Washington, Jul 16 (AP/UNB) — Republicans found themselves unwilling Monday to swiftly and unequivocally rebuke President Donald Trump's attack on progressive women of color in Congress, almost ensuring no real fallout from his party in Congress.
Some Republicans spoke up against Trump's suggestion that the women should "go back" to the countries they came from. But others leveled their criticism of Trump in careful comments that also criticized the women. Most notably, the GOP leadership in Congress said more than most by staying silent or defending the president's incendiary remarks.
The result is that once again Republicans in Congress are allowing Trump to break the norms of civic behavior — as when he equivocated over the neo-Nazi rally in Charlottesville and used a vulgarity to describe immigrants from Africa and other countries — with a muffled response that does little to change outcomes.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., declined to discuss the situation after he opened the chamber Monday, telling reporters he'd "address whatever questions you have" at his regularly scheduled news conference Tuesday.
Asked if Trump's comments were racist, the top Republican in the House, Kevin McCarthy of California, said: "This is about ideology. And the ideology of the Democratic Party is socialist. This debate is going to go on for a long time."
Part of the problem for Republicans is a strategic one — they, too have piled on the freshmen lawmakers, using their liberal views to scare off voters.
Hardly a day goes by without Republicans raising warnings against the "squad" of newcomers: Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan. They have become big money-makers for the GOP, portrayed as a more daunting threat than HouseSpeaker Nancy Pelosi. Omar, a Muslim refugee from Somalia, has been criticized by Republicans almost since she arrived.
With an uneven response from leaders on Capitol Hill, it fell to rank-and-file Republicans to deliver some of the more critical rebukes.
Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah, the party's 2012 presidential nominee, said in a tweet, "The president failed badly."
Romney said, "The President of the United States has a unique and noble calling to unite the American people — of all different races, colors, and national origins." He called the remarks "destructive, demeaning, and disunifying."
Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina, the only black Republican senator, said Trump made "unacceptable personal attacks" and used "racially offensive language."
For lawmakers in tough reelection battles, the open-ended reaction allowed them to craft the message that best fit their brand.
Sen. Susan Collins, the centrist Maine Republican who faces a potentially tough reelection race alongside Trump in 2020, called the president's comment "way over the line." But Collins also said she disagrees "strongly" with many of the views of the "far-left" members of the House Democrats.
Another Republican up for another term, Sen. Steve Daines of Montana, tweeted that people in his state are "sick and tired of listening to anti-American, anti-Semite, radical Democrats trash our country and our ideals." Daines tweeted, "I stand with @realDonaldTrump."
One party leader, Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, put Trump's remarks in terms of a political strategy rather than the moral or civic debate the comments inspired.
"I think it's a mistake and an unforced error," said Cornyn. "I don't think the president is a racist."
Strategic thinking has guided Republicans throughout the Trump era, as they have repeatedly shown they are unwilling, and unable, to confront Trump even when he pushes the outer bounds of political rhetoric.
When Trump derided immigrants from Africa and Caribbean countries with a vulgarity, saying he preferred those from places like Norway, some Republicans objected. But two Republicans who were in the private meeting, Sens. Tom Cotton of Arkansas and David Perdue of Georgia, issued a statement at the time saying they could not recall the president using that specific insult.
When Trump said there were good people "on both sides" of a white supremacist neo-Nazi rally in Charlottesville that resulted in the death of a protester, then-House Speaker Paul Ryan said Trump "messed up."
On Sunday morning, Trump tweeted that the "'Progressive' Democrat Congresswomen" should "go back" and help fix the "broken and crime infested" countries they came from and then return and "show us how it is done."
Trump almost certainly was referring to the four new lawmakers — Ocasio-Cortez, Omar, Pressley and Tlaib — who are among the most outspoken against Trump administration policies and have made headlines in their ongoing divisions with Pelosi. They all support impeachment.
Ocasio-Cortez was born in the Bronx, Pressley in Cincinnati, Tlaib in Detroit. Omar has been a top target of Republicans for being critical of the U.S., and of Israel over its treatment of Palestinians.
