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As it happenedended1554765690

Trump news: President's alleged business ties to IRGC stir controversy after he brands group a terrorist organisation

Read along for our coverage as the president cleaned house on Monday

Chris Riotta
New York
,Joe Sommerlad,Clark Mindock
Monday 08 April 2019 20:10 BST
Donald Trump 'will never release tax returns' claims White House official Mick Mulvaney

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Donald Trump has labelled Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps a terrorist organisation in an unprecedented move that could have lasting consequences for the United States.

The president declared for the first time in history that another government entity was a terror group, potentially making it more difficult for American diplomats and other officials working in the region.

The move arrives a day after the president accepted of Homeland Security secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, with whom he has repeatedly clashed over his administration’s more hardline immigration policies, as he seeks more drastic action to address the “crisis” at the US southern border.

Ms Nielsen's departure on Sunday was followed by the resignation of Randolph Alles, who was in charge of the Secret Service but had apparently fallen out of Mr Trump's good graces weeks ago.

Those two resignations were expected to be followed by more departures in the Department of Homeland Security in the days or weeks to come as a part of a phase that some in the media have begun to call a purge.

Also in the news was Devin Nunes, the ranking Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, who made eight criminal referrals to the attorney-general, William Barr, over the leaking of Mr Trump’s phone calls with ex-Australian prime minister Malcolm Turnbull and former Mexican president Enrique Pena Nieto and national security adviser Michael Flynn’s calls to a Russian ambassador.

Coming up this week, attorney general William Barr is slated to testify before both the House and the Senate on his department's budget for the coming year.

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But, that testimony is likely to veer of track a bit as democrats grill him about the contents of the Mueller report, which he received last month.

Mr Barr as pledged to send the report to Congress in the coming weeks, but it remains to be seen just how much of the report might be redacted.

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

Joe Sommerlad8 April 2019 08:49

President Trump has accepted the resignation of Kirstjen Nielsen, his Homeland Security secretary, with whom he has repeatedly clashed over her opposition to his administration's more hardline approaches towards immigration.

Mr Trump responded quickly to the latest high-profile departure from his administration, announcing her successor as Kevin McAleenan.

Last seen at President Trump's side in Calexico, California, on Friday, Nielsen has had a rough ride since taking the job in December 2017, succeeding John Kelly.

The New York Times reports she was "regularly berated" by her boss (often in the early hours of the morning) despite reluctantly backing him on such unpopular "zero-tolerance" policies as the separation of migrant families at detention centres.

Under Nielsen, migrants seeking asylum have been made to wait in Mexico as their cases progress. She also moved to abandon longstanding regulations that dictate how long children are allowed to be held in immigration detention and requested bed space from the US military for some 12,000 people in an effort to detain all families who cross the border. Right now there is space for about 3,000 families and facilities are at capacity. 

She also advocated for strong cybersecurity defence and often said she believed the next major terror attack would occur online — not by planes or bombs. She was tasked with helping states secure elections following Russian interference during the 2018 election. 

But she had apparently grown increasingly frustrated by what she saw as a lack of support from other departments and increased meddling by Trump aides on difficult immigration issues. She was recently asked to close all ports of entry and stop allowing individuals requesting asylum into the country, a move she reportedly did not support or consider effective.

A senior administration official told CNN that Nielsen “believed the situation was becoming untenable with the president becoming increasingly unhinged about the border crisis and making unreasonable and even impossible requests”.

The final straw reportedly came when Trump gave Nielsen no heads-up or opportunity to discuss his decision to pull the nomination of acting Immigration and Customs Enforcement director Ron Vitiello - a move seen as part of a larger effort by senior adviser Stephen Miller and his allies at the White House to clean house at the department and bring in more people who share their views. 

Arrests along the southern border have skyrocketed recently. Border agents are on track to make 100,000 arrests and denials of entry at the southern border in March, over half of which are families with children. 

Here's Toyin Owoseje's report on the whole sorry mess.

Joe Sommerlad8 April 2019 09:10

Devin Nunes, the ranking Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, has meanwhile made eight criminal referrals to the attorney-general, William Barr, over the leaking of President Trump’s phone calls in early 2017.

Transcripts of Trump's calls to ex-Australian prime minister Malcolm Turnbull and former Mexican president Enrique Pena Nieto and national security adviser Michael Flynn’s call to a Russian ambassador were all leaked to the Washington press.

