Donald Trump to Sean Hannity: Biden-Putin summit was ‘good day for Russia’

‘A good day for Russia’: Trump rips Biden-Putin summit in wide-ranging interview with Hannity

Sean Hannity's interview with the former president covers issues from the border to the 2022 midterms and Trump's plans for 2024

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President Donald Trump speaks during a news conference following the G-20 summit in Osaka, Japan, Saturday, June 29, 2019. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh) ** FILE ** more >

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By Joseph Clark

The Washington Times

Thursday, June 17, 2021

Former President Donald Trump said Wednesday that President Biden paid a heavy cost for his recent meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin but received little in return.

Mr. Trump’s criticism followed the completion of Mr. Biden’s first foreign trip which culminated Wednesday in his first face-to-face meeting with Mr. Putin at what many called a low point in the U.S.-Russia relationship. 

“We gave a very big stage to Russia, and we got nothing,” Mr. Trump told Fox News’ Sean Hannity in a wide-ranging interview. “It was a good day for Russia.”

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The two heads of state agreed to hold separate news conferences following the closed-door talks in a bid which some argue was aimed, in part, at limiting Mr. Putin’s platform following the already high-profile summit. 

But Mr. Putin was still able to land a few jabs in response to the free-for-all questions posed by the press, disparaging the U.S. on gun violence, Guantanamo Bay, and even calling out the U.S. for prosecuting Capitol rioters from Jan. 6 for making “political demands” when asked why he had poisoned and imprisoned his political opponents.  

Mr. Trump was also critical of the Biden administration’s recent decision to lift sanctions against Nord Stream 2 AG, which he said allowed for the completion of a Russia-backed natural gas pipeline spanning Europe from Russia to Germany. 

“That pipeline was stopped,” he said. “And it was given back and nothing was gotten for it.”

The Biden administration has argued that the decision to lift the sanctions was made in the interest of preserving the U.S.’s relationship with Germany, who benefited from the pipeline, and that the pipeline was too close to completion to be stopped through sanctions when Mr. Biden took office. 

Mr. Trump told Mr. Hannity that the pipeline was not in the interest of the U.S., despite our close alliance with Germany. 

“We have 52,000 soldiers over there, which is like a major, major city, frankly, they make a fortune with us,” he said speaking of Germany. “And then they go and they pay Russia billions and billions of dollars for energy.” 

Mr. Hannity also spoke with Mr. Trump about the U.S.-Mexico border, Mr. Trump’s backing of candidates in 2022 and his plans for running for office in 2024. 

Mr. Trump announced Tuesday that he accepted an invitation from Texas Gov. Greg Abbot to join him on an official visit to the U.S.-Mexico border at the end of the month. 

Mr. Trump also recently announced that he will be holding his first rally after leaving office in Wellington, Ohio later this month. The rally is sponsored by Save America, Mr. Trump’s political action committee. 

“I’m working on ’22 getting a lot of good senators and a lot of good congresspeople elected,” he said. “And then we’ll be making a decision on 2024.”

Joe Biden takes U.S. national security strategy to the left — with nods to Donald Trump

Biden takes U.S. national security strategy to the left — with nods to Trump

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President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden step off Marine One before boarding Air Force One at Andrews Air Force Base, Md., Friday, Feb. 26, 2021. The Bidens are en route to Houston to survey damage caused by severe … more >

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By Bill Gertz

The Washington Times

Monday, March 8, 2021

NEWS ANALYSIS:

President Biden and his administration plan a leftward shift in U.S. national security strategy while adopting some America-centered policies of the Trump administration such as countering technology theft by China.

Officials sketched out the first concrete outlines of the strategy last week, just weeks into Mr. Biden’s term. When completed, the approach will include policies favoring gender identity, climate change and racial justice — key themes espoused by those in the left wing of the Democratic Party.

