Senate votes to block Trump’s ‘emergency’ at border; veto looms
He had spent Thursday morning on Twitter attempting to pressure Republicans to back him on the issue.
“A big National Emergency vote today by The United States Senate on Border Security & the Wall (which is already under major construction),” said Trump. “I am prepared to veto, if necessary. The Southern Border is a National Security and Humanitarian Nightmare, but it can be easily fixed!”
“The Democrats are ‘Border Deniers.’ They refuse to see or acknowledge the Death, Crime, Drugs and Human Trafficking at our Southern Border!” he wrote later, adding, “A vote for today’s resolution by Republican Senators is a vote for Nancy Pelosi, Crime, and the Open Border Democrats!”
The Senate vote was outside of Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s control because it was triggered by the passage of the resolution in the House, where 13 Republicans joined Democrats in a 245 to 182 tally. Neither margin would be large enough to override a presidential veto, but both chambers voting to defy Trump for the first time in his presidency is a major setback at a time when numerous House committees are launching investigations of his campaign, administration and personal business.
The wall was a signature campaign issue for Trump, but he was never able to deliver on his promise to make Mexico pay for it, and the issue languished during his first two years in office. The emergency declaration came after Trump failed to win an appropriation for a border wall in a continuing resolution to fund the government last fall. The resulting deadlock shut the government for five weeks, during which time workers were furloughed or forced to work without pay.
In declaring an emergency on Feb. 15, Trump cited drug smuggling across the border from Mexico (misleading), the drop in crime in El Paso, Texas, after a partial border barricade was built there (not true) and reports of women kidnapped, bound with tape and trafficked into the United States across unguarded sections of the border (no evidence exists of this). Hours later he flew to his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida for a weekend of golf.
The wall is also facing legal challenges that could be aided by Trump’s own admission that “I could do the wall over a longer period of time. I didn’t need to do this.”
Legislation proposed by Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, would have restricted future emergency declarations from presidents while allowing Trump’s, but he couldn’t reach a compromise agreement with the White House, and the plan fizzled.
“We tried to cut a deal,” Lee said. “The president didn’t appear interested.”
Multiple dead after mosque shooting attacks in New Zealand originally appeared on abcnews.go.com
Multiple people were killed in a shooting attack on the southern island of New Zealand on Friday when a gunman opened fire inside two mosques.
The gunman, who was dressed in tactical gear, appeared to livestream video of the shooting on social media, according to New Zealand police, documenting his trip from his vehicle and into the worship center in central Christchurch, New Zealand, where he opened fire indiscriminately.
„This is one of New Zealand’s darkest days,” Prime Minister Jacinda Arden said in a press conference Friday afternoon.
Four people, three men and one woman, were taken into custody in the hours following the attack, but police have not released their identities.
The shooter also opened fire in the surrounding area outside. Police said there were multiple casualties reported, but authorities have not offered any additional details.
„A serious and evolving situation is occurring in Christchurch with an active shooter. Police are responding with its full capability to manage the situation, but the risk environment remains extremely high,” New Zealand Police tweeted. „Police recommend that residents across Christchurch remain off the streets and indoors until further notice.”
A spokesperson for the Canterbury District Health Board said it activated its mass casualty plan, putting public locations in the area on lockdown.
„Christchurch schools will be locked down until further notice,” the police department tweeted. „Police thanks the public for their cooperation and will provide further updates to keep residents informed.”
Witnesses said the attack occurred just before 1:40 p.m. local time as the worship leader gave the sermon.
„The Sheikh was giving the sermon on Friday prayers and it was 1:42 [p.m.] and the gun starts shooting and he just came in and he was shooting ad hoc,” eyewitness Ramzan Ali told The Associated Press.
Arden made reference to the nationalities of the victims, saying, „Many of those directly involved might be immigrants, refugees who chose to be here. They are us. The person who has done this, is not.”
Ali said he survived the shooting by hiding beneath a bench.
„Actually I haven’t seen him because I just lie down under the bench thinking that if I get out, I’ll get shot,” he said. „I’m just keeping my fingers crossed so I could be alive.”
„I was the last guy to come out of the mosque after the shooting stopped and on the doors there were a lot of bodies,” he added.
Police said shots were fired at least two mosque locations. Residents were urged to stay off the streets and to avoid all mosques until further notice.
„Again we are unsure if there are any other locations outside of that area that are under threat,” police said. „I want to ask anyone that was thinking of going to a mosque anywhere in New Zealand today, not to go, to close your doors until you hear from us again.”
Len Peneh, who lives next door to one of the mosques, told the AP that he „saw dead people everywhere” when he went inside to help.
