As it happenedended1561490293

Trump news: President threatens Iran with 'obliteration' as Melania announces new White House press secretary

Follow the latest updates from Washington

Lily Puckett
New York
,Joe Sommerlad,Chris Stevenson
Tuesday 25 June 2019 19:54
comments
Trump sexual accuser E Jean Carroll is 'sick' of women not being listened to

Donald Trump has threatened Iran with “obliteration” if the country launches any attack on US forces.

“Iran’s very ignorant and insulting statement, put out today, only shows that they do not understand reality”, Mr Trump tweeted Tuesday morning.

His comments came after Iranian president Hassan Rouhani hit out at the “hard-hitting” sanctions ​introduced by the Donald Trump administration on Monday against the country’s supreme leader Ali Khamenei, calling the action “mentally retarded” in a live TV address.

Speaking at the White House later in the day, Donald Trump said: “We were going to end up in a war if it kept going in the way it was going ... The deal was no good” adding that the US is ready for “whatever” Iran wants to do.

Meanwhile, Melania Trump announced that the new White House press secretary will be her spokesperson, Stephanie Grisham

When questioned about the news in the Oval Office, Mr Trump said: “Stephanie has been with me from the beginning ... I think she’s very talented a lot of people wanted the job ... I asked people who do you like and so many people said Stephanie.”

The president then said Stephanie Grisham accepted this morning and that the first lady “is very happy for her.”

In the latest US-Mexico border developments, the acting chief of US Customs and Border Protection (CBP), John Sanders, is expected to resign from his post. The announcement comes amid public outcry over the squalid conditions migrant children face in Texas shelters.

Speaking about the resignation of John Sanders, Mr Trump said: “I don’t think I’ve ever spoken to him ... I don’t know anything about him” before quickly adding “I hear he’s a very good man.”

In other White House news, the president has continued to deny the historic rape accusation made against him by New York writer E Jean Carroll, insisting he could not have done it because the alleged victim is “not my type”.

Catch up on events as they happened

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

Joe Sommerlad25 June 2019 09:07
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Iranian president Hassan Rouhani has hit out at the “hard-hitting” sanctions ​introduced by the Donald Trump administration on Monday against the country’s supreme leader Ali Khamenei, calling the action “mentally retarded” in a live TV address.

Rouhani said the sanctions against Khamenei would fail because he had no assets abroad, describing the latest round of sanctions as a sign of US desperation.

"Tehran's strategic patience does not mean we have fear," he added.

Trump signed the executive order in the Oval Office yesterday afternoon in the wake of his decision to cancel air strikes against the regime on Thursday night after the Iranian Revolutionary Guard shot down a US Navy Global Hawk surveillance drone it said had crossed into its airspace.

“We will continue to increase pressure on Tehran,” Trump said yesterday. “Never can Iran have a nuclear weapon.”

Tensions between Washington and Tehran have been high since Trump withdrew the US from a 2015 nuclear accord last year and were further inflamed when US secretary of state Mike Pompeo accused the regime of blowing up two foreign oil tankers in the Strait of Hormuz.

Here's Clark Mindock and Borzou Daraghi.

Joe Sommerlad25 June 2019 09:16
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US national security adviser John Bolton, speaking after the introduction of the sanctions, said Washington was still willing to talk to Iran.

"The president has held the door open to real negotiations to completely and verifiably eliminate Iran's nuclear weapons programme, its ballistic missile delivery systems, its support for international terrorism and other malign behaviour worldwide," Bolton said in Jerusalem.

"All that Iran needs to do is to walk through that open door."

But that's not how Iran sees it.

Foreign ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi said yesterday the "fruitless sanction on Iran's leadership and the chief of Iranian diplomacy mean the permanent closure of the road of diplomacy with the frustrated US administration".

Trump's sanctions (introduced not without at least one significant gaffe) target Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and other senior military figures, denying them access to financial resources and assets they have under US jurisdiction. US officials also say they are planning sanctions against the country's foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif.

Washington says the measures were taken to discourage Tehran from developing nuclear weapons and supporting militant groups.

Mousavi's statement echoed that of Iran's UN ambassador, Majid Takht Ravanchi, who warned on Monday that the situation in the Persian Gulf was "very dangerous" and that any talks with the US were impossible in the face of escalating sanctions and intimidation.

Meanwhile, the US envoy at the United Nations, Jonathan Cohen, insisted the Trump administration's aim was to get Tehran back to negotiations.

The sanctions were announced as Mike Pompeo was holding talks in the Middle East with officials in the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia about building a broad, global coalition that includes Asian and European countries to counter Iran.

Pompeo is likely to face a tough sell in Europe and Asia, particularly from those nations still committed to the 2015 nuclear deal.

Joe Sommerlad25 June 2019 09:30
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The president has meanwhile continued to deny the historic rape accusation made against him by New York writer E Jean Carroll, insisting he could not have done it because the alleged victim is “not my type”.

Speaking to The Hill in the Oval Office, Trump said Carroll was "totally lying".

 “I’ll say it with great respect: Number one, she’s not my type. Number two, it never happened. It never happened, OK?," he added.

Carroll makes the allegation in her new memoir and appeared on CNN's New Day yesterday to give her account of the incident, which she says occurred in the changing rooms of the Bergdorf Goodman department store in Manhattan in the mid-1990s, in unflinching detail.

"He pulled down my tights, and it was a fight," she told anchor Alisyn Camerota. "I fought. It was over very quickly, and it was against my will, 100 per cent. I fought and then I ran away."