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A major thrust of the strategy will be backing international alliances and partnerships, renewed contacts with international organizations such as the World Health Organization and the World Trade Organization, and signing international agreements on arms control and other issues.

“Under the Biden-Harris administration, America is back. Diplomacy is back. Alliances are back,” Mr. Biden said as the interim guidance report was made public last week.

“But we are not looking back. We are looking irrevocably toward the future and all that we can achieve for the American people — together.”

The guidance report issued by the White House will be used by federal agencies and departments as the road map for a major strategic policy review.

“We confront a global pandemic, a crushing economic downturn, a crisis of racial justice, and a deepening climate emergency,” the report begins. Other threats include “rising nationalism” and a decline in democracy in the face of growing rivalries with China, Russia and other authoritarian rivals.

In addition to traditional threats such as those posed by China, Russia and terrorist groups, the strategy review cites “climate change, infectious disease, cyberattacks and disinformation.”

Mr. Biden directed those working on the strategy to make it reflect a global defense of “equal rights of all people — of women and girls, LGBTQI individuals, indigenous communities, people with disabilities, and people of every ethnic background and religion.”

The acronym LGBTQI is the latest in the lengthening list of liberal gender identity groups adopted by the administration: lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex people.

White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said the fully fleshed-out strategy will be released later this year. He mentioned five areas of emphasis: leveraging alliances; backing the U.S. middle class; maintaining U.S. technology prowess; bolstering democracy; and using military power to bolster diplomacy.

“We need a strategy that covers both transnational threats and great power competition,” Mr. Sullivan told a group of pundits last week. “That’s the strategy this guidance lays out. The strategy has China very much in mind, but not only China in mind.”

Mr. Sullivan said he hopes for less-confrontational competition with China and “like-minded market democracies that are setting the rules and standards for advanced technologies going forward and not authoritarian regimes.”

Protecting theft of intellectual property will remain a top priority, Mr. Sullivan said.

The Trump administration revealed in a 2017 report that Chinese technology theft and legal acquisition cost the United States as much as $600 billion annually.

Obama and allies

An overriding theme will be a renewed emphasis on strategic alliances. Critics are already warning that the global approach bears a faint echo of the Obama administration’s euphemistically dubbed “leading from behind,” when Mr. Biden was vice president.

Unlike President Trump’s “America First” strategy, Mr. Biden’s approach lacks a catchy moniker.

Mr. Biden’s campaign mantra was “Build back better,” which emphasized economics, reengagement with international institutions and modernization of military power.

Some elements of the forthcoming strategy will align with those of the Trump administration.

On issues such as halting Chinese technology theft and countering Beijing’s efforts to export its authoritarian system around the world, the administration is vowing to pursue similar policies.

The guidance describes China as “the only competitor potentially capable of combining its economic, diplomatic, military, and technological power to mount a sustained challenge to a stable and open international system.”

“By bolstering and defending our unparalleled network of allies and partners, and making smart defense investments, we will also deter Chinese aggression and counter threats to our collective security, prosperity, and democratic way of life,” the guidance says.

Support for democratic Taiwan and efforts to promote freedom of navigation against Chinese military encroachment also are mentioned. The administration insists it will not go easy on Beijing.

“When the Chinese government’s behavior directly threatens our interests and values, we will answer Beijing’s challenge,” the guidance states. “We will confront unfair and illegal trade practices, cyber theft and coercive economic practices that hurt American workers, undercut our advanced and emerging technologies, and seek to erode our strategic advantage and national competitiveness.”

Mr. Biden also is vowing to halt U.S. participation in “endless wars” — a term that Mr. Trump favored.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken seemed to channel the previous administration last week when he announced “foreign policy for the American people.”

Mr. Blinken said in a speech Wednesday that the first goal will be to stop the COVID-19 pandemic, address the economic crisis it has spawned and build “a more stable, inclusive global economy.”

Foreign policy will also “tackle the climate crisis and drive a green energy revolution,” he said.