„There were three in the hallway, at the door leading into the mosque, and people inside the mosque,” he said. „It’s unbelievable nutty. I don’t understand how anyone could do this to these people, to anyone. It’s ridiculous.”
He described the gunman as a white man who was wearing a helmet with some kind of device on top.
„I’ve lived next door to this mosque for about five years and the people are great, they’re very friendly,” he said. „I just don’t understand it.”
Officials said they were working to remove „extremely distressing footage” taken at the scene and urged social media users not to share it.
„Police are aware there is extremely distressing footage relating to the incident in Christchurch circulating online,” police said in a tweet. „We would strongly urge that the link not be shared. We are working to have any footage removed.”
ABC News’ Matt Foster and Darren Reynolds contributed to this report.
BRUSSELS (AP) — The future of NATO’s 15-year-long military operation in Afghanistan will depend on the outcome of peace talks involving Taliban insurgents, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said Thursday, after a U.S. envoy reported important progress from the latest round of negotiations.
The longest direct talks ever held between the United States and the Taliban concluded this week. U.S. envoy Zalmay Khalilzad said the sides reached „draft agreements” covering the withdrawal of U.S. troops and guarantees that Afghanistan would not become a haven for terrorists once a settlement is found.
The United States has around 14,000 troops in Afghanistan. Around half of them carry out counter-terror operations while others lead NATO’s military training and mentoring mission.
U.S. President Donald Trump has said that about 7,000 U.S. troops would leave, but it’s unclear which ones would stay. Most of NATO’s European allies depend on U.S. air and logistical support to carry out their mission.
„The future force level of NATO troops is very much dependent of course on the outcome of those talks,” Stoltenberg told reporters at NATO headquarters in Brussels, but he underlined that the negotiations are far from over.
„It’s too early to pre-empt the outcome of the talks,” Stoltenberg said. „There’s still much to be done before a peace deal is in place.”
NATO took charge of the international military effort in Afghanistan in 2003 in its most ambitious operation ever. It launched a military training effort in 2015 once it had phased out overt combat operations, but after a reduction in force strength, troop numbers have gradually climbed again to more than 16,000 personnel.
Despite the presence of U.S. and NATO troops, the conflict remains at a stalemate.
The progress in peace talks appears to offer the United States and its allies a way to end their presence after one of the most expensive wars in U.S. history, costing between 800 billion and one trillion dollars, according to various estimates.
The website icasualties says the conflict has also cost the lives of around 3,400 troops — some 2,300 of them from the U.S. — since 2003.
NATO military officers decline to say whether they have begun planning for a withdrawal.
Whatever the outcome of the peace talks, Stoltenberg said: „We went in together, and we will make future decisions on our posture together.”
MOSCOW (AP) — U.S. special counsel Robert Mueller has yet to release his report about Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, but the Kremlin has been rehearsing its response for months.
The narrative, shared by President Vladimir Putin, his top lieutenants and state television, is strikingly similar to U.S. President Donald Trump’s description of the investigation as a „witch hunt:” They say the whole process is about the Democrats’ stubborn refusal to admit that they lost the election.
„They don’t want to acknowledge his victory and do everything to delegitimize the president,” Putin said at his annual news conference in December.
Mueller has been looking into whether the Trump campaign coordinated with Russia and whether the president obstructed the investigation.
Trump has been widely criticized for failing to publicly denounce Russia’s interference in the 2016 U.S. election and appearing to accept Putin’s denials of such activity. Trump’s relationship with Putin has long been the source of intrigue, both at home and in world capitals. He has repeatedly praised his authoritarian peer while straining ties with many of Washington’s closest allies.
In one indictment, Mueller has accused Russia’s military intelligence agency GRU of hacking into the Democratic campaign and releasing the stolen emails through WikiLeaks. Another has charged employees of a Russian troll farm allegedly controlled by Yevgeny Prigozhin, a businessman dubbed „Putin’s chef” for his ties to the Kremlin, with spreading disinformation on social media in a bid to bolster support for Trump and disparage his rival, Hillary Clinton.
The Kremlin has rejected those charges.
Last week, Russian state television stations jumped at the relatively mild sentence handed to former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort as proof that Mueller’s investigations have failed to hit their target.
„The mountain gave birth to a mouse,” the state-controlled Rossiya television snapped while reporting on Manafort, who was sentenced to nearly four years in prison for tax and bank fraud related to his work advising Ukrainian politicians — much less than what was called for under sentencing guidelines.
Another state-controlled nationwide channel, NTV, described the sentence as a blow to Mueller. „It was a slap in the face for special counsel Robert Mueller and his investigation into the Russian collusion that has found no collusion whatsoever,” it said.
Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova has also described the Russia investigation as „an exclusively domestic political story for the United States.”
Zakharova went on to say that Russia-U.S. relations have fallen hostage to the U.S. political infighting, and contributed to sanctions against Moscow and „incinerated” bilateral ties.
The U.S. and the EU sanctions have slapped an array of sanctions on Russia ever since the country’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula in 2014, its subsequent support for separatist insurgents in eastern Ukraine as well as the perceived meddling in the U.S. election. The sanctions have spooked investors and weighed on growth.
Some lawmakers in the U.S. Congress are pushing for more punishing sanctions, including those targeting Russia’s top state banks.
Putin has denounced the sanctions as an attempt by the U.S. and its allies to weaken and punish Russia for its independent stance and vowed that the pressure wouldn’t force Moscow to change its course. While the Kremlin has sought to put on a brave face while talking about the sanctions, it has recognized that further restrictions would raise new challenges.
Russian media have pointed at the growing number of congressional investigations into Trump’s campaign as part of a multi-pronged attack by the Democrats.
The Rossiya station said a new probe launched by the House Judiciary Committee into possible obstruction, corruption and abuse of power by Trump, is a partisan effort by the newly empowered Democrats, who have won back control of the House of Representatives. A report on the channel carried Trump’s statement denouncing the probes as „a disgrace for our country.”
Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov took a familiar jaded tone.
„There have been a great number of such probes, helping erode their significance,” he said. „It has nothing to do with us. It’s entirely the business of the U.S.”
By David Shepardson and Steve Holland
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Congress plans to scrutinize why the United States waited so many days to ground all Boeing Co 737 MAX jets involved in Sunday’s crash in Ethiopia as other countries and airlines acted more quickly.
The Federal Aviation Administration said the order on Wednesday was the result of „new evidence collected at the site and analyzed today” and „newly refined satellite data” that Canada had cited earlier in its decision to halt flights.
The FAA did not disclose the new evidence at the scene but said it was „the missing pieces” that aligned the track of the two fatal Boeing 737 MAX 8 crashes since October.
For decades, the United States has led the world in aviation safety, often setting standards that were later adopted by other countries. The agency came under heavy criticism from U.S. lawmakers and others who questioned why the FAA waited so long to ground the Boeing 737 MAX.
FAA officials plan to brief lawmakers Thursday, two people familiar with the matter told Reuters.
While President Donald Trump announced the ban on television, acting FAA Administrator Dan Elwell said he made the decision with the support of Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao.
„We were resolute in our position that we would not take action until we had data to support taking action,” Elwell told reporters. „That data coalesced today and we made the call.”
Canada grounded the planes earlier on Wednesday while the European Union acted on Tuesday. China and some airlines ordered the planes not to fly within hours of the crash on Sunday.
As of Wednesday night, regulators in Argentina and Mexico had not grounded planes.
House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Peter DeFazio, a Democrat, said „it has become abundantly clear to us that not only should the 737 MAX be grounded but also that there must be a rigorous investigation into why the aircraft, which has critical safety systems that did not exist on prior models, was certified without requiring additional pilot training.”
Elwell said Wednesday he was confident in the 737’s certification.
The Senate Commerce Committee also plans to hold a hearing as early as April. Senator Ted Cruz said he plans „to investigate these crashes, determine their contributing factors, and ensure that the United States aviation industry remains the safest in the world.”
The grounding was an abrupt reversal as the United States had repeatedly insisted the airplane was safe to fly even as regulators and airlines around the world grounded the airplane.
Trump spoke to Boeing Chief Executive Dennis Muilenburg on Wednesday before the announcement.
United Airlines, American Airlines and Southwest Airlines Co all fly versions of the 737 MAX and immediately halted flights on Wednesday.
American, with 24 737 MAX airplanes, said it will be „working to re-book customers as quickly as possible, and we apologize for any inconvenience.”
Boeing said it supported the action to temporarily ground 737 max operations after it consulted with the FAA, NTSB and its customers. Boeing shares were down 2 percent.
The shift came less than a day after U.S. regulators had again insisted the plane was safe. Even Chao flew aboard a 737 MAX on Tuesday.
The FAA plans to mandate design changes by April that have been in the works for months for the 737 MAX 8 fleet. Boeing said late Monday it will deploy a software upgrade across the 737 MAX 8 fleet „in the coming weeks.”
The company confirmed it had for several months „been developing a flight control software enhancement for the 737 MAX, designed to make an already safe aircraft even safer.”
The FAA said the changes will „provide reduced reliance on procedures associated with required pilot memory items.”
