Donald Trump has doubled down on his attacks on a group of Democratic congresswomen, claiming the party was now led by “four-left wing extremists who reject everything that we hold dear”.
At a rally for supporters in Cincinnati, Ohio, the crowd did not break into racist chants as happened two weeks ago in Florida when the president referred to the four women of colour.
But it did start chanting “lock her up” when he referred to Hillary Clinton, who he beat in the crucial state of Ohio in 2016, on his way to winning the White House.
“While Republicans are working every day to build up our country, the rage-filled Democrat Party is trying to tear America apart,” said Mr Trump.
“The Democrat Party is now being led by four left-wing extremists who reject everything that we hold dear.”
Mr Trump claimed he was seeking to avoid “controversy”, which is perhaps why he did not spend too long talking about the congresswomen, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ayanna Pressley, Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib.
Last month, he was widely criticised and his tweets formally condemned as racist by the House of Representatives, after tweeting and commenting that the the women should “go home”. Three of them were born in the US, while the fourth, Mr Omar came here 20 years ago after her family escaped from Somalia as refugees.
On Thursday, one of four Republican members of congress who voted in favour of the House bill condemning the president’s remarks about the progressive women, announced he was not seeking reelection.
Will Hurd, who represents Texas’s 23rd congressional district and is the only black Republican in the House, had condemned Mr Trump’s remarks as racist and xenophobic.
“Look, I'm the only black Republican in the House of Representatives. I go into communities that most Republicans don’t show up in order to take a conservative message,” he told CNN last month.
“This makes it harder in order to take our ideas, and our platform, to communities that don't necessarily identify with the Republican Party.”
Mr Hurd made his announcement while Mr Trump was on stage attacking Democratic mayors, across the country, including the mayor of Cincinnati, John Cranley.
He claimed the crowd at the US Bank Arena had broken records, and he alleged it was “Democrats” who for health and safety reasons had not allowed more people inside.
If you want to see how Mr Trump energised the crowd, please see what was our live coverage below
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Hello and welcome to The Independent's rolling coverage of the Donald Trump administration.
Donald Trump was up late on Twitter on Wednesday evening to dismiss the latest round of Democratic 2020 primary debates and repeat his false claim that the policy of child separation at the US-Mexico border was commenced under the Barack Obama administration.
Trump has made the claim in the past, most recently in June when he said during his extended interview with NBC host Chuck Todd that he "inherited separation from President Obama" and in a sit-down session with Jose Díaz Balar of Spanish-language channel Telemundo, claiming: "When I became president, President Obama had a separation policy. I didn't have it. He had it. I brought the families together. I'm the one that put them together."
The issue has continued to cause uproar since reports emerged from health inspectors about the squalid conditions in which children were being held in detention centres in Texas, denied basic amenities like toothpaste and soap and forced to look after one another as lice infections raged and government lawyers argued in court against the need to fund their rudimentary care.
In fact, the practice dates back to the "zero-tolerance" approach to immigration his administration introduced in April 2018, a policy masterminded - if you can call it that - by senior Trump adviser Stephen Miller.
"We don’t want to separate families, but we don’t want families to come to the border illegally and attempt to enter into this country improperly," his then-attorney general Jeff Sessions commented when the policy was announced. "The parents are subject to prosecution while children may not be. So, if we do our duty and prosecute those cases, then children inevitably for a period of time might be in different conditions."
Speaking to NPR in May 2018, then-Trump chief of staff John Kelly said that a "big name of the game is deterrence" and that family separations "would be a tough deterrent."
Meanwhile, according to FactCheck.org, "previous administrations did not have a blanket policy to prosecute parents and separate them from their children" although migrant apprehensions and deportations during Obama's presidency did outpace those of Trump's first years, according to Department of Homeland Security data. That is, until the "zero-tolerance" stance was taken, at which point family separations became systematic.
The number of House Democrats supporting the president’s impeachment has surged since Robert Mueller‘s twin appearances before Congress last week to explain his investigation into Russian election interference and possible obstruction of justice charges against Trump, with some two dozen joining the cause in the wake of the special counsel’s testimony, according to the AP’s latest head count.
