As it happenedended1562105890

Trump news: Congress files tax return lawsuit as president rages against Robert Mueller and insists military leaders 'thrilled' to take part in 4th of July tank display

Another day of controversy and chaos in Washington

Chris Riotta
New York
,Joe Sommerlad
Tuesday 02 July 2019 16:58
Comments
Donald Trump promises tanks for Fourth of July parade

Donald Trump has hit out at Robert Mueller on Twitter and insisted the US military is “thrilled” to be taking part in his “Salute to America” celebration for the Fourth of July as the House Ways and Means Committee launches a lawsuit to acquire his tax returns.

In an exclusive interview with Tucker Carlson of Fox News broadcast on Monday night, the president criticised homelessness in American cities, spoke of his optimism that his trade war with China would ultimately be won and benefit farmers and accused the social media giants of “possibly illegally” blocking him from gaining new followers before expressing his desire to withdraw US troops from Afghanistan, which he called, “the Harvard of terrorists”.

A delegation of Democratic congressmen and women have meanwhile visited a number of migrant detention centres at the US-Mexico border in Texas, speaking out against the squalid conditions they found there and the behaviour of some Border Patrol agents overseeing the facilities.

Images released Tuesday by US government inspectors who visited facilities in South Texas where migrant adults and children who crossed the nearby border with Mexico are processed and detained showed overcrowding and seemingly unsanitary conditions.

As public outrage grows over the conditions in which thousands of people — some no more than a few months old — are being held by the US government, the report offered new cause for alarm.

It quotes one senior government manager as calling the situation “a ticking time bomb.”

“Specifically, when detainees observed us, they banged on the cell windows, shouted, pressed notes to the window with their time in custody, and gestured to evidence of their time in custody,” the report says.

BuzzFeed first reported on a draft version of the report, which blurs most faces in the photos.

An autopsy report also released Tuesday confirmed that a 2-year-old child who died in April had multiple intestinal and infectious respiratory diseases, including the flu.

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Wilmer Josué Ramírez Vásquez is one of five children to die after being detained by border agents since late last year. Two of the other four also had the flu.

Additional reporting by AP. Please allow a moment for our liveblog to load

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

Joe Sommerlad2 July 2019 10:03
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Donald Trump's plans to have military tanks play a role in his “Salute to America” celebration for the Fourth of July in Washington, DC, have been derided as “ridiculously inappropriate” as it emerged the president expects to be flanked by Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine chiefs when he addresses the nation from the Lincoln Memorial on Thursday.

Trump is said to have been impressed by the Bastille Day celebrations he attended in France in 2017 and is seeking to replicate the pomp, ceremony and spectacle of that occasion, although his critics argue his proposals - including a fly-past and huge firework display - sound more like they belong in a Stalinist state like North Korea, where grandiose public shows of military might are common.

Here's Samuel Osborne with more on the president's controversial and costly plans for Independence Day.

Joe Sommerlad2 July 2019 10:13
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"I'm going to be here and I'm going to say a few words and we're going to have planes going overhead, the best fighter jets in the world and other planes too and we're gonna have some tanks stationed outside," Trump said in the Oval Office on Monday.

"You've got to be pretty careful with the tanks because the roads have a tendency not to like to carry heavy tanks so we have to put them in certain areas but we have the brand new Sherman tanks and we have the brand new Abrams tanks." 

The tanks will be M1 Abrams only and will not roll down Pennsylvania Avenue to prevent infrastructure damage (they weigh 60 tonnes each), defence officials clarified, saying the armoured vehicles will be positioned on the National Mall as part of a "static display".

The US has not used Sherman tanks since the M4 models were phased out after the Second World War. 

Here are the Abrams arriving at a railroad freight yard in Washington on Monday, the models manufactured in Lima, Ohio, and delivered from Fort Stewart, Georgia.

"We have some incredible equipment, military equipment on display - brand new. And we're very proud of it," Trump added.

Aircraft featured in the aforementioned fly-by will reportedly include a B-2 stealth bomber and F-22 fighter jets. The Navy's Blue Angels demonstration team, which typically flies F/A-18s, will be there along with F-35 stealth jets and VC-25s, which commonly accompany Air Force One, according to CNN.

Ceremonial units such as the Old Guard Fife and Drum Corps, the US Army Band and the United States Marine Corps Silent Drill Team are also on the list to take part in the festivities.

Washington's city council are among those opposed to the president's plans on the grounds that the tanks will damage the city's roads, bridges and green spaces, tweeting this droll response on Monday.

Joe Sommerlad2 July 2019 10:34
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"For decades, the Fourth of July on the National Mall has been nonpartisan and apolitical," senior House Democrats have written to the president in a letter opposing his plans.

"We respectfully call on you to look for ways to complement, not conflict with, the Fourth of July celebration, such as considering an earlier time or alternative location for your remarks."

The Trump administration obviously tossed that letter straight into a wastepaper basket as the Republican National Committee (RNC) have been busy offering major donors free tickets to the president's speech.