By Monday, as the White House sought to smooth Trump's tweets, the president doubled down and said it was up to the women to apologize for "their horrible & disgusting actions!"
One Republican ally of Trump's, Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, piled on, calling the women "communists" and "anti-American" as he also sought to nudge the president to focus on their policies.
It was left to lesser-known Republicans to offer some of the strongest rebuttals.
Rep. Mike Turner, an Ohio Republican, said the president's tweets were "racist" and Trump should apologize. "We must work as a country to rise above hate, not enable it," said the nine-term congressman.
Sen. Lisa Murkowski, a moderate Republican from Alaska, said, "There is no excuse for the president's spiteful comments — they were absolutely unacceptable and this needs to stop."
Pressed Monday on whether the women should go, McCarthy, the House minority leader, conceded that "nobody believes somebody should leave the country."
McCarthy added, "The president is not a racist."
Mexico City, Jul 16 (AP/UNB)— A fire in the Sian Ka'an nature reserve on Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula spread to more than 6,000 acres (2,500 hectares) on Monday, with just 30% under control.
The fire's advance across the brush and high grass has slowed but continues to burn, said the Environment Department of Quintana Roo state. The ruin site of Muyil, which was once an important stop along Mayan trade routes, was closed until the danger had passed, authorities added.
Environment Secretary Alfredo Arellano told Imagen Radio that drought and intense heat contributed to the blaze.
"This fire is taking place in a region of savannah that is very difficult to control because it's basically high grass where the fire spreads rapidly," he said.
More than 50 firefighters and a water-dropping Air Force helicopter are working to control the flames.
The Sian Ka'an reserve on Mexico's Caribbean coast is a UNESCO World Heritage site and an important tourist destination. It includes jungle, wetlands, coral reef, and Mayan archaeological sites, in addition to pumas, monkeys and crocodiles.
The fire is located about 19 miles (30 kilometers) south of the popular beach town Tulum.
Washington, Jul 16 (AP/UNB) — Delegations from the U.S. and Russia are expected to meet this week to discuss arms control and the possibility of coaxing China into negotiating a new, three-way nuclear weapons pact, two senior administration officials said Monday.
The New START treaty, the last major arms-control treaty remaining between the U.S. and Russia, expires in 2021. There has been talk of negotiating an extension to the existing treaty, but the White House thinks the next generation of arms control must include China.
China has nuclear weapons, ballistic missile capabilities and the know-how to make chemical and biological weapons — and it is updating its nuclear arsenal. China has signed various international weapons agreements, but none limiting nuclear weapons.
New START restricts both the U.S. and Russia to 1,550 deployed strategic nuclear warheads on a maximum of 700 deployed intercontinental ballistic missiles and strategic bombers.
Daryl Kimball, director of the Arms Control Association, has advocated for a five-year extension of New START, saying there is no chance a new agreement adding China can be negotiated before the treaty expires in 2021.
"It would malpractice to discard New START in the hopes of negotiating a more comprehensive, ambitious nuclear arms control agreement with Russia and China and getting it ratified and into force," according to Kimball, who accuses the Trump administration of dithering for more than a year before beginning talks.
Before the Group of 20 summit last month in Japan, Russian President Vladimir Putin said he planned to push President Donald Trump for an extension to New START. Putin said his nation was ready to agree to an extension, but that Russia had not seen any initiative from the Americans even though the treaty expires in 2021.
At the same time, Russia also has expressed an interest in multilateral arms control deals, according to one of the administration officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the issue ahead of the talks Wednesday in Geneva.
The senior administration officials said any comprehensive dialogue about the thorny issues of arms control has been made difficult by a series of actions by Moscow: interfering in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, poisoning a former spy and his daughter in Britain, capping the size of the U.S. Embassy in Russia, and seizing Ukrainian vessels.