That makes 113 - almost half of the opposition's 235-seat majority in the House of Representatives - but it's still far short of the 218 votes needed to pass legislation in the chamber.
House speaker Nancy Pelosi has remained dogged in her resistance to launching impeachment proceedings, preferring to pursue the president through methodical but time-consuming congressional investigations and court battles, much to the frustration of the younger, more progressive wing of her party.
Trump managed to resist the temptation to tweet on the first night of debating in Detroit, Michigan - though he did call CNN anchor Don Lemon "the dumbest man on television" the next morning - but failed to contain himself last night.
The president, who measures success in TV ratings, suggested that "the people on the stage tonight, and last, were not those that will either Make America Great Again or Keep America Great!" before bragging about his economic achievements (just hours after the Federal Reserve had cut interest rates for the first time in more than a decade to reflect the slowing growth of the US economy).
On stage, frontrunner Joe Biden was the lightning rod for much abuse, resuming his battle with California senator Kamala Harris, but this time fought back pretty gamely, although not with attracting criticism for telling her "Go easy on me, kid" and ridicule for telling supporters to "go to Joe 30330" rather than text his first name to that number.
Trump was again attacked by his potential challengers, with Washington state governor Jay Inslee saying: “We can no longer allow a white nationalist to be in the White House” and New York senator Kirsten Gillibrand saying her first act as president would be to "Clorox the Oval Office".
Biden himself reminded the president that America is strong because of its diversity, not in spite of it, in response to Trump's recent run of racist attacks on Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib, Ayanna Pressley, Elijah Cummings, the Reverend Al Sharpton and the city of Baltimore.
Here's Andrew Buncombe's review of night two in Detroit.
In an interview with the BBC, Trump's former economic adviser Gary Cohn has admitted the president's tariff-based trade war is actually hurting the US and helping China.
Cohn told Jon Sopel on the Today programme that Trump's policy of tariff brinkmanship has had a "dramatic impact" on US manufacturing and capital investment and that the trade war was serving as "a very convenient excuse" for the rival superpower to slow down its overheated economy, which he felt was due to put on the brakes anyway.
"I think the Chinese economy is driven by credit and credit availability," Cohn said. "Credit and credit availability is determined by the central government. And they can turn it on and they can turn credit off."
The idea that tariffs would solve existing imbalances between the US and China was a "long-time view" of Trump's, Cohn added, declining to give a verdict but agreeing with his former boss on the need to address Chinese intellectual property theft: "That has to be fixed."
His final warning was stark: "I think everyone loses in a trade war. We are an 80 per cent service economy. The service side of the economy is doing very well, because, guess what, it's not being tariffed."
Here's Adam Forrest's report.
Before we come back to the Democratic 2020 debates, here are a few more bits of Trump-related business - starting on the foreign policy front.
The US president had a phone call with his old friend Vladimir Putin of Russia yesterday, where the pair reportedly discussed the problem of wildfires in Siberia, an issue Trump insists can be dealt with in California by cleaning brush, bracken and deadwood from the forest floor, a concept known as "forest management" that he claims to have invented.
Trump also hosted Mongolian president Battulga Khaltmaa at the White House on Wednesday, who gifted him with a horse from the steppes that Trump has decided to name "Victory".
The US president also stepped up his support for Brazil's Jair Bolsonaro, "the Trump of the Tropics", by designating his country a "major non-NATO ally", giving Brazil preferential access to American weaponry and military training for which other nations outside the alliance aren't eligible.
The Senate meanwhile confirmed that Kelly Knight Craft will be the new US ambassador to the UN, following on from Nikki Haley, who stepped down in October 2018. Kraft is the former US ambassador to Canada, a wealthy Republican donor and wife of a coal magnate and was voted in 56-34.
Finally, the administration risked escalating tensions with Iran by imposing new sanctions on Tehran's foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.
US national security adviser John Bolton has meanwhile insisted that North Korea's recent missile tests do not violate a pledge that leader Kim Jong-un made to President Trump, but he questioned when working-level talks on denuclearisation would begin.