Second to the last on Mr. Blinken’s list of 10 foreign policy challenges is China.

“Our relationship with China will be competitive when it should be, collaborative when it can be and adversarial when it must be,” he said. “The common denominator is the need to engage China from a position of strength.”

The secretary of state also vowed that American foreign policy will be bipartisan.

On arms control, the guidance suggests plans to revive the Obama policy of reducing the role of nuclear weapons as an element in U.S. strategy. That could put into doubt the Pentagon’s hopes of spending tens of billions of dollars to modernize the U.S. nuclear arsenal.

The administration also will seek to negotiate arms agreements with both China and Russia despite Beijing’s refusal to engage in nuclear arms talks.

Talking points

Retired Lt. Gen. Tom Spoehr, director of the Heritage Foundation’s Center for National Defense, said the interim guidance is positive in some respects but repeatedly emphasizes liberal talking points.

References to voting rights, clean energy and racial justice are “only tangentially related to national security,” he said.

The retired three-star general said the guidance appears to reject “the naivete of the Obama era when the administration hoped for ‘deeper and more effective partnerships’ with countries like China and Russia.”

“Biden’s interim guidance rightly calls out China for becoming more ‘assertive’ and identifies Beijing and Moscow as having ‘invested heavily in efforts meant to check U.S. strengths and prevent us from defending our interests and allies around the world,’” said Gen. Spoehr, a former deputy commander of U.S. Forces Iraq.

Rep. Michael T. McCaul of Texas, the ranking Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said the Biden strategy report contains some positive bipartisan elements but other parts repeat missteps by the Obama administration.

“Re-entering the controversial Paris Climate Agreement and making concessions to start negotiations with Iran are not in the best interest of our national security,” Mr. McCaul said in a statement. “Nor are policies that will stoke divisive culture wars or promote a porous southern border.”

Another national security expert, retired Navy Capt. Jim Fanell, agrees that the guidance is long on rhetoric but fails to match the Trump administration’s emphasis on strategic strength.

“One gets the sense this rushed document was more about domestic political posturing than in producing a robust, whole-of-government statement of American national security, as was the Trump administration’s 2017 National Security Strategy,” Capt. Fanell said.

The major shortcoming, he said, relates to Asia, where “language regarding China comes across as ambiguous at best.”

“The document repeatedly refers to China as becoming more ‘assertive,’ but never once does it describe the PRC as an existential threat to the United States and our allies,” Capt. Fanell said.

Repeated calls for working, engaging and holding “meaningful dialogue” with Beijing also raise concerns.

“This is worrisome, given the past performance of appeasement many within the Biden Asia team have demonstrated over the years,” he said.

While emphasizing alliances, the guidance makes no reference to the landmark formation of the “Quad,” which the Trump administration did much to promote.

Mr. Biden is expected this week to hold his first virtual meeting with the group, which comprises the United States, Japan, India and Australia.

Miles Yu, a former State Department policymaker and aide to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, said the idea that the Trump administration abandoned alliances is false.

“We put an enormous effort into building alliances through discussion and persuasion,” Mr. Yu said, “often with allies that did not view China the same way we did.”

Mr. Yu said the Biden strategic guidance reflects the recognition of the Trump administration regarding the threat posed by China.

“Our policies reflected the great awakening of the entire nation regarding the profound threat posed by the Chinese Communist Party,” he said.

The policies also produced laws toward China that reflected “extraordinary bipartisanship in an age of extraordinary partisanship,” Mr. Yu said.

Alex Gray, until January the chief of staff to National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien, said the recognition of China in the guidance as the most significant great-power competitor to the U.S. represents continuity from the Trump administration.

“While the interim document uses different language and perhaps a softer tone, it is unmistakable that great-power competition with China and Russia will remain the organizing principle of U.S. national security in the years ahead,” he said.

