from a military construction budget.

Trump on Friday estimated the order could free up as much as $8 billion to construct the wall.

The funds would cover just part of the estimated $23 billion cost of the wall promised by Trump along the nearly 2,000-mile (3,200-km) border with Mexico.

The Senate Democrats’ bill also would stop Trump from using appropriated money to acquire lands to build the wall unless specifically authorized by Congress.

(Reporting by Richard Cowan and Roberta Rampton Morgan; additional reporting by David Morgan, Steve Holland, Susan Cornwell, Makini Brice and Eric Beech; Writing by James Oliphant, Kevin Drawbaugh and Peter Cooney; editing by Jeffrey Benkoe and Jonathan Oatis)

Trump leaves options open on deal to prevent government shutdown

U.S. President Donald Trump listens next to Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross during a Cabinet meeting at the White House in Washington, U.S., February 12, 2019. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

By Richard Cowan and Steve Holland

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump left his options open on Wednesday over whether to sign a funding deal that would avert another partial government shutdown but leave him short of the money he wants to build a wall on the border with Mexico.

The Republican president said earlier this week he is not happy with a compromise thrashed out in Congress and has not ruled out a possible veto of the legislation.

But a source familiar with the situation said on Wednesday that Trump would likely back the bipartisan deal, even if it only gives him $1.37 billion for border fencing rather than the $5.7 billion he is seeking to help build the wall.

White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said the administration was waiting until it is clear exactly what lawmakers are proposing.

“We want to see what the final piece of legislation looks like,” White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders told reporters. “It’s hard to say definitively whether or not the president is going to sign it until we know everything that’s in it.”

Another White House spokeswoman, Mercedes Schlapp, told CNN that lawyers were reviewing the administration’s options should Congress not provide Trump’s demanded money for the wall, a signature campaign promise in his 2016 election win.

With a Friday night deadline looming before government agencies begin closing for lack of funding, senior congressional Republicans have urged Trump to back the deal.

They have little appetite for a repeat of the 35-day partial shutdown in December and January – the longest in U.S. history -which closed about a quarter of the federal agencies and left some 800,000 federal workers without pay.

But Trump has come in for criticism from the right for wavering on support for the border wall, which the administration says will cut illegal immigration and drug smuggling.

“Trump talks a good game on the border wall, but it’s increasingly clear he’s afraid to fight for it,” right-wing commentator Ann Coulter tweeted on Tuesday. Trump abandoned a planned compromise on funding for the wall in December after similar criticism.

OTHER OPTIONS

The Washington Post, citing a White House official, said Trump was likely to explore using his executive power to reallocate other federal funds for barrier projects along the southern border. CNN, citing the White House, also said Trump was weighing the use of an executive order, among other options.

The president previously threatened to declare a “national emergency” if Congress did not provide money specifically for the wall — a move that would almost certainly draw opposition in Congress and in the courts.

The Democrat-controlled U.S. House of Representatives could vote as soon as Wednesday evening, a senior aide said, despite not yet having produced a written copy of the agreement reached by congressional negotiators on Monday night.

The accord must also be passed by the Republican-controlled Senate and signed by Trump by midnight on Friday to prevent a shutdown.

The measure’s fate in the House was far from certain given the risk that conservatives and liberals will oppose the compromise for different reasons.

Congressional sources said the deal includes $1.37 billion for new border fencing, about the same as last year – along 55 miles (90 km) of the border – but not the $5.7 billion Trump has demanded for the wall.

Democrats say Trump’s planned wall would be expensive, ineffective and immoral.

(Reporting by Richard Cowan and Susan Cornwell; Additional reporting by Amanda Becker, Susan Heavey and Lisa Lambert; Writing by Alistair Bell; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe and Jonathan Oatis)

White House says Trump undecided on deal to avert another shutdown

President Donald Trump has not yet decided whether to back a deal hammered out by congressional negotiators to avert another partial government shutdown, the White House said on Tuesday, putting the future of the agreement that contains funds for U.S.-Mexican border security but not his promised wall in doubt.

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Donald Trump has not yet decided whether to back a deal hammered out by congressional negotiators to avert another partial government shutdown, the White House said on Tuesday, putting the future of the agreement that contains funds for U.S.-Mexican border security but not his promised wall in doubt.

Democratic and Republican negotiators reached the tentative deal on Monday night on border security provisions and money to keep several government agencies including the Department of Homeland Security funded through Sept. 30, the end of the current fiscal year. Temporary funding for about a quarter of the government is due to expire on Friday.

“I am cautiously optimistic that we will get this through,” Democratic Representative Nita Lowey, who chairs the House of Representatives Appropriations Committee, told CNN. “We cannot shut the government down.”

Asked if the Republican president had signaled support for the bipartisan deal, Lowey did not answer directly, but said it had the backing of U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other Democrats, who control the chamber.