"The firing of these missiles don't violate the pledge that Kim Jong-un made to the president about intercontinental-range ballistic missiles," Bolton said in an interview with Lou Dobbs on Fox Business Network.
"But you have to ask when the real diplomacy is going to begin, when the working-level discussions on denuclearisation will begin, as Kim Jong-un again said on 30 June he was prepared to do. We're still waiting to hear from North Korea," Bolton added.
He had this to add on the latest Iran sanctions:
And on Guatemala, acting Homeland Security secretary Kevin McAleenan is in the capital for private discussions on an agreement with Guatemala that would force many asylum seekers to file claims in the Central American country instead of the United States.
He is understood to be meeting with interior minster Enrique Degenhart and presidential candidate Sandra Torres, a week and a half before her runoff election against Alejandro Giammattei, who was also due to talk with the acting secretary.
Torres has said that President Jimmy Morales' administration should not have signed a "Safe Third Country Agreement" for detaining migrants with the US since he is due to leave office in January 2020. She says the matter should have been left to whomever wins the 11 August vote.
Torres has also said Guatemala doesn't have enough resources to take care of its own people, "much less to have foreigners here and attend to them."
Giammattei, meanwhile, said previously that he was "angry" about and opposed the signing of the deal. He said lawmakers should be consulted and called it a difficult agreement to fulfill.
Washington is apparently seeking to win local approval for the pact, which could significantly ease the wave of mostly Central Americans arriving at the US border. It would mean Hondurans and Salvadorans who travel by land through Guatemala must apply for asylum here rather than on American soil.
Critics of the deal point out that Guatemala, which is both a sending and transit country for irregular migration, has the same problems that are driving Hondurans and Salvadorans to flee their homes: violence, poverty, joblessness and a prolonged drought that has severely hurt farmers.
Trump has demanded that medals be revoked from prosecutors in the war crimes trial of US Navy SEAL Eddie Gallagher who was acquitted of murdering an Iraqi prisoner but convicted of unlawfully posing for photos with his dead body.
Gallagher’s case had become a cause celebre among Republican politicians and the conservative media after the serviceman was turned in by members of his own platoon, who accused him of stabbing a captured and wounded teenage fighter repeatedly in the neck with a custom hunting knife in 2017.
He was also charged with obstruction of justice for threatening to kill his colleagues who reported him.
In a court-martial this month, he was found not guilty of first-degree murder in the death of the captive and was also acquitted of accusations that he had fired at unarmed civilians but he was convicted over the photograph and sentenced to four months’ confinement and a reduction in rank to special operator first class.
There was further embarrassment for the Trump administration in Baltimore on Wednesday - the Maryland port city he denounced as "rat infested" - when Housing and Urban Development secretary Ben Carson arrived to defend the president's comments and was asked to move on from the Morning Star Baptist Church after members objected to his speaking without the venue's permission.
Carson called the rebuff an illustration of the "animosity" that prevents solutions being found to address the city’s problems.
“It’s so important that we’re willing to talk and to work together,” Carson told The Washington Post. “A church said to ‘get off of our property’ - a church - when we’re talking about helping people.”
When he did speak, outside of Hollins House, Carson compared Baltimore's problems to cancer.
"There are problems in Baltimore, and you can’t sweep them under the rug.
“It’s sort of like a patient who has cancer: you can dress them up and put a nice suit on and try to ignore it, but that cancer is going to have a devastating effect.”
Trump's former interior secretary Ryan Zinke has been drawn into a Department of Justice (DOJ) investigation into private email accounts being used to conduct government business, CNN reports.
The Interior Department's inspector general has written to members of Congress to confirm that it is now working with federal prosecutors on the matter.
"In consultation with DOJ and to avoid any interference with the criminal case, we have decided to combine the investigations," reads the letter from acting inspector general Gail Ennis.
It said the Justice Department probe was commenced last year when two senior Democratic congressmen, Raul Grijalva and Elijah Cummings, requested information from the inspector general on "many instances in which Secretary Zinke sent and received emails containing official business using his personal email account."
Zinke resigned at the end of 2018 while several ethical reviews involving him were underway.
Sorry guys, what was that about Hillary's emails?
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