As it happenedended1561057681

Trump news: President tweets Iran made 'very big mistake' in shooting down drone as Putin warns of 'disastrous' prospect of war

Follow for the latest from Washington, as it happened

Clark Mindock
New York
,Joe Sommerlad,Chris Stevenson
Thursday 20 June 2019 18:00
Donald Trump tight lipped on response to Iran

Iran's Revolutionary Guard has shot down a US drone to send a “clear message” to the Trump administration after US secretary of state Mike Pompeo blamed the regime for an attack on two foreign oil tankers in the Strait of Hormuz last week — leading to Donald Trump saying that someone had made a "big mistake".

Donald Trump's comment came as the US was warned by Russian president Vladimir Putin that any war between the two nations would be a “disaster”. The Pentagon has meanwhile called the downing of the drone an “unprovoked attack” by Tehran in international airspace, although Iran says the drone crossed its border.

On Capitol Hill, the Senate voted on legislation to block the Trump administration from selling US-made weapons to Saudi Arabia and its Gulf nation allies. This follows a decision by the UK government to halt approvals for the sale of weapons that could be used in the conflict in Yemen after its processes were ruled unlawful by the Court of Appeal.

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Hello and welcome to The Independent's rolling coverage of the Donald Trump administration.

Joe Sommerlad20 June 2019 09:18

Iran has shot down a US military drone using a surface-to-air missile, Iranian and American military officials said, amid an escalating row over alleged attacks on two foreign oil tankers in the Strait of Hormuz.

The commander of the Revolutionary Guard said the downing of the unmanned aerial vehicle had sent "a clear message" to America. In a speech delivered on state television, General Hossein Salami added that Iran does "not have any intention for war with any country, but we are ready for war."

The two nations have been at daggers drawn since last year when Donald Trump withdrew the US from an international nuclear deal with Iran, which granted it sanctions relief in exchange for tight controls on the state's nuclear programme. 

President Trump has yet to comment on the downing of the drone but it was confirmed last night he had been briefed on a second incident in the region - a cruise missile strike in Saudi Arabia. Yemen's Iran-aligned Houthis said they had struck a power station in the city of Al-Shuqaiq in the Saudi province of Jizan.

Here's Adam Withnall and Richard Hall with more on the escalating tensions in the Middle East, which were ramped up last week when US secretary of state Mike Pompeo presented night-vision footage of what he said was a member of the Iranian navy removing an unexploded limpet mine from the hull of the stricken Kokuka Courageous as evidence of Tehran's responsibility for the bombing of the tankers.

Joe Sommerlad20 June 2019 09:37

"Don't worry about a thing", Trump told Sean Hannity of Fox News in a phone last night when asked about US foreign policy and Trump's ever-more tangled relations with Iran, China and Russia.

Trump otherwise used his latest phone interview with his favourite anchor to rave about his performance in Orlando and push his most cherished conspiracy theory: that Barack Obama had his 2016 campaign wiretapped, 

He said he would be meeting with Vladimir Putin as well as Xi Jinping at the G20 in Japan next week and also had the audacity to attempt to rebrand himself "an environmentalist", despite denying climate change, working to rollback countless green regulations and protections and attempting to revive American fossil fuel production.

Discussing his use of Twitter, Trump came out with a surprise attack on his host.

Criticising the rest of the media, the president said Fox was one of the few networks he could trust because its presenters are "patriots" before backtracking to accuse them of being more interested in ratings.

"Outside of you and a few other great people - I call them patriots, actually - but you’re not really patriots as much as you want ratings. You getting great ratings, Sean, last night you had tremendous - I heard the speech got you fantastic ratings," he said, reminding Hannity how valuable an asset he is to Fox, impressing on him the importance of staying in his good graces.

At the close, Hannity found himself jostling with rival broadcaster Laura Ingraham for the president's attention, seemingly jealous at having to share his big scoop.

Joe Sommerlad20 June 2019 09:53

Perhaps not the most important development of the day but Hannity spend some of his time with the president bragging about his investments in art.

The painting in question? The Forgotten Man (2011) by McNaughton, a "patriotic painter" whose style owes a debt to Emanuel Leutze, best known for Washington Crossing the Delaware (1851).

The work that meant so much to the Fox host condemns Obama's passing of the Affordable Care Act.

