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Trump news: President imposes 'hard hitting' sanctions on Iran as White House put on lock down

Follow the latest updates from Washington, as it happened

Donald Trump orders new sanctions against Iran's supreme leader and associates

Donald Trump has signed into force new "hard-hitting" sanctions against Iran, including Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei as tensions continue to rise between Washington and Tehran

Mr Trump said that the issue of the US drone downed by Iran last week “could probably add that into this” but that the sanctions were “something that was going to happen anyway.”

The president is also facing criticism on multiple fronts as the week begins, including domestic outcry over the treatment of migrant children held in “filthy” border detention centres. Meanwhile, questions have been raised after documents were released showing the president's transition team "red flagged" the appointed of a senior general for a top administration post over his opposition to the use of torture.

After postponing the mass deportation of immigrants at the request of Democrats over the weekend, the president gave an interview to NBC’s Meet the Press in which he fielded questions about possible Russian election hacking in 2020, the state of the US economy, and the murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Meanwhile, as Mr Trump went after Iran, the 2020 race to take on the president is in full swing.

The biggest headlines of the day on that front came from Bernie Sanders and Pete Buttigieg. Mr Sanders drove the day by introducing an ambitious plan to make public college and universities free — and a significant reduction in American student loan debt.

Mr Buttigieg, meanwhile, faced conflict in South Bend, where an officer involved shooting of a black man has laid bare the racial tensions in that city and across the country.

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

Joe Sommerlad24 June 2019 10:20
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Donald Trump is facing criticism on multiple fronts as the week begins, juggling conflict with Iran, a historic rape accusation from New York writer E Jean Carroll and outcry over the treatment of children in “filthy” border detention centres.

Beginning with Iran, Rear Admiral Hossein Khanzadi has warned Washington the country's military could shoot down further drones four days after the Revolutionary Guard downed a $100m (£79m) unmanned US surveillance plane over the Strait of Hormuz, prompting the president to order air strikes against Tehran on Thursday night before aborting the mission with 10 minutes to spare, fighter jets in the air and warships moving into position.

On Friday, Trump explained that an unnamed general had informed him an estimated 150 people would be killed in any such action, prompting the president to conclude the response was "not proportionate" and make the U-turn. He has since tried to control the narrative after being angered by the media response.

In a lengthy interview with Chuck Todd on NBC's Meet the Press, Trump denied a Reuters report that he had called Tehran to warn of the upcoming strikes, insisted he was "not looking for a war" but said that the country would face "obliteration" if he did and indicated his own national security adviser John Bolton - "absolutely a hawk" - was spoiling for the fight, not him.

On CNN's State of the Union on Sunday, vice president Mike Pence defended his boss's decision to back down.

US secretary of state Mike Pompeo is in Saudi Arabia to address tensions in the Middle East today, threatening “significant” new sanctions against Iran while expressing an interest in opening talks with the regime.

"We'll be talking with (Saudi Arabia and the UAE) about how to make sure that we are all strategically aligned, and how we can build out a global coalition, a coalition... that understands this challenge," Pompeo said.

Tensions have flared following attacks in recent weeks on oil tankers in the Gulf which the United States blames on Iran, the shooting down of the US Navy RQ-4A Global Hawk and repeated attacks on Saudi airports and oil installations by Yemen's Iran-aligned Houthis.

Here's more from Tom Embury-Dennis.

Joe Sommerlad24 June 2019 10:34
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Over the weekend, Trump faced a new sexual assault allegation from writer E Jean Carroll, who gave a graphic account of an attack she says she suffered at the hands of the president in the changing rooms of New York’s Bergdorf Goodman department store in the 1990s.

“The moment the dressing-room door is closed, he lunges at me, pushes me against the wall, hitting my head quite badly, and puts his mouth against my lips,” she writes in an extract of a forthcoming memoir published by New York magazine.

“He seizes both my arms and pushes me up against the wall a second time, and, as I become aware of how large he is, he holds me against the wall with his shoulder and jams his hand under my coat dress and pulls down my tights.”

