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Trump news: President announces immigration proposal as US on 'cusp of full-scale confrontation' with Iran

Follow the latest updates from Washington and on the 2020 campaign trail, as it happened

Clark Mindock
New York
,Joe Sommerlad
Thursday 16 May 2019 19:41 BST
Donald Trump on the Green New Deal: 'That's a hoax like the hoax I just went through'

Donald Trump has announced his plans for a sweeping reform to America's immigration system, calling for increased border security and the elimination of visa lottery systems he descibed as running contrary to the American belief system.

The president announced the immigration plan from the White House Rose Garden, where he claimed a strong US economy set up a perfect situation for the United States to take the plunge and fix its broken immigration system.

"We must implement an immigration system that will allow our citizens to prosper for generations to come," Mr Trump said to an assembled group of Republican lawmakers and supporters, with a warm Washington spring sun shining down.

Mr Trump's plan is likely dead on arrival, in spite of the president's use of the Rose Garden's gravitas to announce his intentions. The plan, which would drastically change Ameriac's immigration system, does nothing to address the roughly 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the US already — a major point of concern for many Democats, who control the House of Representatives.

The announcement came as Mr Trump's administration found itself in a tense stand-off with Iran, with a military commander for that nation warning that his country is on the "cusp of a full-scale confrontation with the enemy" as the US appeared to prepare for a potential armed conflict.

US officials, in spite of those harsh words, indicated that America is not looking for war — and reports indicated that Mr Trump himself is uncomfortable with the idea of the war preparations in his own adminstration.

The comment from Iranian major-general Hossein Salami of the Revolutionary Guards comes despite reassurances from secretary of state Mike Pompeo and Ayatollah Ali Khamenei that neither sides wants their dispute over economic sanctions to descend into war.

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Meanwhile, with the US already embroiled in a trade war with China over tariffs, the president has blacklisted foreign telecoms giants including Huawei from trading in the US in the interests of national security. Later on Thursday, the presiden plans to unveil plans to revamp the country’s immigration system and launches a website to combat the censorship of conservatives on social media.

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

Joe Sommerlad16 May 2019 09:16

The Trump administration has issued an executive order apparently aimed at banning Chinese telecoms giant Huawei's equipment from US networks, saying it was subjecting the Chinese company to strict export controls.

The executive order declares a national economic emergency that empowers the US government to ban the technology and services of "foreign adversaries" deemed to pose "unacceptable risks" to national security - including from cyber-espionage and sabotage.

While it does not name specific countries or companies, it follows months of US pressure on Huawei. The move gives Wilbur Ross's Commerce Department 150 days to come up with regulations.

It comes as Washington and Beijing remain locked in a trade war that partly reflects a struggle for global economic and technological dominance.

The export restriction is "a grave escalation with China that at minimum plunges the prospect of continued trade negotiations into doubt," said Eurasia Group analysts in a report.

"Unless handled carefully, this situation is likely to place US and Chinese companies at new risk," the report said.

It appears the law invoked in Wednesday's executive order, the 1977 International Emergency Economic Powers Act, has never before been declared in a way that impacts an entire commercial sector.

It has routinely been used to freeze the assets of designated terrorists and drug traffickers and impose embargoes on hostile former governments.

The order addresses US government concerns that equipment from Chinese suppliers could pose an espionage threat to US internet and telecommunications infrastructure.

US justice and intelligence officials have presented no evidence, however, of any Huawei equipment in the US or elsewhere being compromised by backdoors installed by the manufacturer to facilitate espionage by Beijing.

Joe Sommerlad16 May 2019 09:25

For its part, Huawei vehemently denies involvement in Chinese spying.

The company said blocking it from doing business in the United States would hamper the introduction of next-generation communications technology in which the company is a world leader.

"We are ready and willing to engage with the US government and come up with effective measures to ensure product security," the company said in a statement.

The restrictions "will not make the US more secure or stronger," the company said. It said the United States would be limited to "inferior yet more expensive alternatives", which would hurt companies and consumers.

In a statement, Federal Communications Commission (FCC) chairman Ajit Pai called the executive order "a significant step toward securing America's networks".

"It signals to US friends and allies how far Washington is willing to go to block Huawei," said Adam Segal, cyber-security director at the Council on Foreign Relations.

Many in Europe have resisted a fierce US diplomatic campaign to institute a wholesale ban on the Chinese company's equipment in their next-generation 5G wireless networks.

Huawei says it supplies 45 of the world's top 50 phone companies. But only about 2 percent of telecom equipment purchased by North American carriers was Huawei-made in 2017.