Appearing on Fox News (where else?), Nunes told host Maria Bartiromo: “You had conversations with the president of the United States and the prime minister of Australia leak.

"You had leaks of President Trump talking to the president of Mexico leak.

"We all know the travesty of General Flynn.

“Nobody knows where those supposed transcripts came from.

"Those are just three examples that are absolutely horrific but there’s things that are even worse that were leaked, and there were only two or three reporters involved in this, so it would not be hard to get to the bottom of."

Nunes would not give the names of the eight but added: "Five of them are what I would call straight up referrals, so just referrals that name someone and name the specific crimes. Those crimes are lying to Congress, misleading Congress, leaking classified information."

Joe Sommerlad8 April 2019 09:22

Also making media appearances over the weekend was the White House's acting chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney.

He lambasted ongoing congressional investigations into Donald Trump during a Fox News Sunday interview, suggesting efforts by the House Oversight Committee to request the president’s tax returns from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) amounted to nothing less than a “political hit job.”

“To be clear, you believe Democrats will never see the president’s tax returns?” he was asked by anchor Bill Hemmer. 

“Never,” Mulvaney replied emphatically.

Here's Chris Riotta's report.

Joe Sommerlad8 April 2019 09:27

A little more from the weekend.

Donald Trump again attacked Democratic representative Ilhan Omar, one of the first Muslim women to serve in Congress, hours after it emerged that a death threat had been made against her. 

In a "joke" at the Republican Jewish Coalition event in Las Vegas, Nevada, the president pretended to thank the congresswoman for her support of Israel, saying: "Special thanks to Representative Omar of Minnesota. Oh, I forgot. She doesn’t like Israel. I forgot. I’m so sorry."

Omar's criticism of what she regards as the excessive influence of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee in Washington earlier this year exposed sharp divisions within her party, gave Trump and his secretary of state Mike Pompeo a platform from which to disingenuously label the opposition as an "anti-Semitic, anti-Jewish party" and saw the politician herself made the subject of vicious Islamophobic abuse.

Hardly a laughing matter.

Here's Maya Oppenheim's report.

Joe Sommerlad8 April 2019 09:42

Something the president does not find so funny is the White House Correspondents’ Dinner.

He will miss the popular presidential roast for the third consecutive year, at which it is customary for a stand-up comic to take to the podium and mock the occupant of the Oval Office to the glee of the Washington press corps.

“The dinner is so boring and so negative that we’re going to hold a very positive rally instead,” Trump said, his sense of humour apparently having failed him.

Stephen Colbert's legendary debagging of George W Bush in 2006 remains the gold standard but Barack Obama also made excellent use of the night to show off a lighter side, memorably eviscerating Trump in 2011 over the "birther" conspiracy theory by running a clip from Disney's The Lion King to recall his youth in Kenya.

“No one is happier, no is one is prouder to put this birth certificate matter to rest than The Donald," Obama said. "And that’s because he can finally get back to focusing on the things that matter, like: did we fake the moon landing? What really happened in Roswell? And where are Biggie and Tupac?”

Last year's host, Michelle Wolf, wasted no time in getting a dig in.

Here's Zamira Rahim's report.

Joe Sommerlad8 April 2019 09:57

A great observation on Trump from the aforementioned Colbert here.

"Trump is obsessed with being liked, that's why so many people can't stand him."

Joe Sommerlad8 April 2019 10:10

Here's more on Trump being alarming in his address to the Republican Jewish Coalition in Vegas.

He says he made his decision to recognise Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights, a call widely disapproved of around the world but a timely boost to ally Benjamin Netanyahu in an election year, after being given a "quick history lesson" on the Middle East by David Friedman, the US ambassador to Israel, and his own son-in-law, Jared Kushner.

Here's Andrew Buncombe with more.

Joe Sommerlad8 April 2019 10:25

With former vice-president Joe Biden still yet to declare a 2020 presidential run - a once-popular prospect suddenly looking unlikely after he was subjected to a series of inappropriate touching complaints - Bernie Sanders has emerged as the Democratic front-runner.

And he's not mincing his words on the president.

Here's Clark Mindock's report.

Joe Sommerlad8 April 2019 10:40

Here's an update on the sword attack at a San Francisco rollerblading rink, relevant here because the accused allegedly reached for the weapon after a Maga cap was slapped from his head by a member of the public.

Joe Sommerlad8 April 2019 10:55

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