Published: 10:04 pm, Fri. Oct. 18th, 2019Updated: 9:04 pm
Trump drops plan to host G-7 at Doral
WASHINGTON (AP) — Responding to stinging criticism, President Donald Trump on Saturday abruptly reversed his plan to hold the next Group of Seven world leaders’ meeting at his Doral, Florida, golf resort next year.
Trump announced a rare backtrack Saturday night after facing accusations that he was using the presidency to enrich himself by hosting the international summit at a private resort owned by his family.
“Based on both Media & Democrat Crazed and Irrational Hostility, we will no longer consider Trump National Doral, Miami, as the Host Site for the G-7 in 2020,” Trump tweeted. He said his administration “will begin the search for another site, including the possibility of Camp David, immediately.”
The striking reversal raises further doubts about the position of the president’s acting chief of staff, Mick Mulavney, who held a press conference Thursday announcing the choice of Doral for the summit. He insisted his staff had concluded it was “far and away the best physical facility.” Mulvaney said the White House reached that determination after visiting 10 sites across the country.
In the same press conference, Mulvaney acknowledged a quid pro quo was at work when Trump held up U.S. aid to Ukraine in exchange for Ukraine’s investigation of Democrats and the 2016 elections. Mulvaney later claimed his comments had been misconstrued, but not before drawing the ire of the president and frustration from other senior aides.
UK’s Johnson asks for Brexit delay, but argues against it
LONDON (AP) — Prime Minister Boris Johnson grudgingly asked the European Union late Saturday to delay Brexit after the British Parliament postponed a decision on whether to back his divorce deal. But the defiant Johnson also made clear that he personally opposed delaying the U.K.’s exit, scheduled for Oct. 31.
A law passed by Parliament last month set a late-night deadline for the government to send a letter asking the EU for a three-month postponement if lawmakers had not approved an agreement with the bloc by Saturday. An hour before the deadline, European Council President Donald Tusk tweeted: “The extension request has just arrived. I will now start consulting EU leaders on how to react.”
Johnson made clear he was making the request under duress. The letter requesting an extension was not signed. It was accompanied by a second letter, signed by Johnson, arguing that delay would “damage the interests of the U.K. and our EU partners.”
Earlier in the day, Johnson told lawmakers that “further delay would be bad for this country, bad for the European Union and bad for democracy.”
French President Emmanuel Macron seemed to agree. Macron’s office said he spoke to Johnson by phone and insisted on the need for “quick clarification of the British position on the accord.” The president’s office said Macron indicated to the British prime minister that “a delay would be in no one’s interest.”
Turkey wants Syrian forces to leave border areas, aide says
ISTANBUL (AP) — Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan wants Syrian government forces to move out of areas near the Turkish border so he can resettle up to 2 million refugees there, his spokesman told The Associated Press on Saturday. The request will top Erdogan’s talks next week with Syria’s ally, Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Arrangements along the Syrian-Turkish border were thrown into disarray after the U.S. pulled its troops out of the area, opening the door to Turkey’s invasion aiming to drive out Kurdish-led fighters it considers terrorists.
Abandoned by their American allies, the Kurds — with Russia’s mediation — invited Damascus to send troops into northeastern Syria as protection from Turkish forces. That has complicated Turkey’s plan to create a “safe zone” along the border, where it can resettle Syrian refugees now in Turkey. Most of those refugees fled Syria’s government.
Erdogan’s spokesman, Ibrahim Kalin said Ankara does not want either Syrian forces nor Kurdish fighters in the border area because refugees would not go back to areas under their control.
Turkey has said it wants to oversee that area.
Defense chief: US troops leaving Syria to go to western Iraq
ABOARD A U.S. MILITARY AIRCRAFT (AP) — Defense Secretary Mark Esper says that under the current plan all U.S. troops leaving Syria will go to western Iraq, and that the military will continue to conduct operations against the Islamic State group to prevent a resurgence in that country.
Speaking to reporters traveling with him to the Middle East, Esper did not rule out the idea that U.S. forces would conduct counterterrorism missions from Iraq into Syria. But he said those details will be worked out over time.
His comments were the first to specifically lay out where American troops will go as they leave Syria and what the counter-IS fight could look like. Esper said he has spoken to his Iraqi counterpart about the plan to shift the more than 700 troops leaving Syria into western Iraq.
As he left Washington Saturday, U.S. military troops were continuing to pull out of northern Syria in the wake of Turkey’s invasion into the border region. Reports of sporadic clashes continued between Turkish-backed fighters and the U.S.-allied Syria Kurdish forces despite a five-day cease-fire agreement hammered out on Friday between U.S. and Turkish leaders.
Trump ordered the bulk of the approximately 1,000 U.S. troops in Syria to withdraw after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan made it clear in a phone call that his forces were about to invade Syria to push back Kurdish forces that Turkey considers terrorists.
Trump outstripping Obama on pace of executive orders
WASHINGTON (AP) — It wasn’t too long ago that Donald Trump derided presidential executive orders as “power grabs” and a “basic disaster.”
He’s switched sides in a big way: In each year of his presidency, he has issued more executive orders than did former President Barack Obama during the same time span. He surpassed Obama’s third-year total just recently.
Back in 2012, Trump had tweeted: “Why Is @BarackObama constantly issuing executive orders that are major power grabs of authority?”