The domestic economic impact will be restricted mostly to small rural carriers for whom Huawei equipment has been attractive because of its lower costs.

Roger Entner, founder of telecom research firm Recon Analytics, tweeted:

Early this year, the Justice Department unsealed criminal charges against Huawei, a top company executive and several subsidiaries, alleging the company stole trade secrets, misled banks about its business and violated US sanctions on Iran.

The sweeping indictments accused the company of using extreme efforts to steal trade secrets from American businesses - including trying to take a piece of a robot from a T-Mobile lab.

The executive charged is Huawei's chief financial officer, Meng Wanzhou, who is also the daughter of the company's founder.

She was arrested in Canada last December. The US is seeking to extradite her.

Joe Sommerlad16 May 2019 09:40

Iran is meanwhile on the “cusp of a full-scale confrontation with the enemy”, an Iranian military commander has claimed, as sabre-rattling between Washington and Tehran intensified. 

As US politicians from both major parties urged Trump to de-escalate tensions between the countries, a commander of Iran’s highly-trained Revolutionary Guards warned that Tehran was prepared for any conflict that may arise.

“This moment in history, because the enemy has stepped into the field of confrontation with us with all the possible capacity, is the most decisive moment of the Islamic revolution,” said major-general Hossein Salami.

The country's foreign minister, Mohammad Zarif, also slammed US sanctions imposed on Tehran by the Trump administration as "unacceptable," even as he insisted his country is committed to an international nuclear deal that has steadily unravelled since Trump withdrew the US from it last year. 

Iran recently threatened to resume higher enrichment in 60 days if no new nuclear deal is in place, beyond the level permitted by the current deal between Tehran and world powers.

Recent days have seen allegations of sabotage attacks targeting oil tankers off the coast of the UAE, a drone attack on a Saudi oil pipeline claimed by Yemen's Iranian-allied Houthi rebels and the dispatch of US warships and B-52 bombers to the region.

Both US secretary of state Mike Pompeo and Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, denied their respective sides were preparing for conflict earlier this week while President Trump rowed back his rhetoric after saying on Monday: "It's going to be a bad problem for Iran if something happens."

On Tuesday he refuted reports that acting US defence secretary Patrick Shanahan and hawkish national security adviser John Bolton had tabled plans to send 120,000 troops to the region: "Would I do that? Absolutely. But we have not planned for that. Hopefully we're not going to have to plan for that. If we did that, we'd send a hell of a lot more troops than that." 

On Wednesday, the US State Department ordered all nonessential government staff to leave Iraq, with helicopters seen removing embassy staff from its compound near the Tigris River.

Here's Andrew Buncombe with the latest.

Joe Sommerlad16 May 2019 09:55

President Trump has found time amidst all this to grant a full pardon to the disgraced former media mogul and Daily Telegraph owner Conrad Black, telling the Conservative peer he hoped it would “expunge the bad wrap you got”.

Lord Black of Crossharbour, a Canadian-born British citizen, was the head of Hollinger International, which once owned The Daily Telegraph, Chicago Sun-Times, Jerusalem Post and hundreds of community papers in the US and Canada.

But he was found guilty in 2007 of fraud and obstruction of justice and jailed for more than three years in the US. Jurors convicted Lord Black of defrauding shareholders of $6.1m (£4.7m) by paying himself a tax-free bonus from the sale of newspapers, without board approval.

Why is his case of interest to Donald J Trump? Could it perhaps be because Lord Black is also the author of a recent book entitled Donald J Trump: A President Like No Other in which he praises his friend?

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Lord Black was an “entrepreneur and scholar” who helped tutor fellow convicts in prison and was “entirely deserving of this Grant of Executive Clemency”.

Here's Adam Withnall with the full story.

Joe Sommerlad16 May 2019 10:10

Watergate journalist Carl Bernstein has branded Trump "the most authoritarian president in history", telling CNN’s Reliable Sources he has “nothing but contempt for democratic tradition and rule of law”.

“There has been no real bipartisan investigation of the most authoritarian president in our history,” Bernstein said.

“Right now, it’s obvious to anyone that watches, anyone who looks at the facts, reads the Mueller report, the obstruction part particularly, we are in the midst of a continuing cover-up by the president, aided and abetted by the attorney general of the United States.”

His former investigative partner at The Washington Post, Bob Woodward, wrote a book about he inner workings of the Trump White House, Fear, in 2018.

Joe Sommerlad16 May 2019 10:25

In the same interview, Bernstein also called Trump “a grifter president of the United States”.

How could he? What an appalling insult to the grand traditions of the Oval Office! I won't hear of it.

Wait, what's that? Oh...