Trump, who triggered a 35-day partial government shutdown with his December demand for $5.7 billion to help build the border wall, has not yet made up his mind on the deal, said a White House official, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“No decision has been made,” the official said.

Republican Senator Richard Shelby on Monday said the House-Senate committee set up last month at the end of the previous shutdown had an agreement in principle to pay for border security programs.

A final agreement is expected by late on Wednesday. The funding legislation would need to be passed in the House and Senate and signed by Trump.

Trump last month agreed to end the shutdown without getting money for a wall, which is opposed by Democrats. The shutdown roiled financial markets and left hundreds of thousands of federal workers and contractors without pay.

Trump’s long-promised wall was a cornerstone of his presidential campaign. He had said it would be paid for by Mexico and not by U.S. taxpayers.

Congressional sources said the agreement includes $1.37 billion for new fencing along 55 miles (90 km) of the southern border but only with currently used designs, such as “steel bollard” fencing. It will also address immigrant detention beds.

Trump will have to decide whether to sign the measure into law given its backing from congressional Republicans, or side with conservative commentators who have the president’s ear such as Sean Hannity of Fox News, who late on Monday called it a “garbage compromise.” Democrats oppose the wall but support border security efforts.

Trump has threatened to declare a “national emergency” if Congress does not give him wall money.

“Just so you know – we’re building the wall anyway,” Trump said at a rally in the border city of El Paso, Texas, shortly after the deal was reached. “Maybe progress has been made – maybe not.”

Beto O’Rourke, the former Democratic congressman from Texas considering a 2020 White House run, accused Trump at a counter-rally nearby of stoking “false fear” about immigrants and telling “lies” about O’Rourke’s hometown of El Paso.

Without new funds, federal agencies would again have to suspend some activities this weekend, ranging from maintenance of national parks to the publishing of important economic data.

(Reporting by Richard Cowan; Additional reporting by Susan Cornwell and Steve Holland in Washington and Roberta Rampton in El Paso, Texas; Editing by Will Dunham)

‘Death to America’ aimed at Trump, not American nation, Iran leader says

DUBAI (Reuters) – Iranians will chant “Death to America” as long as Washington continues its hostile policies, but the slogan is directed at President Donald Trump and U.S. leaders, not the American nation, Iran’s supreme leader said on Friday.

“As long as America continues its wickedness, the Iranian nation will not abandon ‘Death to America’,” Ayatollah Ali Khamenei told a gathering of Iranian Air Force officers marking the 40th anniversary of Iran’s Islamic Revolution, according to his official website.

Trump pulled out of Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers last year and re-imposed sanctions on Tehran, dealing a blow to the country’s economy.

“‘Death to America’ means death to Trump, (National Security Adviser) John Bolton, and (Secretary of State Mike) Pompeo. It means death to American rulers,” Ayatollah Khamenei said.

European signatories of the nuclear deal have been trying to save the accord, but Khamenei said they could not be trusted.

“I recommend that one should not trust the Europeans just as the Americans,” Khamenei said. “We don’t say, don’t have contacts with them, but it’s an issue of trust.”

The European Union has stepped up criticism of Iran’s ballistic missiles program while remaining committed to the 2015 nuclear deal.

(Reporting by Dubai newsroom, editing by Larry King)

Trump, Xi unlikely to meet before March 1 trade deadline: U.S. officials

U.S. President Donald Trump and China's President Xi Jinping chat as they walk along the front patio of the Mar-a-Lago estate after a bilateral meeting in Palm Beach, Florida, U.S., April 7, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping are unlikely to meet before their countries’ March 1 deadline to reach a trade deal, two U.S. administration officials and a source familiar with the negotiations said on Thursday.

The countries had taken a 90-day hiatus in their trade war to hammer out a deal, and another round of talks is scheduled for next week in China.

White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow told reporters on Thursday that the leaders of the two economic superpowers could still meet later.

“At some point, the two presidents will meet, that is what Mr. Trump has been saying. But that is off in the distance still at the moment,” he said.

(Reporting by Steve Holland and Jeff Mason; Additional reporting by Alexandra Alper; Writing by Lisa Lambert; Editing by Doina Chiacu and Alistair Bell)

Trump asks U.S. Congress to prohibit late-term abortion

U.S. President Donald Trump gestures during his State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., February 5, 2019. REUTERS/Jim Young

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump called for curbs on late-term abortion in his State of the Union address on Tuesday, citing controversies over the issue in New York and Virginia.

Using emotive language, Trump waded into what has long been a divisive issue in American politics, even though the procedure was legalized in a Supreme Court ruling more than 40 years ago.

“To defend the dignity of every person, I am asking the Congress to pass legislation to prohibit the late-term abortion of children who can feel pain in the mother’s womb,” Trump said.

“Let us work together to build a culture that cherishes innocent life. Let us reaffirm a fundamental truth: all children – born and unborn – are made in the holy image of God,” he said.

