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As it happenedended1550875857

Trump news: House to vote on national emergency resolution as new attack launched on abortion access

How yet another shocking week in Washington came to an end

Clark Mindock
New York
,Joe Sommerlad
Friday 22 February 2019 20:34 GMT
Donald Trump brags out unemployment figures during African American History Month event

House Democrats have filed their “resolution of disapproval” challenging Donald Trump‘s decision to call a national emergency in order to build a wall on the US southern border with Mexico.

While the president has claimed there is a "crisis" of illegal immigration in the United States, Democrats have questioned his motives — and noted that Mr Trump himself has suggested that he did not need to declare the emergency.

The president on Thursday touted the contributions of African Americans during an event to honour Black History Month.

Meanwhile Ahmed Ali Muthana, the father of Alabama Isis bride Hoda Muthana, announced he is suing the administration for its “unlawful attempt” to rescind her citizenship and block a return to the US. Lawyers have told The Independent that an executive effort to revoke citizenship amounts to the act of an "authoritarian".

In Syria, the US has rowed back on its decision for a full withdrawal of troops following the apparent defeat of the Islamist militants and will now leave around 200 soldiers behind to safeguard the region.

Mr Trump on Friday weighed in on several issues, including the charges brought against his friend and billionaire owner of the New England Patriots Robert Kraft over prostitution allegations.

He called those charges "shocking", but noted that Mr Kraft had denied the charges against him.

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The president also suggested that he might extend a deadline for trade negotiations with China, saying that the negotiators have been having success.

Next week, Mr Trump is scheduled to travel to Vietnam for a meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, where he and his administration say that they hope he can build on the previous summit with Mr Kim last year in Singapore.

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

Joe Sommerlad22 February 2019 09:15

Democrats in the House of Representatives will file a resolution to block Donald Trump's national emergency declaration today.

The opposition argues the president has overstated and misrepresented the extent of the problem of illegal immigration from Central America at the southwestern border in order to activate emergency powers, allowing him to bypass Congress and reallocate federal funding to realise his 2,000-mile border wall, his signature campaign promise.

A vote on the measure - dubbed the "resolution of disapproval" by its co-sponsor, Texas representative Joaquin Castro - will follow in the coming days, according to House speaker Nancy Pelosi.

She told colleagues in a letter on Wednesday that the House will "move swiftly" to pass the resolution and that it will be referred to the Senate and then sent on to President Trump. 

"All Members take an oath of office to support and defend the Constitution. The president's decision to go outside the bounds of the law to try to get what he failed to achieve in the constitutional legislative process violates the Constitution and must be terminated," she added.

Joe Sommerlad22 February 2019 09:22

The development follows the filing of a lawsuit by 16 states to challenge the same measure in court, an initiative spearhead by California, prompting the president to lash out at the Golden State's costly bullet train project, which he says has wasted almost $3.5bn (£2.7bn) in federal funds already.

The man himself has been busily tweeting about the progress of construction on his precious US-Mexico border wall, posting sped-up footage of work underway that positively begs to have its stirring score replaced with the Benny Hill theme music.

Even more ludicrously, the footage is actually five months old, dating from 18 September 2018 and showing sections of border being replaced and repaired, not built from scratch.

Joe Sommerlad22 February 2019 09:32

In other news, the Trump administration is being sued by Ahmed Ali Muthana, a former Yemeni diplomat, over its efforts to rescind the citizenship of his daughter Hoda, 24, after she left Alabama for Syria in 2014 to become an Isis bride.

Mr Muthana's lawsuit, filed in a federal court in Washington on Thursday, aims to stop the "unlawful attempt" to deny her right to return.

Secretary of state Mike Pompeo issued a statement on Wednesday declaring Hoda Muthana is "not a US citizen and will not be admitted into the United States. She does not have any legal basis, no valid US passport, no right to a passport, nor any visa to travel to the United States."

President Trump duly took the credit on Twitter:

The woman in question was born in Hackensack, New Jersey, has an 18-month-old son whose father is understood to have died fighting for the Islamist militants and is currently being held at a Kurdish refugee camp. She has now renounced the cause she cause she left home to fight for.