Elwell said Wednesday he was hopeful software improvements „will be ready in a couple months” after testing and evaluation is completed by the FAA of what he called a „software patch.”
(Reporting by David Shepardson and Steve Holland; Additional reporting by Ginger Gibson; Writing by Tim Ahmann; Editing by Nick Zieminski and Lisa Shumaker)
By Terje Solsvik and Gwladys Fouche
OSLO (Reuters) – Norwegian Air said on Wednesday it will seek compensation from plane maker Boeing for costs and lost revenue after grounding its fleet of 737 MAX 8 aircraft in the wake of the Ethiopian Airlines crash.
„We expect Boeing to take this bill,” Norwegian said in an emailed statement.
The Oslo-based airline has 18 ‘MAX’ passenger jets in its 163-aircraft fleet. European regulators on Tuesday grounded the aircraft following Sunday’s crash of a similar plane in Ethiopia, which killed 157 people and was the second crash involving that type of plane since October.
Boeing Chief Executive Dennis Muilenburg said on Monday that he was confident in the safety of the 737 MAX in an email to employees, which was seen by Reuters.
Industry sources, however, said the planemaker faces big claims after the crash.
Norwegian has bet heavily on the ‘MAX’ to become its aircraft of choice for short- and medium-range flights in coming years as the low-cost carrier seeks to boost its fuel efficiency and cut the cost of flying.
„What happens next is in the hands of European aviation authorities. But we hope and expect that our MAXes will be airborne soon,” Norwegian Air’s founder and Chief Executive Bjoern Kjos said in a video recording released on social media.
„Many have asked questions about how this affects our financial situation. It’s quite obvious that we will not take the cost related to the new aircraft that we have to park temporarily. We will send this bill to those who produce this aircraft,” he added.
Idle planes will add to pressures on the airline, which is making losses amid intense competition at a time when several smaller European competitors have gone out of business.
The carrier has raised 3 billion Norwegian crowns ($348 million) from shareholders in recent months and said it would cut costs as it tries to regain profitability this year.
„If this situation gets solved within the next fortnight, this will not be very serious for Norwegian,” said analyst Preben Rasch-Olsen at brokerage Carnegie, adding that seasonally low demand in March likely leaves spare capacity.
„The little extra costs they are incurring, they can probably get that covered by Boeing,” Rasch-Olsen said.
„But if this situation continues into the Easter holidays, or May and June, then it is a problem. They (will) need to get in new planes. And then comes the costs.”
Europeans tend to book their summer holidays in May, so the grounding may not yet affect bookings for the peak season for the airline industry, the analyst said.
Meanwhile, Norwegian was maintaining its order for more aircraft of the same type from Boeing, spokesman Lasse Sandaker-Nielsen said.
Norwegian is expected to take delivery of dozens more of the ‘MAX’ in coming years, raising the overall number to more than 70 by year-end 2021, according to recent company announcements.
Shares in the airline have now dropped 6.8 percent this week as investors worried about the impact of the Ethiopian crash.
They fell by 4.8 percent in early trade on Wednesday but later recovered to trade up 2.7 percent by 1246 GMT.
Norwegian canceled some flights on Tuesday, and on Wednesday it canceled at least three dozen departures, its website showed, most of which were due to fly from airports in Oslo, Stockholm and other Nordic cities.
The airline was booking passengers on to other flights and using other types of planes from its fleet to help fill the gaps.
In a separate statement, Norwegian said it would deploy one of its larger Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft to operate its daily route from Dublin to Stewart airport north of New York City, replacing the grounded MAX.
(Additional reporting by Lefteris Karagiannopoulos; Editing by Susan Fenton and Louise Heavens)
FILE – In this May 22, 2015 file photo, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, right, and European Council President Donald Tusk, left, greet Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban during a summit in Riga, Latvia. As the Hungarian prime minister’s conflicts with the European Union appear headed to a breaking point, calls are increasing for greater scrutiny of his government’s spending of EU funds. An opposition lawmaker in Hungary has gathered over 470,000 signatures to pressure Prime Minister Viktor Orban into joining the budding European Public Prosecutor’s Office as Orban’s Fidesz party may be suspended or expelled next week from the main center-right group in the European Parliament, it was announced Thursday, March 14, 2019 (AP Photo/Mindaugas Kulbis, File)
BRUSSELS (AP) — Hungary’s prime minister has apologized for calling some of his allies in the European Parliament „useful idiots,” but continues to face demands that he and his right-wing Fidesz party be expelled from the political group.