The real question is whether the Biden administration will follow through on the need to modernize the U.S. military to bolster its competition with China or succumb to those in the administration and on Capitol Hill who favor military cuts. House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith, Washington Democrat, is openly questioning the idea that the U.S. can build up a military strong enough to “dominate” China.

“The document leaves important questions unanswered about the future trajectory of Pentagon spending, which Beijing and our allies and partners are watching closely,” Mr. Gray said.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi called on Mr. Biden to roll back what he termed the “dangerous practice” of the Trump administration’s backing of Taiwan.

“We urge the new U.S. administration to fully understand the high sensitivity of the Taiwan issue,” Mr. Wang said in a speech Sunday, “and completely change the previous administration’s dangerous practices of ‘crossing the line’ and ‘playing with fire.’”

AstraZeneca shots reduce COVID-19 transmission, beyond disease: Study

AstraZeneca shots reduce COVID-19 transmission, beyond disease, study finds

U.K. evidence suggests a 12-week interval between doses is optimal

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Pharmacist Bhaveen Patel administers a dose of the Oxford/AstraZeneca covid vaccine to Joshua Labor at a coronavirus vaccination clinic held at Junction Pharmacy in Brixton, London, Thursday, Jan. 28, 2021. (Dominic Lipinski/PA via AP) more >

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By Tom Howell Jr.

The Washington Times

Updated: 2:50 p.m. on
Wednesday, February 3, 2021

The AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine reduced transmission in addition to staving off disease — a novel finding — and achieved better protection when a second dose was given 12 weeks later instead of four, researchers at Oxford University said Wednesday.

University researchers said they regularly tested participants in the U.K. and found a two-thirds reduction in positive swabs compared to the placebo group.

Scientists figured that COVID-19 vaccines slowed the spread of the virus, beyond stiff-arming illness, but were waiting on better data. The new study underscores the need for widespread vaccination to control the pandemic, especially among asymptomatic people who don’t realize they are infected and transmit the virus in the community.

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Also, Oxford researchers found the AstraZeneca vaccine was 76% effective at preventing disease in the U.K., Brazil and South Africa after a single dose and that protection increased to 82% when the second dose was given at 12 weeks, compared to only 55% if given less than six weeks apart.

It wasn’t clear why the latter group had a lower efficacy reading than after a single-dose — their immunity might still have been ramping up compared to the 76% reading.

The company said it is still analyzing the spectrum of possibilities.

“Further analyses are expected from the ongoing Oxford-led trials in the coming weeks and we are currently discussing with regulators how best to investigate this further, either through our existing trial program or as a new clinical trial,” the company said in a statement.

For now, the company says the 12-week span seems to work best.

The U.K. and other countries are delaying the second dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine to increase the number of people receiving first-round shots while manufacturing ramps up.

“In the four-to-12 week interval that has been approved by regulators around the world, being toward the end of that interval — toward the 12 weeks — you get better efficacy. The longer we leave it, the better it is,” said Sir Mene Pangalos, executive vice president for biopharmaceuticals. “We feel that 12 weeks is a good interval for us in terms of when you administer the second dose.”

While promising news, the vaccine probably won’t be available in the U.S. for several weeks — it’s still being tested in the population here — and evidence that second doses should be given up to three months later will not upend America’s current strategy.

Available vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna use a different platform — messenger RNA — than AstraZeneca’s adenovirus vector.

The Food and Drug Administration approved them for emergency use based on trial data that found a second dose, delivered 21 days later for Pfizer or 28 days later for Moderna, would produce roughly 95% efficacy.

“We certainly respect that the U.K. scientists and health officials are going by their data, and letting their own data for their own platform dictate their policy,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said in a White House COVID-19 briefing Wednesday. “The question is asked, often, ‘Then why don’t we do the same thing with our candidates that are being distributed to people in the United States?’ And the response is simple: We also are going very much by the data and science that has emanated out of very large clinical trials.”

