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India victim of terrorism, has endured unspeakable horror: Trump in Saudi Arabia

RIYADH, May 21: United States President Donald Trump said India was a victim of terrorism and asked countries to ensure that terror groups don’t find sanctuaries on their soil.

During his speech at the Arab-Islamic-US summit Trump said, “The nations of Europe have also endured unspeakable horror, so too have nations of Africa and South America, India, Russia, China, Australia have all been victims.”.

Without naming Pakistan, Trump said “every country must ensure that terrorists do not find any sanctuary on their lands.”

While addressing the leaders of 50 Muslim-majority countries on Sunday afternoon in his first speech on a foreign soil, Trump, called on the Middle-eastern countries to combat the crisis of Islamic extremism emanating from the region.

Terming the fight against terrorism as a “battle between good and evil,” and not a clash between “the West and Islam,” Trump sought to chart a new course for America’s role in the region - aimed at rooting out terrorism.

“This is not a battle between different faiths, different sects, or different civilizations. This is a battle between barbaric criminals who seek to obliterate human life, and decent people of all religions who seek to protect it. This is a battle between good and evil,” he added.

This is Donald Trump’s first overseas visit and his speech was the highlight of his two-day visit. The Saudi king also felicitated Donald Trump with their highest civilian order. Trump brought with him a $110 billion arms package for his hosts, aimed at bolstering Saudi security and a slew of business agreements.

Trump tells Arab leaders to step up in fight over ‘Islamist extremism’

RIYADH, May 21: Demanding Middle East leaders combat a “crisis of Islamic extremism” emanating from their homelands, President Donald Trump tried to revise his previous anti-Muslim rhetoric while recasting the fight against terrorism as a “battle between good and evil” instead of a clash between the West and Islam.

Trump’s address Sunday was the centerpiece of his two-day visit to Saudi Arabia, his first stop overseas as president. During a meeting of more than 50 Arab and Muslim leaders, he sought to chart a new course for America’s role in the region, one aimed squarely on rooting out terrorism, with less focus on promoting human rights and democratic reforms.

“We are not here to lecture — we are not here to tell other people how to live, what to do, who to be, or how to worship,” Trump said, speaking in an ornate room that featured 11 chandeliers and six giant video screens. “Instead, we are here to offer partnership — based on shared interests and values — to pursue a better future for us all.”

Even as the president pledged to work alongside Middle Eastern nations, he put the onus for combating terrorism on the region. Bellowing into the microphone, he implored Muslim leaders to aggressively fight extremists: “Drive them out of your places of worship. Drive them out of your communities.”

The president has been enthusiastically embraced in Riyadh, where the ruling royal family has welcomed his tougher stance on Iran, its regional foe.

Trump slammed Iran for spreading “destruction and chaos” throughout the region, repeatedly castigating the nation — which had re-elected its moderate president the day before — as a breeding ground and financier for terror. His comments were echoed by Saudi King Salman, who declared, “The Iranian regime has been the spearhead of global terrorism.”

For Trump, the visit has been a welcome escape from the crush of controversies that have consumed his administration in recent weeks. He’s been besieged by a series of revelations about the ongoing federal investigation into his campaign’s possible ties to Russia and his decision to fire FBI Director James Comey, who had been overseeing the Russia probe.

Trump’s trip to Saudi Arabia also served as something of a reset with the region following his presidential campaign, which was frequently punctured by bouts of anti-Islamic rhetoric. He once mused that he thought “Islam hates us” and repeatedly slammed former President Barack Obama for refusing to use the term “radical Islamic extremism.”

Yet Trump himself backed away from the term Sunday as he stood before the region’s leaders.

He condemned “Islamists” and “Islamic terror of all kinds,” but never specifically referred to radical Islam. He largely kept his voice in check, reading carefully from the TelePrompter as he addressed the crowd, which remained quiet during his delivery. And when he concluded, the American delegation rose to give him a standing ovation — but the rest of the hall did not.