"We cannot get to a point where we simply strip citizenship from those who break the law. That's not what America is about," the family's lawyer, Hassan Shibly, told AFP.

David Leopold, former president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, told The Independent's Clark Mindock the president's stance on the matter reveals "the mindset of an authoritarian".

Joe Sommerlad22 February 2019 09:44
Joe Sommerlad22 February 2019 10:00

On Isis and Syria, the US has decided to row back on the "full withdrawal" of its 2,000 soldiers from the territory as announced by Donald Trump in December, when he optimistically declared the Islamist extremists had been routed for good.

President Trump had previously said there was nothing to be gained from staying in Syria - a land of "sand and death", apparently - but the US will now keep a small team of 200 troops in the region to secure the peace, soothing fears a complete American exodus would encourage Isis to regroup and leave Recep Tayyip Erdogan's Turkey free to launch an attack on the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces.

Good news for South Carolina senator Lindsey Graham, who told acting-defence secretary Patrick Shanahan the call to abandon Syria altogether was "the dumbest f***ing idea I've ever heard".

Here's our Middle East correspondent Richard Hall in Beirut.

Joe Sommerlad22 February 2019 10:15

President Trump criticised Empire actor Jussie Smollett yesterday for apparently lying about being the victim of a racist and homophobic assault in Chicago.

The city's Police Department initially treated Mr Smollett as the victim of a hate crime after he reported on 29 January that two men had hurled abuse at him in the street and looped a noose around his neck, threatening to lynch him and declaring: "This is MAGA country."

But following the questioning of two suspects in custody, Mr Smollett was indicted and accused of staging the attack and filing a false report to further his career.

Having waded into that row, Mr Trump faced the potentially tricky task of hosting a White House reception last night honouring African-American History Month.

Fortunately, the night appeared to pass largely without incident, the president telling his guests he intend to expand opportunities "for Americans of every race, religion and creed".

Boasting about the economy, Mr Trump said the unemployment rate for African-Americans is at its "lowest ever".

Black unemployment did reach a low of 5.9 percent in May 2018. But that figure changes monthly and had increased to 6.8 percent by January. 

The president also touted passage of a criminal justice reform bill in December. He says the nation's sentencing laws disproportionately "harm African-American communities far, far greater than anybody else." 

Catherine Toney, one of the first inmates released through the bill's passage, thanked Mr Trump and his son-in-law Jared Kushner for their efforts as the crowd applauded in approval.

Joe Sommerlad22 February 2019 10:30

Here's Ahmed Baba for Indy Voices on what the Jussie Smollett affair tells us about race and prejudice in Donald Trump's America.

Joe Sommerlad22 February 2019 10:45

Today the president will meet with China's vice-premier Liu He, who is leading trade talks with US officials in Washington.

The forecast for gaffes and awkwardness is looking bright. 

By coincidence, Richard Nixon began his famous seven-day trip to the People's Republic to meet Chairman Mao on this date in 1972.

Nixon was toasted at a banquet in Beijing (then Peking) by a 600-strong crowd on 22 February 1972, with premier Zhou Enlai affirming "the gate to friendly contact has finally been opened".

The president responded by telling his audience the two superpowers should bridge the gap between themselves without compromising their principles.

“This is the day for our two peoples to rise to the heights of greatness which can build a new and better world,” Nixon said.

Other nice details from that day include the People’s Liberation Army Band playing "The Star Spangled Banner" and "Turkey in the Straw" to welcome Nixon at the airport and the president being served shark's fin soup for supper. 

Joe Sommerlad22 February 2019 11:00

Andrew Buncombe with this on nutty political consultant Roger Stone's appearance in a Washington courtroom yesterday after posting an image on Instagram of the judge overseeing his criminal trial with a rifle sight near her head.

Asking the justice concerned, Amy Berman Jackson, not to alter his bail conditions relating to charges brought by special counsel Robert Mueller, Mr Stone said: “I am kicking myself over my own stupidity.”

"I’m not giving you another chance", she warned, her patience obviously at breaking point.

Joe Sommerlad22 February 2019 11:15

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