"He’s going to have tanks out there. It’s going to be cool," one member told The Huffington Post. “He wants to have a parade like they have in Moscow or China or North Korea."

"This partisan appropriation of a public event is consistent with the record of an administration that has no regard for lines between personal or partisan interests and its public obligations," said Robert Weissman, president of Public Citizen, a nonprofit consumer advocacy organisation.

“This sounds less and less like a government event and more and more like a campaign rally. Since it doesn’t look like the RNC is picking up the bill, this could lead to some serious legal issues,” adds Jordan Libowitz of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington.

He expects the party's big donors to be in attendance at the city's Trump Hotel. “It’s already sold out for the 3rd and 4th despite charging double what the other luxury hotels are charging around the holiday.”

Trump's speech is said by White House insiders to not be political in nature, although with this president, all bets are off.

Joe Sommerlad2 July 2019 10:51
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While in Japan for the G20 over the weekend, Trump took time out to record an exclusive interview with Tucker Carlson of Fox News, which was aired last night.

In addition to expressing vague optimism that his trade war with China would ultimately be won and benefit farmers, Trump accused Twitter of "possibly illegally" blocking him from gaining new followers (an increasingly current theme among American conservatives).

When asked by Carlson why Japanese cities like Osaka compare so favourably to America's sprawling urban centres in terms of cleanliness, Trump gave an extraordinary answer, suggesting homelessness was "a phenomenon that started two years ago".

He also gave a typically eccentric response in expressing his desire to withdraw US troops from Afghanistan, which he called, “the Harvard of terrorists”, after two American soldiers were killed there last week.

Here's Emma Snaith with more on that interview.

Joe Sommerlad2 July 2019 11:06
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Prior to that, Trump had spoken to reporters at the White House after returning from South Korea.

He treated the assembled press corps to similarly vague pronouncements about China.

He suggested he was considering delaying the 2020 census to allow for the inclusion of a controversial and potentially prejudicial citizenship question, despite being constitutionally bound to carry one out next year.

And he boasted, erroneously, about his high approval rating among Hispanic Americans, which is actually only around 25 per cent, according to CNN.

Joe Sommerlad2 July 2019 11:20
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The Trump White House also issued a frankly baffling statement on Iran through its already embattled new press secretary Stephanie Grisham, whose accusation that Tehran pre-emptively violated the terms of the 2015 nuclear deal it signed was met with this agreeably incredulous response from the country's foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.

The Iranian Parliament's speaker Ali Larijani has since warned President Trump that his countrymen will always unite against a bully after Trump said Tehran was "playing with fire" in bypassing agreed levels of enriched uranium.

"Mr Trump should understand that when one uses bullying language against a civilised nation, they become more united," Larijani said.

French president Emmanuel Macron has meanwhile pledged to take steps to ensure that Iran meets its commitment to the deal and continues to benefit from the economic advantages it was guaranteed under its terms.

Here's Adam Forrest with more.

Joe Sommerlad2 July 2019 11:35
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A delegation of Democratic representatives meanwhile visited a number of migrant detention centres on the US-Mexico border on Monday - including the notorious facility in Clint, Texas, from which children being denied basic amenities were recently removed - and spoke out against the squalid conditions they found there.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Julian Castro, Judy Chu, Veronica Escobar, Ayanna Pressley, Joe Kennedy III, Rashida Tlaib and Madeleine Dean were among those touring the sites and many had harsh words for the Border Patrol agents overseeing operations.

Although the politicians were asked to surrender their phones before the tour, Castro smuggled a device inside the El Paso Border Patrol station to film and take photos.

AOC said the conditions she had witnessed amounted to "psychological warfare" on the part of the Border Patrol officers and painstakingly documented her observations on Twitter.

Here's Adam Forrest with the full story.

Joe Sommerlad2 July 2019 11:50
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Coinciding with the trip, it emerged that numerous Border Patrol agents were part of a secret Facebook group that allegedly featured sexually explicit memes and comments about Ocasio-Cortez and other other members of the delegation.

The group reportedly has around 9,500 members and also contains posts mocking migrant deaths.

One encouraged officers to throw a “burrito at these b*****s” during their visit, while others said “f***k the hoes” and “There should be no photo ops for these scum buckets”.

"This isn’t about 'a few bad eggs'," Ocasio-Cortez tweeted in response. "This is a violent culture."

Here's Emma Snaith with more.

Joe Sommerlad2 July 2019 12:05
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The delegations visit to Texas coincided with the release of damning new report into a facility in El Paso, where the guards were found to be drinking and arming themselves in response to the pressure placed on them to maintain order with minimal resources.

The centre has four showers to cater to 756 inmates and one cell seen by inspectors housed 155 people, despite being designed to hold 35, all of whom were reduced to wearing soiled clothes and enduring intense heat and rampant disease.

Here's Zamira Rahim with more.

Joe Sommerlad2 July 2019 12:20

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