Joe Sommerlad16 May 2019 10:30

Trump yesterday marked Peace Officers Memorial Day at the White House, remembering fallen law enforcement officers - an event for which he was 45 minutes late.

Amazingly, he saw fit to use this solemn ceremony to criticise big-city prosecutors he asserts don't go after criminals who pose a severe threat to public safety.

Trump pledged to the families of fallen officers that the country will "never, ever leave your side, never disappoint you" but went beyond memorialising for much of the annual event. 

He singled out prosecutors in Philadelphia and Chicago as being part of a "dangerous trend" by deciding not to prosecute "many criminals who pose a severe threat to public safety and community well-being." 

The Cook County State's Attorney's Office released a statement afterward stating that for years, "we have tried the old, failed way of indiscriminately locking up communities advocated by the Trump Justice Department, and too often what it got us was an ever growing prison population and way too many repeat offenders, especially in communities of colour." 

The office said it was committed to prosecuting those truly guilty of violent crimes, but fundamentally changing how it deals with nonviolent offenders. 

The president also renewed his calls for changes to the nation's immigration laws, citing the shooting death last December of a northern California police officer, Ronil Singh. Trump said the suspect in Singh's killing could have been kept out with "border security, with the wall, with whatever the hell it takes." Paulo Virgen Mendoza, suspected of being in the country illegally, has pleaded not guilty in the case. 

Trump also made an apparent reference to the case of actor Jussie Smollett, saying that "those who file false police reports should face full legal consequences." 

The actor was charged with felony disorderly conduct and accused of making a false police report after claiming he was attacked by two masked men who shouted slurs at him and put a noose around his neck. The Cook County state's attorney's office abruptly dropped the charges in March. 

The 38th annual memorial service honored 228 peace officers who died in the line of duty last year.

Joe Sommerlad16 May 2019 10:40

Trump also took time out yesterday to attack The Washington Post and New York Times (what else is new?) after they reported infighting within his administration over how best to handle Iran.

Ever the narcissist, he also retweeted a compliment from MSNBC broadcaster Joe Scarborough, a man he previously dismissed on Twitter as "Psycho Joe".

  "I think that I just feel like a young man," Trump told reporters in April, comparing himself favourably to 2020 rival Joe Biden.

"I’m so young! I’m the youngest person. I am a young, vibrant man. I look at Joe [Biden], I don’t know about him. I don’t know about him. I would never say anyone else is too old. I know they’re all making me look very young, both in terms of age and in terms of energy."

Joe Sommerlad16 May 2019 10:55

After years of setbacks and stalemates, Trump will lay out yet another immigration plan from the White House Rose Garden today as he tries to convince the American public and lawmakers that the nation's legal immigration system should be overhauled. 

The latest effort, spearheaded by Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, focuses on beefing up border security and rethinking the green card system so that it would favor people with high-level skills, degrees and job offers instead of relatives of those already in the country. 

A shift to a more merit-based system prioritising high-skilled workers would mark a dramatic departure from the nation's largely family-based approach, which officials said gives roughly 66 percent of green cards to those with family ties and only 12 percent based on skills.

But the plan, which has yet to be embraced by Trump's own party - let alone Democrats - faces an uphill battle in Congress. Efforts to overhaul the immigration system have gone nowhere for three decades amid deeply divided Republicans and Democrats. Prospects for an agreement seem especially bleak as the 2020 elections near, though the plan could give Trump and the GOP a proposal to rally behind, even if talks with Democrats go nowhere. 

The plan does not address what to do about the millions of immigrants already living in the country illegally, including hundreds of thousands of young "Dreamers" brought to the US as children - a top priority for Democrats. Nor does it reduce overall rates of immigration, as many conservative Republicans would like to see. 

In briefings on Wednesday that attracted dozens of journalists, administration officials said the plan would create a points-based visa system, similar to those used by Canada and other countries. 

The officials said the US would award the same number of green cards as it now does. But far more would go to exceptional students so they can remain in the country after graduation, professionals and people with high-level and vocational degrees. Factors such as age, English language ability and employment offers would also be taken into account. 

Far fewer green cards would be given to people with relatives already in the US and 57 percent versus the current 12 percent would be awarded based on merit. The diversity visa lottery, which offers green cards to citizens of countries with historically low rates of immigration to the US, would be eliminated.

They offered fewer specifics on border security, which is expected to remain a key focus for Trump as he campaigns for re-election. Trump has been furiously railing against the spike in Central American migrant families trying to enter the country and he forced a government shutdown in a failed effort to fulfill his 2016 promise to build a southern border wall. 

Joe Sommerlad16 May 2019 11:10

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