John Sullivan, deputy secretary of state, will lead the American delegation comprising officials from the State Department, National Security Council, Defense Department, Joint Chiefs of Staff and the National Security Agency. The eight or nine members of the U.S. team will meet with a similar-size delegation from Russia led by Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov.
The latest talks are being held just months after the Trump administration pulled the plug on a separate nuclear arms treaty with Russia. Washington accused Moscow of violating the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces treaty with "impunity" by deploying banned missiles. Moscow denied it was in violation and has accused the United States of resisting its efforts to resolve the dispute.
Democrats in Congress and some arms control advocates criticized Trump's decision as opening the door to an arms race, but Trump said the United States cannot be the only country in the world unilaterally bound by the treaty.
China's military has grown significantly since the late 1980s and the pact had prevented the U.S. from deploying weapons to counter some of those being developed in Beijing.
Washington, July 15 (AP/UNB) — President Donald Trump is requiring products "Made in America" to be made using more American components if they are to be used by the government.
Trump says American-made products used for government projects currently can contain 50 percent foreign components and still be considered American. He signed an executive order Monday boosting the percentage of American components to 75 percent.
The president signed the order during an annual White House "Made in America" showcase. Manufacturers from all 50 states were represented.
Trump says the administration is "heeding the wisdom" of the nation's founders by "restoring our economic independence and reawakening our industrial might."
Trump also discussed steps the administration is taking to boost the U.S. manufacturing industry. The trade deficit last year widened to a decade-long high of $621 billion.
Washington, Jul 15 (AP/UNB) — Injecting race into his criticism of liberal Democrats, President Donald Trump said four congresswomen of color should go back to the "broken and crime infested" countries they came from, ignoring the fact that all of the women are American citizens and three were born in the U.S. His attack drew a searing condemnation from Democrats who labeled the remarks racist and breathtakingly divisive.
Even as White House officials moved Monday to defend his incendiary weekend tweets, Trump refused to apologize and asked on Twitter when "the Radical Left Congresswomen" would "apologize to our Country, the people of Israel and even to the Office of the President, for the foul language they have used, and the terrible things they have said."
"So many people are angry at them & their horrible & disgusting actions!" he wrote.
Trump had starkly injected race into his criticism of liberal Democrats over the weekend, drawing searing condemnation from Democrats who labeled the remarks racist and breathtakingly divisive.
Asked whether Trump's comments were racist, Marc Short, chief of staff to Vice President Mike Pence, defended Trump, telling reporters he had been responding to "very specific" comments made by Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, who was born in Somalia, and not making a "universal statement."
But Trump didn't make that distinction in his Monday tweets. He cited "Congresswomen" — an almost-certain reference to a group of women known as "the squad" that includes Omar, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan.
"I don't think that the president's intent any way is racist," said Short, repeatedly pointing to Trump's decision to choose Elaine Chao, who was born outside the country, as his transportation secretary.
"The administration is welcoming of all nationalities into the United States," he said.
Even as Short spoke, Trump, who has a long history of making racist remarks, continued to fan the flames, tweeting, "If Democrats want to unite around the foul language & racist hatred spewed from the mouths and actions of these very unpopular & unrepresentative Congresswomen, it will be interesting to see how it plays out."
Omar ignited a bipartisan uproar in Washington several months ago when she suggested that members of Congress support Israel for money, while Tlaib riled up a supportive crowd by calling the president a profanity and predicting that Trump would be removed from office.
Following a familiar script, Republicans remained largely silent after Trump's Sunday morning broadsides that caused Democrats to set aside their internal rifts to rise up in a united chorus against the president.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Trump wants to "make America white again." Ocasio-Cortez, after jousting for days with Pelosi, said Trump "can't conceive of an America that includes us."
"Mr. President, the country I 'come from,' & the country we all swear to, is the United States," she tweeted, adding that "You rely on a frightened America for your plunder." Omar also addressed herself directly to Trump in a tweet, writing: "You are stoking white nationalism (because) you are angry that people like us are serving in Congress and fighting against your hate-filled agenda."