That criticism continued once he entered the presidential race.
“The country wasn’t based on executive orders,” Trump said at a South Carolina campaign stop in February 2016. “Right now, Obama goes around signing executive orders. He can’t even get along with the Democrats, and he goes around signing all these executive orders. It’s a basic disaster. You can’t do it.”
Hong Kong activist stabbed as protesters gird for march
HONG KONG (AP) — A man distributing leaflets near a wall with pro-democracy messages was stabbed and wounded, as Hong Kong anti-government protesters prepared to hold an unauthorized march Sunday to press their demands.
Police said they arrested a 22-year-old man Saturday in connection with the knife attack that wounded a 19-year-old.
On Wednesday, a leader of the nearly 5-month-old pro-democracy movement, Jimmy Sham, was attacked by assailants wielding hammers and knives as the unrest rocking semi-autonomous Hong Kong turns increasingly violent.
Later Saturday, supporters waving U.S. and British flags held a prayer rally to call for outside help for their cause. The protest march is planned for Sunday, with organizers vowing to hold the event even though it failed to win approval from police, who cited risks to public order.
Protesters are trying to keep the pressure on the government to respond to their demands, including full democracy and an independent inquiry into alleged police brutality. They’re also using Sunday’s rally to raise a more recent demand for the government to scrap a ban installed this month on face masks at public gatherings.
AP FACT CHECK: Trump’s Syrian mission-accomplished moment
WASHINGTON (AP) — As President Donald Trump describes it, the U.S. swooped into an intractable situation in the Middle East, achieved an agreement within hours that had eluded the world for years and delivered a “great day for civilization.”
It was a mission-accomplished moment that other Republican leaders, Democrats and much of the world found unconvincing.
Trump spent much of the past week trying to justify his decision to pull U.S. troops away from America’s Kurdish allies in Syria, leaving those Kurdish fighters vulnerable on several fronts and already reeling from attacks by Turkish forces.
In the process, Trump exaggerated the scope of a deal bringing a temporary cease-fire to Turkish-Kurdish hostilities and mischaracterized the history of the conflict and even the geography of it.
A look at his rhetoric on that topic and other subjects over the past week as well as a sampling of statements from the latest Democratic presidential debate:
In many parts of Mexico, government ceded battle to cartels
EL AGUAJE, Mexico (AP) — The Mexican city of Culiacan lived under drug cartel terror for 12 hours as gang members forced the government to free a drug lord’s son, but in many parts of Mexico, the government ceded the battle to the gangs long ago.
The massive, rolling gunbattle in Culiacan, capital of Sinaloa state, was shocking for the openness of the government’s capitulation and the brazenness of gunmen who drove machine-gun mounted armored trucks through the streets.
But in state after state, the Mexican government long ago relinquished effective control of whole towns, cities and regions to the drug cartels.
“They are the law here. If you have a problem, you go to them. They solve it quickly,” said a young mother in the town of El Aguaje, in western Michoacan state. El Aguaje is so completely controlled by the Jalisco New Generation Cartel that the young wife of lime-grove worker – who would not give her name for fear of reprisals – can’t turn to police: They are too afraid to enter the town.
When a convoy of Michoacan state police did make a rare appearance in El Aguaje last Monday, they were ambushed and slaughtered by Jalisco cartel gunmen. Thirteen state police officers were shot or burned to death in their vehicles.
Impeachment inquiry puts spotlight on Perry, who shunned it
WASHINGTON (AP) — Long after more flamboyant colleagues flamed out of President Donald Trump’s favor amid ethics scandals, low-profile and folksy Rick Perry survived in the Cabinet in part by steering clear of controversy.
The former Texas governor said Thursday he was quitting as energy secretary by year’s end. The announcement came as the House impeachment investigation highlighted his work in Ukraine, where he promoted U.S. natural gas and where Trump hoped to find dirt on Democratic rival Joe Biden.
Trump said that Perry, one of his longest serving Cabinet members, had planned for months to leave. But the timing of the announcement of Perry’s departure fits a Trump pattern, said governance expert Kathryn Dunn Tenpas of the Brookings Institution. Her work shows there has been more turnover in Trump’s Cabinet than under any president since at least Ronald Reagan.
“The more important the issue is to the president, the more likely you’re on the chopping block,” Tenpas said.
Nestor heads into Georgia after tornados damage Florida
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Nestor raced across Georgia as a post-tropical cyclone late Saturday, hours after the former tropical storm spawned a tornado that damaged homes and a school in central Florida while sparing areas of the Florida Panhandle devastated one year earlier by Hurricane Michael.
The storm made landfall Saturday on St. Vincent Island, a nature preserve off Florida’s northern Gulf Coast in a lightly populated area of the state, the National Hurricane Center said.
Nestor was expected to bring 1 to 3 inches of rain to drought-stricken inland areas on its march across a swath of the U.S. Southeast. Forecasters said it also was raising an overnight threat of severe weather in the Carolinas as it continued to speed toward the Atlantic Ocean.
While all tropical storm and surge warnings had been canceled by Saturday afternoon in Florida, the storm escalated weekend threats of possible twisters and severe thunderstorms elsewhere in the South.
The storm spun off at least three tornadoes in Florida as it moved north through the Gulf that caused damage.