The issue of whether a fetus feels pain has been raised frequently in recent years by abortion opponents pushing for more restrictions in state legislatures. Medical opinion on the issue is not conclusive.

With the confirmation last year of Trump’s pick for the Supreme Court, Justice Brett Kavanaugh, conservatives now have a 5-4 edge on the nation’s highest court, raising fears among abortion rights supporters that the 1973 Roe v Wade ruling could be weakened or overturned.

Currently, laws governing late-term abortions vary state by state.

Trump criticized a New York law enacted last month that provides strong abortion rights protections, including late-term abortions when the mother’s health is endangered.

In his speech, he said lawmakers in the state “cheered with delight” at the law “that would allow a baby to be ripped from the mother’s womb moments before birth.”

The Republican president also seized on a controversy surrounding Virginia Governor Ralph Northam, repeating Republicans’ accusations that Northam, a Democrat, advocated infanticide when he defended a bill that would have lifted restrictions on later-term abortions.

Northam has said his comments were misinterpreted. “Extrapolating otherwise is bad faith,” his spokeswoman, Ofirah Yheskel, said last week.

The embattled Virginia governor is facing a separate controversy over a racist photo in his 1984 medical school yearbook, but has resisted calls to resign.

(Reporting by Makini Brice and Doina Chiacu; Editing by Sonya Hepinstall)

With eye on Afghanistan talks, Trump vows to stop ‘endless wars’

FILE PHOTO: U.S. troops patrol at an Afghan National Army (ANA) Base in Logar province, Afghanistan August 7, 2018. REUTERS/Omar Sobhani/File Photo

By Patricia Zengerle

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Donald Trump told Americans on Tuesday his administration had accelerated talks for a political settlement in Afghanistan and would be able to reduce U.S. troops there as negotiations advance to end America’s longest war.

U.S. President Donald Trump delivers his second State of the Union address to a joint session of the U.S. Congress in the House Chamber of the U.S. Capitol on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S. February 5, 2019. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

U.S. President Donald Trump delivers his second State of the Union address to a joint session of the U.S. Congress in the House Chamber of the U.S. Capitol on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S. February 5, 2019. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

“Great nations do not fight endless wars,” Trump said in his annual State of the Union address to Congress, in which he also said U.S. troops had nearly defeated Islamic State militants in Syria and it was time to bring them home.

After 17 years of war in Afghanistan, Trump praised “the unmatched valor” of U.S. forces.

“Thanks to their bravery, we are now able to pursue a possible political solution to this long and bloody conflict,” Trump said.

He said his administration was holding constructive talks with a number of groups, including Taliban militants.

“As we make progress in these negotiations, we will be able to reduce our troop presence and focus on counter-terrorism. And we will indeed focus on counter-terrorism,” Trump said.

Trump offered no specifics about when he would bring home the 14,000 U.S. troops now in Afghanistan.

U.S.-led forces in 2001 toppled the hardline Taliban for harboring the al Qaeda militants responsible for the Sept. 11 attacks.

“We do not know whether we will achieve an agreement – but we do know that after two decades of war, the hour has come to at least try for peace,” Trump said.

‘END MILITARY PRESENCE’

The Taliban, responding to Trump’s speech, rejected any suggestion of a lingering U.S. focus on counter-terrorism after troops are drawn down, reiterating their long-held demand that all foreign troops get out.

“At the first step, we want all the foreign forces to leave and end the military presence in our country,” Sohail Shahin, a spokesman for a Taliban office in Qatar, said by telephone.

“But after ending their military presence, their non-military teams can come and … take part in the reconstruction and development process.”

In December, a U.S. official said Trump was planning to withdraw more than 5,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan, triggering worries about whether a smaller force would be able to fulfill missions underway and stabilize the country.

When he campaigned for president in 2016, Trump said he wanted to focus more on domestic issues than foreign conflicts.

However, Trump’s sudden announcement in December that he would withdraw U.S. forces from Syria alarmed allies and many current and former U.S. officials, who worry that Islamic State militants remain a threat.

After the speech, Democratic Representative Eliot Engel, chairman of the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee, said Trump’s Syria plans did not seem well thought out and could put U.S. allies like the Kurds and Israel at risk, while empowering Iran.

“We’ll probably come back at a future date, with much more danger to our troops,” Engel told Reuters.

Earlier on Tuesday, General Joseph Votel, head of the military’s Central Command, warned that Islamic State would pose an enduring threat.

In his address, Trump said Islamic State controlled more than 20,000 square miles of territory in Iraq and Syria. “Today, we have liberated virtually all of that territory from the grip of these bloodthirsty monsters,” he said.

(Reporting by Patricia Zengerle, additional reporting by Abdul Qadir Sediqi in KABUL; Editing by Mary Milliken, Sonya Hepinstall and Nick Macfie)