Trump hotly denied the accusation, saying: “I’ve never met this person in my life. She is trying to sell a new book, that should indicate her motivation. It should be sold in the fiction section.”

But his claim was quickly undermined by the circulation of a photograph on social media depicting the two together with her then-husband John Johnson and his then-wife Ivana at an NBC party in 1987.

More than 20 women have previously come forward with allegations of sexual impropriety against the president, who notoriously boasted to interviewer Billy Bush in the Access Hollywood tape of October 2016 that his celebrity meant he was free to grab women "by the pussy".

Here's more from Peter Stubley.

Joe Sommerlad24 June 2019 10:49
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A further scandal embroiling the president in recent days is the condition in which children are being held in detention centres along the southwestern border with Mexico.

A video of Trump administration lawyer Sarah Fabian went viral over the weekend in which she is seen arguing in court against the need for the state to provide the youngsters separated from their families with bedding, soap and toothbrushes, basic rights mandated by the Flores settlement's guarantee that children kept in government custody must be held in "safe and sanitary" confines.

The New Yorker meanwhile carried an interview with Warren Binford, a law professor who had visited a Border Patrol facility in Clint, Texas, for an inspection and reported back on "filthy" cells, outbreaks of flu and lice and widespread neglect by guards.

Republican congressman Michael McCaul subsequently appeared on Face the Nation on CBS to say: “I’ve been down there throughout my 15 years in Congress and before that, as a federal prosecutor. This is the worst I’ve ever seen it, and it has to be taken care of.”

President Trump though told Todd on Meet the Press the issue was not his fault as he had inherited the policy of separating children from their families from the preceding Obama administration, which is simply not true.

Trump did bow to Democratic requests that he postpone his planned massed deportation of migrants on Saturday but used the gesture to pressure his opposition into co-operating on policy at the border.

Veep Pence joined Trump in attempting to place emphasis on the Democrats.

Here's more on Representative McCaul's comments from Victoria Gagliardo-Silver.

Joe Sommerlad24 June 2019 11:10
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Still hungry for more?

The Trump transition team passed over a senior US general who was being considered for the president’s administration because he was opposed to torture, leaked documents have revealed. 

The vetting documents, obtained by Axios on HBO, highlight potential issues among nearly 100 candidates who were considered in late 2016 and early 2017 for top positions in Trump’s administration. 

Among them was David Petraeus, former director of the CIA, whose vetting form, under the title “Red Flags”, highlighted his publicly stated opposition to torture. 

Just days into his presidency, Trump declared his support for torture in an interview with ABC in which he said “torture works” and he would “absolutely” bring back banned interrogation methods such as waterboarding. 

Potential Homeland Security nominee Kris Kobach reportedly had "white supremacy" listed as a reason not to appoint him (!!!)

Here's more on those leaks.

Joe Sommerlad24 June 2019 11:25
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Chuck Todd has been criticised in some quarters for his softball questioning of President Trump, particularly over his future plans for a presidential library, given the many controversies currently embroiling the administration at home and abroad.

But the NBC anchor did get some choice lines for his trouble.

Here's Trump on loyalty to Saudi Arabia and his indifference towards an FBI investigation into the murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul last year.

The Middle East is just “a vicious, hostile place”, you see.

On whether Trump would confront Vladimir Putin at the G20 in Japan this week about further election hacking in 2020, the president gave this weak response.

Impeachment proceedings against him would be "very unfair", Trump said.

Appointing Jeff Sessions as his attorney general, only for him to recuse himself from involvement in the Russia investigation, was his primary regret since taking office.

Trump denied plotting to depose Federal Reserve chairman Jerome Powell.

He blundered in endorsing a Mike Pence run for the presidency in 2024...

...And he faltered on why the Obama economy was creating more jobs than his own.

You can read more on this last point below.

Joe Sommerlad24 June 2019 11:40
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The House Oversight Committee, chaired by Democrat Elijah Cummings, has warned in a letter it could subpoena the testimony of Kellyanne Conway, a senior adviser to President Trump, if she does not appear at a scheduled hearing this week.