On Sunday, Trump was full of praise for Muslim world’s history and culture. He declared Islam “one of the world’s great faiths.” And he praised the Middle East’s potential even as he underlined his own vision of a United States with tighter borders, saying “this region should not be a place from which refuges flee but to where newcomers flock.”

White House officials said they considered Trump’s address to be a counterweight to President Barack Obama’s debut speech to the Muslim world in 2009 in Cairo.

Obama called for understanding and acknowledged some of America’s missteps in the region. That speech was denounced by many Republicans and criticized by a number of the United States’ Middle East allies as being a sort of apology.

Trump said nothing that could be interpreted as an apology. Instead, he seethed at the terrorists who called the region home, though he offered no solutions to prevent radicalization or entertained any discussion of the sources of disaffection for young Muslims that have led them to turn to violence.

“Terrorists do not worship God. They worship death,” he said. “If you choose he path of terror, your life will be empty, your life will be brief and your soul will be full condemned.”

Trump’s speech came amid a renewed courtship of the United States’ Arab allies. Trump held individual meetings with leaders of several nations, including Egypt and Qatar, before participating in a round-table with the Gulf Cooperation Council and joining Saudi King Salman in opening Riyadh’s new anti-terrorism center.

A Sunday meeting with Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi underscored the kinship, with Trump saluting his counterpart on the April release of Egyptian-American charity worker Aya Hijazi, who had been detained in the country for nearly three years.

El-Sissi invited Trump to visit him in Egypt, adding, “You are a unique personality that is capable of doing the impossible.” As the participants laughed, Trump responded: “I agree.”

The president then complimented el-Sissi’s choice of footwear, telling his Egyptian counterpart “Love your shoes. Boy, those shoes” after their brief remarks to the press.

But even as Trump soaked in the adulation in Saudi Arabia, his administration continues to fight for its travel ban that would prevent immigrants from six countries — Iran, Syria, Sudan, Libya, Somalia, and Yemen — from entering the United States, a decision that sparked widespread protests at the nation’s airports and demonstrations outside the White House.

That ban was blocked by the courts. A second order, which dropped Iraq from the list, is tied up in federal court and the federal government is appealing.

From Saudi Arabia, Trump will head to Israel for meetings with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. He’ll also have an audience with Pope Francis, meet with NATO partners in Brussels and attend the Group of 7 wealthy nations summit in Sicily.

Donald Trump says Russia probe single greatest witch hunt in US history

WASHINGTON, May 18: US President Donald Trump decried the appointment of a special counsel to lead the Russia probe as “the single greatest witch hunt” in US history on Thursday, hours after he said he looked forward to a thorough investigation.

In the face of rising pressure from Capitol Hill, the US justice department named former FBI director Robert Mueller on Wednesday as special counsel to investigate alleged Russian interference in the 2016 US elections and possible collusion between Trump’s campaign and Moscow.

Trump said in a statement on Wednesday night that “a thorough investigation will confirm what we already know - there was no collusion between my campaign and any foreign entity.”

In a pair of Twitter posts on Thursday morning, Trump made clear he was unhappy with the latest development to roil his four-month-old administration.

“With all of the illegal acts that took place in the Clinton campaign & Obama Administration, there was never a special councel appointed!” Trump wrote, misspelling the word counsel as he referred to former President Barack Obama and former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.

The comments mirrored a speech by Trump on Wednesday, before Mueller’s appointment was announced, in which he said no politician in history “has been treated worse or more unfairly.”

The decision to move to an independent probe came a week after Trump abruptly fired FBI director James Comey, sparking a political firestorm as the agency was in the midst of an investigation into the Russia matter. Trump cited displeasure with the Russia probe as a factor in dismissing Comey.

This week, news reports alleged that Trump had previously tried to pressure Comey into backing off inquiries into former national security adviser Michael Flynn. The reports, based on a memo Comey wrote after their conversation, fuelled allegations by Democrats that the Republican president might have been trying to obstruct the investigation.