“We feel strongly we will go by the science, which has dictated for us the optimal way to get the 94% to 95% response,” he said.

Dr. Fauci said under “special circumstances,” in which the second dose of the mRNA vaccines cannot be given on the right day, it is better to deliver it a few weeks later than not at all.

AstraZeneca will seek U.S. approval of its vaccine after it gets results from its 30,000-person trial in the states. The trial ran into hiccups last year, after reports of an adverse reaction in the U.K. forced a multi-week pause, but it is fully enrolled now.

Sir Pangalos said the U.S. study looks at a four-week dosing interval, though he wants American regulators “to be informed” by company data on different dosing intervals tested in other countries.

“We think it will be the totality of that package that hopefully ultimately informs the rollout and implementation of the vaccine,” he said. “But in terms of getting an approval, we do think we will need that U.S. data.”

Experts say that might pose a challenge for the FDA, which generally prefers things like AstraZeneca’s dosing options to be demonstrated in a single phase 3 trial or worked out in earlier phases. The smorgasbord of options being tested in the U.K. and elsewhere are largely a result of governments scrambling for ways to maximize the limited global supply of vaccines, as the coronavirus exacts a hefty toll.

“It shows that in a pandemic, when things get in short supply, you’d like to have more options,” said Arthur Caplan, director of the division of medical ethics at the New York University Grossman School of Medicine. 

Typically, he said, “that isn’t something the FDA regulates for.”

Divers recover ‘black box’ from crashed Indonesia plane

Divers recover ‘black box’ from crashed Indonesia plane

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Indonesian Navy ships continue their search for the wreckage of Sriwijaya Air passenger jet that crashed into Java Sea near Jakarta, Indonesia, Monday, Jan. 11, 2021. Indonesian navy divers scoured the floor of the Java Sea on Monday as they … more >

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By NNiniek Karmini

Associated Press

Monday, January 11, 2021

JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) — Indonesian navy divers searching the ocean floor on Tuesday recovered the flight data recorder from a Sriwijaya Air jet that crashed into the Java Sea with 62 people on board.

The device is expected to help investigators determine what caused the Boeing 737-500 plane to nosedive into the ocean in heavy rain shortly after taking off from Jakarta on Saturday.

TV stations showed divers on an inflatable vessel with a large white container containing the device heading to a Jakarta port.

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Military chief Air Chief Marshal Hadi Tjahjanto said the plane’s other “black box,” the cockpit voice recorder, was likely to be found soon because its beacon was being emitted in the same area.

The devices were buried in seabed mud under tons of sharp objects in the plane’s wreckage, navy Chief Adm. Yudo Margono said. He said at least 160 divers were deployed Tuesday in the search.

More than 3,600 rescue personnel, 13 helicopters, 54 large ships and 20 small boats are searching the area just north of Jakarta where Flight 182 crashed and have found parts of the plane and human remains in the water at a depth of 23 meters (75 feet).

So far, the searchers have sent 74 body bags containing human remains to police identification experts who on Monday said they had identified their first victim, 29-year-old flight attendant Okky Bisma.

His wife, Aldha Refa, who is also a flight attendant for Sriwijaya Air, shared her grief in a series of posts on social media.

“My husband is a loving, devout and super kind man,” she wrote on Instagram. “Heaven is your place, dear … be peaceful there.”

Anguished family members have been providing samples for DNA tests and police say results are expected in 4-8 days.

National Police spokesman Rusdi Hartono said about 53 samples for DNA testing have been collected but more are still needed, especially from parents and children of victims.

Indonesia’s National Transportation Safety Committee said the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board will join in investigating the crash.

The NTSC chairman, Soerjanto Tjahjono, ruled out a possible midair breakup after seeing the condition of the wreckage found by searchers. He said the jet was intact until it struck the water, concentrating the debris field, rather than spreading it out over a large area as would be seen with a midair event.