Cummings' panel said it would vote on a potential subpoena if Conway does not testify before lawmakers at a scheduled Wednesday session focused on her alleged violations of the Hatch Act.

The 1939 law prohibits executive branch employees from engaging in some political activities.

The hearing was scheduled after the Office of Special Counsel, a US government watchdog agency, earlier this month recommended Conway be fired for repeatedly violating the Hatch Act by disparaging Democratic presidential candidates while speaking in her official capacity during television interviews and on social media.

Trump has said he would not fire 52-year-old Conway, a former political pollster who became Trump's campaign manager in 2016 and the first woman to oversee a winning US presidential campaign.

If Conway does not testify at the hearing, the Committee plans to hold a business meeting to consider authorising a subpoena for the White House advisor for "testimony in connection with her failure to comply with the Hatch Act and ethics laws," Cummings wrote in a letter to Committee members dated Friday.

The threat is a sign of growing frustration among House Democrats who have been thwarted in their efforts to hold to account the Trump administration. Senior administration officials including Treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin, commerce secretary Wilbur Ross and attorney general William Barr have all defied subpoena requests from Democratic-led House panels in recent months.

Now serving as counselor to the president at the White House, Conway regularly defends Trump and attacks his rivals online and in television interviews, often on the White House grounds.

The Special Counsel's office, an independent agency, is run by lawyer Henry Kerner, who was confirmed by the Senate in October 2017 after Trump nominated him for the position. 

Joe Sommerlad24 June 2019 11:55
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Other highlights from the president's Twitter account not mentioned so far included his commending the church service he attended at Camp David on Sunday - astonishing given the reports about decidedly unchristian child neglect ongoing at his border camps.

There were also several clips promoting Fox News, the border wall and a friend's book, glowing reflections on his Orlando campaign rally last Tuesday and no fewer than two Time magazine covers (one of which was a fake).

Joe Sommerlad24 June 2019 12:10
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Here's more on Mike Pompeo's visit to Saudi Arabia.

The US secretary of state met with the country's king and crown prince on Monday amid heightened tensions with Tehran.

Pompeo thanked King Salman for meeting him on "such short notice" at their talks in the Saudi city of Jeddah, according to a pool report of journalists travelling with him. In reply, the king called Pompeo a "dear friend".

Pompeo then met Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the kingdom's de facto ruler, for a working lunch.

The top US diplomat had told reporters before departing on a trip to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates that Washington wanted talks with Tehran, even as it planned to impose new economic sanctions.

For its part, the UAE has called for a de-escalation following the attacks on two oil tankers in the Strait of Hormuz, which led to the ramping up of tensions brought to head by the drone downing.

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Pompeo is expected to discuss "ways to support maritime security" when he meets Abu Dhabi's crown prince, the US Mission to the UAE tweeted.

There was no public indication of whether Pompeo would raise with Saudi leaders the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi last year inside the kingdom's Istanbul consulate. A UN report last week called for the crown prince and other senior officials to be investigated given credible evidence against them.

The Trump administration is pressing the Saudis to show "tangible progress" toward holding to account those behind the killing and wants them to do so before the one-year anniversary of his death on 2 October, a senior administration official told Reuters this month.

But Trump told NBC on Sunday he did not discuss the murder in a recent phone call with the crown prince. Asked if the FBI should investigate, he responded: "I think it's been heavily investigated."

The murder tarnished the crown prince's international standing. The CIA and some Western countries believe he ordered the killing, which Saudi officials deny.

Joe Sommerlad24 June 2019 12:25
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Trump is ready to talk to Iran about a deal that would lift American sanctions but Tehran would need to curtail its nuclear and missile programmes, as well as its support for proxies, a senior US official has said.

US special representative on Iran Brian Hook told reporters that the country could "come to the table or watch its economy crumble," but declined to give more details about fresh sanctions expected later on Monday.

Hook was speaking by telephone from Oman, where he is touring Gulf countries before heading to Paris.

Joe Sommerlad24 June 2019 12:40

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