Flynn’s contacts with Russians during the presidential campaign, as well as his work for the Turkish government, are under investigation.

Russia has denied U.S. intelligence agencies’ conclusion that it interfered in the election campaign to try to tilt the vote in Trump’s favor. Trump has long bristled at the notion that Russia played any role in his November election victory, and has denied any collusion between his campaign and Moscow.

U.S. stocks fell on Wednesday as the controversy cast a cloud over prospects for Trump and the congressional Republicans’ policy agenda for issues such as tax reform. A selloff in U.S. stocks looked set to extend into its second day on Thursday.

The appointment of a special counsel to take over the Russia probe was widely praised by Democrats and Trump’s fellow Republicans.

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who appointed the special counsel, was due to brief US senators later on Thursday about Comey’s removal.

Republican representative Charlie Dent said there was no question the Russians meddled in the election. The goal of the special counsel probe, he said, was to determine whether there was collusion between Trump associates and Russia to do so.

“I believe that’s why we are having this investigation - to find out if in fact there was collusion. I certainly hope there wasn’t any but if there is there are going to be very serious consequences,” Dent told CNN.

Another Republican congressman, Carlos Curbelo, said if any wrongdoing was uncovered, “Those people should be held accountable.”

Moments before Trump weighed in on Twitter, Democratic senator Joe Manchin welcomed the special counsel investigation and said it was important to get facts in the Russia probe.

“I am not on a witch hunt. I am on a fact-finding mission,” he said on CNN.

Another Democratic senator, Dick Durbin, said he had confidence that Mueller, who is widely respected among US lawmakers, will follow the facts where they lead. “This won’t be a witch hunt,” he said on CNN.

Durbin said Trump’s actions - including the decision to fire Comey and his “incessant” provocative posts on Twitter - have done more harm than any enemy, real or perceived, could.

“This president has no one to blame but himself for the mess that he’s in,” Durbin said.

Car Rams Pedestrians In New York's Times Square, Kills 1, Injures Others

NEW YORK, May 18: A speeding car plowed into pedestrians on a sidewalk in New York City's busy Times Square on Thursday, killing one person and injuring a dozen, according to witnesses, and police said the incident did not appear to be an act of terrorism.

A Reuters witness said one person was covered with a bloodstained blanket after the collision, which occurred around noon local team at the Midtown Manhattan tourist venue.

The city's fire department said there were 13 casualties.

Hundreds of thousands of people, many of them tourists from around the world, pass daily through the bustling commercial area, the heart of the Broadway theatre district.

Witnesses said the motorist had driven a red Honda sedan against traffic and onto the sidewalk, striking pedestrians. The car crashed into a pole and came to rest at 45th Street and Broadway before police took the driver away.

Shoes were scattered at the scene.

"People were being hit and rolling off the car," said Josh Duboff, an employee at the adjacent Thomson Reuters headquarters who jumped out of the way to avoid being struck.

Television footage showed police officers restraining a man in a dark T-shirt and placing him in a police car.

News outlets said the suspect was a 26-year-old male from the city's Bronx borough. Reuters was not immediately able to confirm those reports.

Cheryl Howard and her daughter were out shopping when the car sped down the sidewalk. "I'm so freaked out!" the daughter said. "They mowed everyone down."

US names former FBI director to head probe into Trump camp's Russia links

WASHINGTON, May 18: The US department of justice has appointed Robert Mueller, a highly regarded former FBI director, as special counsel to investigate allegations of links between the 2016 presidential campaign of Donald Trump and Moscow.

Mueller’s surprise appointment came a day after reports surfaced of Trump asking fired FBI director James Comey to end his investigation into Michael Flynn’s interactions with Russians in the Oval Office the day after the national security adviser was booted out in February.

Mueller was named the special prosecutor by deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein, who has direct oversight over the FBI and whose recommendation was initially cited for Comey’s firing last week.