The disaster has reignited concerns about safety in Indonesia’s aviation industry, which grew fast after the economy was opened following the fall of dictator Suharto in the late 1990s. The United States had banned Indonesian carriers from operating in the country in 2007, lifting the action in 2016, citing improvements in compliance with international aviation standards. The European Union lifted a similar ban in 2018.

In the past year, Indonesian aviation was affected significantly by the coronavirus pandemic that caused travel restrictions and a slump in demand among travelers.

Sriwijaya Air has had only minor safety incidents in the past, though a farmer was killed in 2008 when a plane went off the runway while landing due to a hydraulic issue.

In 2018, a Boeing 737 MAX 8 jet operated by Lion Air crashed, killing 189 people. An automated flight-control system played a role in that crash, but the Sriwijaya Air jet did not have that system on board.

Ex-Stitt staffer lobbies bidding on state Medicaid contract

Ex-Stitt staffer lobbies bidding on state Medicaid contract

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By

Associated Press

Monday, January 11, 2021

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) – A former employee of Gov. Kevin Stitt’s administration has registered as a lobbyist for a private health care company that’s bidding on a state contract to manage Oklahoma’s Medicaid program.

Former Deputy Secretary of State Samantha Davidson Guinn left the Stitt administration in September, and court records show she registered as a lobbyist for Healthcare Highways and CareSource Oklahoma later that month, the Oklahoman reported Monday.

Stitt had announced over the summer that he would outsource care for many who rely on the state’s Medicaid program, which was recently expanded to serve more low-income residents. The private companies would be contracted to manage the program’s spending.

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Davidson Guinn is now the senior vice president of government affairs, strategy and policy for Healthcare Highways, but the company said there’s no conflict of interest between Davidson Guinn’s former role in the administration and her new position.

“As an additional safeguard, Healthcare Highways took the extra step of seeking a second and independent legal opinion by McAfee & Taft law firm in Oklahoma City,” President Alan Scoggins said in a statement. “McAfee & Taft issued a report finding no ethical violations or conflicts in (Davidson Guinn) accepting the position with Healthcare Highways.”

The Oklahoma Health Care Authority is evaluating bids for the program. The chosen companies are expected to be announced early next month, OHCA spokeswoman Melissa Richey said.

Hassan Rouhani, Iran president, issues Donald Trump death threat

Iran’s Rouhani issues Trump death threat: ‘In a few days, the life of this criminal will end’

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Iranian President Hassan Rouhani speaks during a ceremony celebrating the 41st anniversary of the Islamic Revolution, at the Azadi, Freedom, Square in Tehran, Iran, Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2020. Iranians took to the streets of Tehran and other cities and towns … more >

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By Victor Morton

The Washington Times

Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said Wednesday that President Trump will soon be dead while vowing blood vengeance for the killing of an Iranian general.

Mr. Rouhani made the threat in a speech to the Iranian Cabinet about the “martyred” Gen. Qassem Soleimani, which was posted in English on the Iranian presidential Website.

“One of the effects of this stupid and disgraceful act,” Mr. Rouhani said of the airstrike that killed Soleimani, “was that Trumpism ended.”

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“In a few days, the life of this criminal will end and he will go to the dustbin of history,” the official Iranian government site quoted him in English as having said.

The warning and prediction came less than a week before the first anniversary of the Jan. 3 drone strike on Baghdad airport.

“We are very happy about this and we believe that the period after Trump will be a better condition for regional and global stability,” Mr. Rouhani said.

He also, as he has frequently vowed fatal and equal retaliation for what Iran has characterized as the assassination of a prominent government official.

“As I said after the martyrdom of Martyr Soleimani, I emphasize again that if you cut off Martyr Soleimani’s hand, we will cut off your leg from the region and we will continue the resistance until that day,” Mr. Rouhani said.

“Our nation will not give up until they take revenge on his blood as its right,” the president vowed.