Joe Sommerlad20 June 2019 10:07

Trump often likes to denigrate the Democrats as "angry" but yesterday they really were, after the House Judiciary Committee spent eight long hours interviewing ex-White House aide Hope Hicks behind closed doors to little avail as White House lawyers claimed "absolutely immunity", preventing her from answering questions about her tenure as communications director for the Oval Office.

Chairman Jerrold Nadler had hoped to ask Hicks about the obstruction of justice evidence raised in the Mueller report but, in practice, she wasn't even able to confirm where her desk had been.

Trump couldn't resist intervening on behalf of the "wonderful" Hicks.

This was Nadler's assessment at close of play.

His fellow representatives were more exasperated.

What an exit Hicks made though. Cool as you like.

Here's Andrew Buncombe's report on a ludicrous day on Capitol Hill.

Joe Sommerlad20 June 2019 10:20

Trump believes he has the authority to replace Federal Reserve chairman Jerome Powell and demote him to be a board governor, but is not planning to do so just yet, according to Bloomberg.

The Federal Reserve Act provides explicit protection for Fed governors against removal by the president except “for cause.” 

Trump is pressuring the Fed to reduce rates, saying in October that the central bank had "gone crazy" under Powell, breaking with decades of custom that the White House not interfere with monetary policy out of respect for the central bank. He is understood to be annoyed with treasury secretary Steve Mnuchin for first nominating the man to his post.

Trump has regularly accused Powell of not doing enough to bolster the economy. The president has called for lower interest rates as he seeks to offset the headwinds created by his trade war with China and to create a favorable backdrop for his re-election campaign next year.

He told ABC News on Friday that he disagreed with the chairman “entirely,” adding that “if we had a different person in the Federal Reserve that wouldn’t have raised interest rates so much,” economic growth would have been stronger.

But Chairman Powell is not going anywhere.

“I think the law is clear that I have a four-year term, and I fully intend to serve it,” he said at a press conference in Washington on Wednesday after policy makers met to discuss interest rates.

The Fed said yesterday it was ready to battle growing global and domestic economic risks with interest rate cuts beginning as early as next month. The central bank left its benchmark interest rate unchanged for now.

Joe Sommerlad20 June 2019 10:35

Trump's pick for US ambassador to the UN, Kelly Craft, had her first confirmation hearing yesterday and broke with the president on climate change, saying the phenomenon "poses real risks".

Craft told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee she would "be an advocate for all countries to do their part in addressing climate change".

President Trump famously considers the matter a "hoax" - much like anything else he disagrees with - and recently dismissed global warming as a "change of weather" on his trip to Britain to commemorate D-Day.

"Human behaviour has contributed to the changing climate," Craft told senators on Wednesday, having previously been flaky on the subject herself. "Let there be no doubt: I take this matter seriously."

"Fossil fuels have played a part in climate change," she added.

Craft is the current US ambassador to Canada, the first woman to hold that post, and has been chosen by the president to succeed Nikki Haley, who resigned last October.

She was put to the sword yesterday as to why she had spent more than 300 days outside of Canada since taking the Ottawa-based job in October 2017.

“I find this staggering amount of time away from her post very troubling and an abdication of leadership,” the committee's leading Democrat Bob Menendez commented, forcing Craft to insist that all her trips away had been carried out according to state department regulations.

Joe Sommerlad20 June 2019 10:55

Yesterday was Juneteenth in America, a holiday commemorating the announcement of the abolition of slavery on 19 June 1865 in Texas, paving the way for the emancipation of African Americans across the former Confederate states in the aftermath of the Civil War.

To honour the date, a House Judiciary subcommittee held a hearing on reparations for slavery, with Hollywood actor Danny Glover and writer Ta-Nehisi Coates among those speaking. Glover spoke about being the great-grandson of a slave...

...while Coates took Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell to task for his crass indifference to the subject.

McConnell had said he's against paying reparations as "none of us currently living are responsible for it" and: "We've tried to deal with the original sin of slavery by passing civil rights legislation and electing an African American president."

Joe Sommerlad20 June 2019 11:10

Democratic star Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez remains under fire for likening US border detention centres to concentration camps, with Republican Kevin McCarthy, the House minority leader, calling on her to apologise "not only to the nation but to the world".

She's not backing down though.

Joe Sommerlad20 June 2019 11:25

Here's some reaction to the president's big 2020 launch event at the Amway Center in Orlando, Florida, on Tuesday night.

Clark Mindock was there and offers this.

Joe Sommerlad20 June 2019 11:40

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