Rosenstein did not clear the appointment with Trump or his ally attorney general Jeff Sessions.

Trump, who was told of the appointment after it was signed, said in a statement, “As I have stated many times, a thorough investigation will confirm what we already know – there was no collusion between my campaign and any foreign entity.”

Appointment of a special counsel is rare — the last one was more than a decade ago. And it can be potentially dangerous, as the office comes with sweeping powers to look under every stone, pebble, which can sometime throw up unexpected results. White House intern Monica Lewinsky’s relationship with Bill Clinton was found out during an unrelated investigation of the president in 1998 by a special counsel.

Rosenstein said based on “unique circumstances” and in public interest he determined the investigation had to overseen by “a person who exercises a degree of independence from the normal chain of command” and who would “have all appropriate resources to conduct a thorough and complete investigation”.

Mueller’s brief was to investigate “any links and or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald Trump and (the reason why the White House would be worried) … any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation”.

The appointment was welcomed by both Democrats and Republicans. “Former director Mueller is exactly the right kind of individual to serve as special counsel in the Russia investigation,” Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said. Preet Bharara, former US attorney for Southern District of New York, gave Mueller a glowing review as well. “Having known him for years, I believe special counsel Mueller is a very good thing. He is one of the best -- independent and no-nonsense,” he tweeted.

Picked to head the FBI by president George W Bush in 2001, Mueller took charge just a week after the September 11 terror attacks. He went on to serve for 12 years and is known to have stood up to Bush in resisting the extension of a post-9/11 domestic spying programme, together with then attorney general John Ashcroft and his deputy attorney James Comey.

Now, as a special counsel, he will carry forward Comey’s investigation of the Trump campaign’s Russia links, if any.

Mueller is considered the man who built the present FBI, which in the immediate aftermath of the September 11 attacks swatted away attempts to dismember the agency by those looking for men, women and institutions to blame.

What is a special counsel?

A special counsel, or special prosecutor, is a lawyer appointed by the justice department — according to a system in place since 1999 — to pursue a specific case outside the usual chain of command.

A special counsel has independent powers to take the investigations through any course deemed necessary.

Some famous special counsels

Archibald Cox, a law professor, was appointed by president Richard Nixon to investigate the White House in the Watergate scandal. In those days, a president could appoint a special counsel but the process has since undergone multiple changes. Then, Ken Starr who investigated president Bill Clinton.

Why this could get tricky for Trump

With sweeping powers to steer the investigation in any direction seen necessary, a special counsel can often stumble upon the unexpected. White House intern Monica Lewinsky’s relationship was discovered during an unrelated probe against Bill Clinton.

Comey memo: Trump sought to end Flynn probe

WASHINGTON D.C., May 17: President Donald Trump asked the former FBI director, James Comey, to let former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn off the hook in an investigation into his Russian contacts, reports quoting a memo prepared by Mr. Comey said, pushing the 45th presidency into a potentially tenure-threatening crisis.

“He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go,” Mr. Trump told Mr. Comey about Mr. Flynn in an Oval Office meeting in February, according to Mr. Comey’s recollection of the meeting in the memo shared with his colleagues at the agency, the New York Times reported on Tuesday. The White House said the memo was “not a truthful or accurate portrayal” of the conversation.

The revelation that he tried to influence a federal probe into the Russian contacts of his key associate sucks Mr. Trump into a controversy that has so far swirled around his aides and advisers. The U.S. intelligence has concluded that Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election in favour of Mr. Trump. “…this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story,” the President said last week, explaining his decision to fire Mr. Comey as the FBI director on May 9.

While the Democrats reiterated their call for a special prosecutor to investigate Russian interference in the election and the Trump campaign’s possible collusion with the Kremlin, Republicans were more guarded in their response. House Oversight Committee’s Republican Chairman Jason Chaffetz asked acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe to produce “all memoranda, notes, summaries, and recordings referring or relating to any communications between Comey and the President” before May 24.
Speaker Paul Ryan supported the demand through a spokesperson. “We need to have all the facts,” the spokesperson said.