Rep. Hakeem Jeffries of New York, chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, summed up the Democratic response: "Racial arsonist strikes again. Shut. Your. Reckless. Mouth."
With his tweet, Trump inserted himself further into a rift between Pelosi and Ocasio-Cortez, just two days after he offered an unsolicited defense of the Democratic speaker. Pelosi has been seeking to minimize Ocasio-Cortez's influence in the House Democratic caucus in recent days, prompting Ocasio-Cortez to accuse Pelosi of trying to marginalize women of color.
On Sunday, Trump's tone took a turn.
"So interesting to see 'Progressive' Democrat Congresswomen, who originally came from countries whose governments are a complete and total catastrophe, the worst, most corrupt and inept anywhere in the world (if they even have a functioning government at all), now loudly and viciously telling the people of the United States, the greatest and most powerful Nation on earth, how our government is to be run," he tweeted.
"Why don't they go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came. Then come back and show us how it is done."
He added: "These places need your help badly, you can't leave fast enough. I'm sure that Nancy Pelosi would be very happy to quickly work out free travel arrangements!"
The attacks may have been meant to widen the divides within the Democrat caucus, which has been riven by internal debate over how far left to go in countering Trump and over whether to proceed with impeachment proceedings against the president. Instead, the president's tweets, which evoked the trope of telling black people to go back to Africa, brought Democrats together.
Former Vice President Joe Biden, the Democratic presidential front-runner, tweeted Sunday that Trump "continues to spew hateful rhetoric, sow division, and stoke racial tensions for his own political gain."
"Let's be clear about what this vile comment is: A racist and xenophobic attack on Democratic congresswomen," tweeted Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a Democratic presidential candidate.
Another 2020 contender, former Texas Rep. Beto O'Rourke, tweeted at the president: "This is racist. These congresswomen are every bit as American as you — and represent our values better than you ever will."
Few Republicans weighed in on the president's comments. Congressional leaders, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, did not respond to requests for comment, nor did Sen. Tim. Scott of South Carolina, the only Republican black senator.
Trump appeared unbowed Sunday night when he returned to Twitter to say it was "so sad" to see Democrats sticking up for the women. "If the Democrat Party wants to continue to condone such disgraceful behavior," he tweeted, "then we look even more forward to seeing you at the ballot box in 2020!"
It was far from the first time that Trump has been accused of holding racist views.
In his campaign kickoff in June 2015, Trump deemed many Mexican immigrants "rapists." In 2017, he said there good people on "both sides" of the clash in Charlottesville, Virginia, between white supremacists and anti-racist demonstrators that left one counter-protester dead. Last year, during a private White House meeting on immigration, Trump wondered why the United States was admitting so many immigrants from "shithole countries" like African nations.
Repeatedly, Trump has painted arriving immigrants as an "infestation" and he has been slow in condemning acts of violence committed by white supremacists. And he launched his political career with false claims that President Barack Obama was not born in the United States.
Despite his history of racist remarks, Trump has paid little penalty in his own party.
Though a broad array of Republicans did speak out against his reaction to Charlottesville, they have largely held their tongues otherwise, whether it be on matter of race or any other Trump provocation. Fearful of his Twitter account and sweeping popularity among Republican voters, GOP lawmakers have largely tried to ignore the provocative statements.
Sen. Kamala Harris, a Democratic presidential hopeful from California, tweeted, "Let's call the president's racist attack exactly what it is: un-American."
Ocasio-Cortez, who is of Puerto Rican descent, was born in the Bronx, New York, and raised in suburban Westchester County.
Pressley, the first black woman elected to the House from Massachusetts, was born in Cincinnati.
Omar, the first Somali native elected to Congress and one of its first Muslim women, was born in Somalia but spent much of her childhood in a Kenyan refugee camp as civil war tore apart her home country. She immigrated to the United States at age 12, teaching herself English by watching American TV and eventually settling with her family in Minneapolis.
Tlaib was born in Detroit.