Prime Minister Viktor Orban sent apologetic letters to the leaders of 13 parties belonging to the European People’s Party who have called for his ouster from the group, which has 49 parties altogether. Those wanting him ousted say Orban’s fierce anti-migrant stance does not fit with the EPP’s general centrist political bent.
In the letter sent to Wouter Beke, leader of Belgium’s Dutch-speaking Christian Democrats, Orban attributed the „useful idiots” insult to Lenin, saying he meant „to criticize a certain policy and not certain politicians.”
„I would herby like to express my apologies, if you found my quote personally offensive,” Orban wrote, while also noting that his Fidesz party and Beke’s have „serious disagreements … on the issue of migration, the protection of Christian culture and the future of Europe.”
Beke, however, said Thursday that while he accepted the apology, Orban’s views on European values and migration still had no place in the Christian Democratic family and his party has not changed its mind on expelling Fidesz from the EPP.
A decision on the expulsion is expected Wednesday at an EPP political assembly.
EPP leader Manfred Weber met Tuesday with Orban in Budapest, but said the talks had not resolved the issues that could lead to the expulsion of Fidesz.
Weber has also urged Orban to end an ad campaign targeting European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and the EU — which Fidesz said it would do — and guarantee the continued operations in Budapest of Central European University, which was founded by Hungarian-American financier George Soros.
CEU is one of Hungary’s top universities, but announced last year that it would move its programs issuing U.S.-accredited diplomas to Vienna from the coming academic year after Orban refused to guarantee its full operations in Budapest, where it has been since 1993.
Weber met with CEU rector and president Michael Ignatieff during his Tuesday visit to Budapest and revealed a plan involving the Technical University of Munich and German automaker BMW that could allow CEU to comply with amendments to Hungary’s law on higher education.
Ignatieff hailed Weber’s initiative — „and the possibility it opens of reversing CEU’s ouster from Budapest” — with reservations. He called on Orban to make „an authoritative political commitment” and provide long-term legal assurances that would allow CEU to stay in Budapest.
Gorondi reported from Budapest.
US and Taliban negotiators wrapped up their latest round of marathon peace talks on Tuesday with „real strides” made but no agreement on a timetable for troop withdrawal, the US special envoy said.
„Just finished a marathon round of talks with the Taliban in #Doha. The conditions for #peace have improved. It’s clear all sides want to end the war. Despite ups and downs, we kept things on track and made real strides,” Zalmay Khalilzad tweeted.
He added: „Peace requires agreement on four issues: counter-terrorism assurances, troop withdrawal, intra-Afghan dialogue, and a comprehensive ceasefire.”
He said there was agreement „in draft” on the first two issues.
Khalilzad added the next step would be discussions in Washington, but warned that „there is no final agreement until everything is agreed”.
The talks in Doha focused on the withdrawal of US troops and assurances that insurgents would not use Afghanistan’s territory to stage future terrorist attacks — one of the initial aims of American policy in the wake of the 9/11 attacks back in 2001.
„Progress was achieved regarding both these issues,” said a Taliban spokesman.
„For now, both sides will deliberate over the achieved progress, share it with their respective leaderships and prepare for the upcoming meeting.”
The Afghan government, which was not involved in the Doha negotiations, said it was pleased with the progress made.
„We hope to witness a long term comprehensive ceasefire with the Taliban and hope that direct negotiations of (the) Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and the Taliban begin soon,” said Haroon Chakhansuri, President Ashraf Ghani’s spokesperson, on Twitter.
– Call for quick withdrawal –
On the issue of troop withdrawal, it had been previously speculated that US forces could leave Afghanistan within five years as part of a deal to end the nearly 18-year war.
The Taliban have called for the withdrawal to be much quicker, around six months.
There are some 14,000 US troops currently based in Afghanistan.
The latest meetings follow marathon talks in January that saw the US and the Taliban walk away with a „draft framework” on the two issues.
Discussions also took place between the Taliban and Afghani opposition groups in Moscow in February.
During the current round of negotiations in Doha, violent attacks in Afghanistan continued.
On March 1, at least 23 Afghan security forces were killed in a Taliban attack on a joint US-Afghan base in southwestern Afghanistan.
Analysts have warned that the Taliban are likely to ramp up attacks in the coming months as they seek to maintain momentum on the battlefield and leverage at the negotiating table.
It is unclear as yet when the next round of talks will take place.
The talks which finished on Tuesday spanned 16 days, which is thought to be the longest consecutive discussions held between both sides.
They bizarrely took place in a luxurious Doha hotel village resort, where the negotiating rooms were located only metres (yards) away from a pianist and not far from a swimming pool where Western tourists bathed and drank alcohol.