Three Congressional committees are looking into the alleged Russian interference in the election. While Democrats have been calling for a special prosecutor to insulate the probe from the Justice Department, Republican Senator John McCain has been demanding a select Congressional committee.

Mr. Flynn resigned as NSA after it emerged that he gave the Vice-President an inaccurate account of a conversation he had with the Russian ambassador to the U.S. The conversation recorded in the memo took place on February 14, the day after the President asked Mr. Flynn to resign. “I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go,” Mr. Trump told Mr. Comey, according to the memo that sources read out to several media platforms.

The fresh controversy will increase pressure on Mr. Comey to testify before Congress, which could expose the President to new vulnerabilities. A section of opinion makers argues that the President’s behaviour constitutes obstruction of justice and he must be impeached. The impeachment question was raised at a town hall debate between Republican Governor of Ohio John Kasich and Senator Bernie Sanders on Tuesday night.

“But we’re a long way away from anything like that,” Mr. Kasich, a strong critic of the President, said, of impeachment. “I don’t think you want to make that leap to impeachment until you follow a path, which leads us there. Maybe it will, maybe it won’t. But I’m not there at this point,” Mr. Sanders said. “I don’t think we know exactly what happened. The Russian investigation is very, very important,” Mr. Kasich said, recalling that he had always doubted Mr. Trump’s ability to be President.

The White House said the President did not ask the FBI to end the investigation against Mr. Flynn. “While the President has repeatedly expressed his view that General Flynn is a decent man who served and protected our country, the President has never asked Mr. Comey or anyone else to end any investigation, including any investigation involving General Flynn,” it said in a statement.“The President has the utmost respect for our law enforcement agencies, and all investigations. This is not a truthful or accurate portrayal of the conversation between the president and Mr. Comey,” the statement said.

Donald Trump vows to broker Israeli-Palestinian peace

WASHINGTON, May 3: President Donald Trump vowed on Wednesday to work to broker peace between Israel and the Palestinians as he hosted Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas at the White House but offered no clues about how he could break the deadlock and revive long-stalled negotiations.

In their first face-to-face meeting, Trump pressed Palestinian leaders to “speak in a unified voice against incitement” to violence against Israelis but he stopped short of explicitly recommitting his administration to a two-state solution to the decades-old conflict, a longstanding bedrock of U.S. policy.

“We will get this done,” Trump told Abbas during a joint appearance at the White House, saying he was prepared to act a mediator, facilitator or arbitrator between the two sides.

Abbas quickly reasserted the goal of a Palestinian state as vital to any rejuvenated peace process, reiterating that it must have its capital in Jerusalem with borders based on pre-1967 lines. Israel rejects a full return to 1967 borders as a threat to its security.

Trump faced deep skepticism at home and abroad over his chances for a breakthrough with Abbas, not least because the new U.S. administration has yet to articulate a cohesive strategy for restarting the moribund peace process.

Abbas’ White House talks follow a mid-February visit by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who moved quickly to reset ties after a frequently combative relationship with the Republican president’s predecessor, Democratic President Barack Obama.

Trump sparked international criticism at the time when he appeared to back away from support for a two-state solution, saying he would leave it up to the parties themselves to decide. The goal of an Palestinian state living peacefully beside Israel has been the position of successive U.S. administrations and the international community

The meeting with Abbas, the Western-backed head of the Palestinian Authority, was another test of whether Trump, in office a little more than 100 days, is serious about pursuing what he has called the “ultimate deal” of Israeli-Palestinian peace that eluded his predecessors. “I’ve always heard that perhaps the toughest deal to make is between the Israelis and the Palestinian,” Trump said on Wednesday. “Let’s see if we can prove them wrong.”

But he offered no new policy prescriptions.