Donald Trump threatens retaliation if Iran-backed groups target Americans

‘Some friendly health advice’: Trump, Iran exchange fiery rhetoric as tensions rise

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President Trump tweeted: Our embassy in Baghdad got hit Sunday by several rockets. Three rockets failed to launch. Guess where they were from: IRAN… ” (Screenshot from President Trump’s Twitter feed) more >

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By Ben Wolfgang

The Washington Times

Thursday, December 24, 2020

Iran‘s foreign minister hurled invective at the White House on Thursday, accusing President Trump of irrationally plotting to attack Iran during his final weeks in office and ratcheting up hostility just as President-elect Joseph R. Biden prepares to extend a diplomatic olive branch to Tehran.

The fiery rhetoric from Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif was a direct response to Mr. Trump‘s threatening tweets a day earlier, extending a war of words between the two men. Both are well-versed in the art of theatrical battle on Twitter.

While the back-and-forth remained rhetorical on Christmas Eve, U.S. military and national security insiders have spent recent days warning about possible attacks by Iran-backed militias against American personnel in the Middle East.

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It was a strike on the U.S. Embassy in Iraq on Sunday, which administration officials blamed on Iranian proxies, that sparked the latest verbal saber-rattling between Mr. Trump and Mr. Zarif.

The president late Wednesday evening tweeted a photo of three unexploded rockets that were purportedly used in the assault, which killed one civilian and damaged parts of the American diplomatic complex inside Baghdad’s Green Zone.

“Our embassy in Baghdad got hit Sunday by several rockets. Three rockets failed to launch. Guess where they were from: IRAN. Now we hear chatter of additional attacks against Americans in Iraq,” the president said in his Twitter message. “Some friendly health advice to Iran: If one American is killed, I will hold Iran responsible. Think it over.”

Mr. Trump suggested he is still mulling how the U.S. should respond. Although he did not directly reference Iran‘s nuclear facilities, analysts generally agree they may be targets if the president orders airstrikes.

Mr. Zarif responded just hours later by tweeting a photo of President George W. Bush beneath the infamous “Mission Accomplished” banner shortly after the U.S. invaded Iraq in 2003.

The Iranian foreign minister suggested that should Mr. Trump target Iran, the president would be committing a foreign policy blunder of historical proportions that would carry long-term repercussions for Washington. “@realDonaldTrump uses a worthless photo to recklessly accuse Iran,” Mr. Zarif tweeted. “Last time, the US ruined our region over WMD fabrications, wasting $7 TRILLION & causing 58,976 American casualties. FAR WORSE this time. Trump will bear full responsibility for any adventurism on his way out.”

Friction with Iran has been high throughout Mr. Trump‘s time in office. After a series of escalations by both sides, tensions reached the boiling point in January when the U.S. launched a missile strike that killed top Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani, who was believed to have directed attacks by Iran-backed militias against American forces in the region.

Iran responded with a missile strike on a U.S. air base in Iraq, a move that brought the two countries to the brink of all-out war. Both sides ultimately stood down.

Jan. 3 will mark the one-year anniversary of the Soleimani killing, and military officials fear Iran could launch attacks to avenge his death.

Meanwhile, any new conflict could upend Mr. Biden‘s Iran policy, which analysts say centers on rejoining an international nuclear pact with Tehran that Mr. Trump exited in 2018. That accord, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), offered Iran relief from economic sanctions in exchange for limits on its nuclear program.

Since the U.S. exited the deal, Iran has stopped abiding by all of its commitments and has started enriching uranium past the thresholds laid out in the agreement. Still, the remaining nations in the deal — Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China — signaled this week that they believe the nuclear agreement can be salvaged and that they support renewed U.S. involvement.

Mr. Biden also has strong support from Democrats in Congress on the issue.