Trump emphatically denied the story over the weekend, claiming never to have met his accuser despite their being pictured together.

More than 20 women have come forward with allegations of sexual impropriety against the president.

Here's more from Adam Withnall.

Joe Sommerlad25 June 2019 09:45
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Almost 250 children being held in a US Border Patrol detention centre in Clint, Texas, have meanwhile been moved into shelters after a public outcry over the squalid conditions they were forced to endure, with even their most basic needs going unmet.

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, fundamental 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 the facility in Clint for an inspection and reported back on "filthy" cells, outbreaks of flu and lice and widespread neglect by guards.

Many were quick to point out the hypocrisy of the Trump administration refusing to pay out $10,000 (£7,835) for soap and toothpaste given that the president's regular weekend jaunts to his golf resorts have cost the American taxpayer some $100m (£78m) so far.

Even more embarrassing for the administration, people taken captive by the Taliban and by Somali pirates came forward to say their prison guards had ensured they had facilities to brush their teeth and wash, asking why the US government wouldn't do the same for innocent children.

House speaker Nancy Pelosi meanwhile took the president to task for his planned deportation raids against illegal immigrants, which were scheduled to be carried out by ICE agents this week but were postponed to allow for further negotiations with the Democrats on an alternative.

Pelosi says Trump's plan is "outside the circle of civilised human behaviour" and accused him of "scaring the children" of America. 

Here's Andrew Buncombe on Pelosi's comments.

Joe Sommerlad25 June 2019 10:00
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In the latest instance of White House stonewalling, Kellyanne Conway is being blocked from testifying before the House Oversight Committee after being accused of violating the Hatch Act.

White House lawyer Pat Cipollone wrote to chairman Elijah Cummings "respectfully declining" his invitation on behalf of the counselor to the president.

The act bars federal employees from engaging in political activity during work hours or on the job. But a report submitted to Trump earlier this month by the Office of Special Counsel - which a Trump appointee runs - found that Conway violated that law on numerous occasions by "disparaging Democratic presidential candidates while speaking in her official capacity during television interviews and on social media."

Joe Sommerlad25 June 2019 10:15
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One victory Congress can cheer regarding Democratic investigations into the Trump administration is House Judiciary Committee chairman Jerrold Nadler securing the testimony of Annie Donaldson, ex-chief of staff to former White House counsel Don McGahn.

She won't appear until November, however, as she is pregnant but will answer written questions about her time working for the Trump camp in the meantime.

They would like to speak to McGahn himself, of course, but he has been advised against appearing in front of the panel by the White House, which has fought hard to stop its ex-staffers co-operating, resulting in the farcical Hope Hicks hearing last week, in which the former communications director was blocked from answering even the most rudimentary questions about her tenure, including where precisely her desk was situated.

As for the battle to get retired FBI special counsel Robert Mueller to come forward to explain his 448-page report into Russian election interference and obstruction of justice, patience is said to be wearing thin.

Joe Sommerlad25 June 2019 10:32
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On E Jean Carroll, the Rupert Murdoch-owned New York Post dropped its coverage of her rape allegation against Trump after one of the owner's cronies, Col Allan, intervened to suppress it, according to CNN.

"Nobody needs to explain why. We already know," a source inside the newsroom said.

Murdoch, whose empire also of course incorporates the president's favourite TV channel Fox News, is understood to have brought in Allan to steer the tabloid in an even more pro-Trump direction.

Joe Sommerlad25 June 2019 10:45
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Satirist Stephen Colbert devoted his opening monologue to the Carroll allegation on The Late Show last night.

Colbert called her allegations "specific, credible and terrible" and pointed out she was the 22nd woman to speak against Trump on similar grounds. “Twenty-two women! That should raise alarms,” he said.

Joe Sommerlad25 June 2019 11:00
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Trump will visit South Korea this weekend after an exchange of letters with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un boosted hopes for a resumption of talks aimed at ending its nuclear programme.

Trump is set to arrive in South Korea for a two-day visit on Saturday and will meet President Moon Jae-in on Sunday, following a summit of G20 leaders in Japan, Moon's spokeswoman Ko Min-jung said on Monday.

The announcement came hours after Mike Pompeo said he hoped a letter Trump sent to Kim could pave the way for a revival of talks that have been stalled since a failed second summit between Trump and Kim in February.

Trump and Moon would have "in-depth discussions on ways to work together to foster lasting peace," Ko told a news briefing.

Trump told reporters at the White House that Kim had sent him birthday wishes. "It was just a very friendly letter both ways. We have a very good relationship," he said.

Pompeo, who spoke of Trump's letter to Kim before leaving Washington on Sunday for a trip to the Middle East and Asia, said Washington was ready to resume talks with North Korea immediately.

"I'm hopeful that this will provide a good foundation for us to begin... these important discussions with the North Koreans," Pompeo told reporters.

Trump is considering a visit to the demilitarized zone (DMZ) separating the two Koreas, a South Korean official said.

A Trump administration official briefing reporters on a conference call said Trump had no plans to meet Kim during his visit to South Korea, and declined to comment when asked whether Trump would travel to the DMZ.

Trump wanted to go to the DMZ on a 2017 trip to South Korea but heavy fog prevented it. Kim and Moon held their historic first summit in the DMZ last year.

Trump and Kim held their first, groundbreaking summit in Singapore in June last year, agreeing to establish new relations and work towards the denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula.

But a second summit in Vietnam in February collapsed when the two sides were unable to bridge differences between US demands for denuclearisation and North Korean demands for sanctions relief.

Joe Sommerlad25 June 2019 11:15

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