Abbas, speaking through a translator, told Trump that under “your courageous stewardship and your wisdom, as well as your great negotiations ability,” the Palestinians would be partners seeking a “historic peace treaty.”

The last round of U.S.-brokered peace talks collapsed in 2014.

Abbas said “it’s about time for Israel to end its occupation of our people and our land” - a reference to Jewish settlement building in the West Bank. Reaffirming his commitment to a two-state solution, he called on Israel to recognize Palestinian statehood just as Palestinians recognize the state of Israel.

Though expectations are low for significant progress, plans are being firmed up for Trump to visit the right-wing Israeli leader in Jerusalem and possibly Abbas in the West Bank, targeted for May 22-23, according to people familiar with the matter. U.S. and Israeli officials have declined to confirm the visit.

Questions have been raised about Trump’s choice of his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, who entered the White House with no government experience, to oversee Middle East peace efforts, along with Trump’s longtime business lawyer, Jason Greenblatt, as on-the-ground envoy.

The administration seeks to enlist Israel’s Sunni Arab neighbors, who share Israeli concerns about Shi’ite Iran, to help rejuvenate Middle East peacemaking.

Abbas, who governs in the West Bank while Hamas militants rule Gaza, was under pressure at home to avoid making major concessions to Trump, especially with an ongoing hunger strike by hundreds of Palestinian prisoners held by Israel.

Palestinian officials say it will be hard for Abbas to return to the negotiating table without a long-standing pre-condition of a freeze on Jewish settlement expansion on land Israel occupied in 1967 which Palestinians want for a state.

Trump’s pro-Israel rhetoric during the 2016 election campaign raised concern among Palestinians about whether their leaders will get a fair hearing.

Trump’s promise to move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv, strongly opposed by Palestinians, has been shifted to the back burner, and he has asked Netanyahu to put unspecified limits on settlement activity.

Trump, Putin to work together to resolve Syria, combat terrorism in West Asia

WASHINGTON, May 3: US President Donald Trump and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin agreed on Tuesday to work together to end the violence in Syria and combat rising terrorism in West Asia. This was the first phone conversation between the two leaders since the US bombed a Syrian airfield in response to a chemical attack, purportedly carried out by the Bashar al-Assad government.

The White House described the conversation — the third between the two leaders — as “a very good one”, while the Kremlin in Moscow called it “businesslike and constructive”. The two leader agreed, the White House said, “the suffering in Syria has gone on for far too long and that all parties must do all they can to end the violence.”

They discussed the creation of “safe, or de-escalation zones to achieve lasting peace for humanitarian and other reasons”. The US also announced it would sending a representatives to cease-fire talks in Astana, Kazakhstan.

The Kremlin said the “emphasis” of the conversation was on “future coordination of Russian and US actions to fight international terrorism in the context of the Syrian crisis”. And they agreed to “bolster the dialogue between the heads of the two nations’ foreign policy agencies in an effort to find ways to stabilize the ceasefire and make it durable and manageable”.

Donald Trump declares US-Russia relations may be at ‘all-time low’
The two leaders went beyond Syria and “discussed at length working together to eradicate terrorism throughout” West Asia, the White House said.

US secretary of state Rex Tillerson later said the conversation, which lasted 30 minutes, “was a very constructive call that the two presidents had. It was a very, very fulsome call, a lot of detailed exchanges. So we’ll see where we go from here.”

An unidentified US official told The Wall Street Journal there was no breakthrough in the conversation and that the Trump administration was not sure if Moscow —Assad’s most powerful backer — was serious about resolving the crisis.

The phone conversation, which came in the aftermath of Trump describing relations between the two countries being at an “all-time low”, was seen as an attempt to resume cooperation, which Trump has repeatedly said he was keen to.

They went on to also discuss the “very dangerous situation” in North Korea. Moscow said Putin called for “restraint and an easing of tensions”, and “it was agreed to organise joint work aimed at achieving diplomatic solutions and a comprehensive settlement of the problem”.

 

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