“The Trump administration’s unilateral withdrawal from the internationally negotiated and UN-endorsed JCPOA undermined global non-proliferation efforts, fractured U.S. relationships with key allies, diminished U.S. leadership and influence, and reduced U.S. leverage in addressing other national security issues with Iran,” a group of 150 lawmakers said in a letter to Mr. Biden on Thursday.

Iran‘s other destabilizing activities in the region, such as its support for terrorism, development of ballistic missiles, human rights violations against its own people, and holding of foreign political prisoners, including Americans, warrant strong and coordinated international diplomacy,” they wrote.

But Republican lawmakers this week sought to derail Mr. Biden‘s efforts. They urged Mr. Trump to submit the Iran deal to the Senate as a formal treaty, thereby allowing the Republican-led body to formally reject it. That kind of parliamentary maneuver would make it more difficult for a Biden administration to formally resume American participation in the agreement.

Even as he pursues diplomacy, Mr. Biden will have to confront evidence that Tehran is working to destabilize the American electoral system.

Federal law enforcement on Wednesday blamed Iran for the creation of a website called “Enemies of the People,” which included death threats aimed at top American election officials. The website included the names, phone numbers and other personal information of election officials and private-sector companies involved in the Nov. 3 elections, the FBI said.

Mr. Trump has disputed the outcome of the presidential election, though his efforts to overturn the results in key battleground states have failed so far. The Electoral College formally affirmed Mr. Biden‘s victory on Dec. 14.

The FBI statement makes clear that Iran is trying to attack the integrity of the U.S. voting system.

“The post-election creation of the Enemies of the People website demonstrates an ongoing Iranian intent to create divisions and mistrust in the United States and undermine public confidence in the U.S. electoral process,” the FBI and Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency said in a press release.

UN torture expert asks Donald Trump to pardon WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange, end ‘unjust suffering’

U.N. torture expert asks Trump to pardon WikiLeaks’ Assange, end ‘unjust suffering’

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In this Wednesday, May 1, 2019 file photo, buildings are reflected in the window as WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is taken from court, where he appeared on charges of jumping British bail seven years ago, in London. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham, … more >

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By Andrew Blake

The Washington Times

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

President Trump was pressed Tuesday to pardon Julian Assange by a United Nations human rights expert concerned about the possibility of the jailed WikiLeaks publisher being sent to the U.S. to stand trial.

Nils Melzer, the U.N. special rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, made the plea the same day a group of German politicians came to Mr. Assange‘s defense.

In an open letter addressed to Mr. Trump, Mr. Melzer argued Mr. Assange should be spared in part for exposing the sorts of government misconduct and corruption the president vowed to fight in office.

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Mr. Melzer, noting Mr. Assange‘s “seriously deteriorated” health, also raised concerns about him remaining jailed during the coronavirus pandemic while a U.K. court weighs if he should be sent to the U.S.

“Whatever our personal views and sympathies may be, I believe that, after a decade of persecution, this man’s unjust suffering must end now,” Mr. Melzer wrote in the open letter addressed to Mr. Trump.

The White House did not immediately respond to a message seeking its reaction.

Mr. Assange, an Australian, faces criminal charges in the U.S. related to running the WikiLeaks website and his role in it soliciting, receiving and releasing classified military and diplomatic materials.

Ecuador had granted asylum to Mr. Assange in 2012, and he lived inside its London embassy for roughly several years before he was extracted and arrested in April 2019. He has been jailed ever since.

The Department of Justice has asked for Mr. Assange to be extradited to the U.S., and a British court is set to announce its decision on Jan. 4. Mr. Trump leaves office shortly after on Jan. 20.

Mr. Assange faces the possibility of spending the rest of his life imprisoned if extradited to the U.S., and recently his supporters have urged Mr. Trump to issue a pardon as his days as president dwindle.

In the letter, Mr. Melzer, a longtime advocate for Mr. Assange, argued he already paid heavily for publishing information exposing the sort of government misconduct and corruption Mr. Trump vowed to fight.

Allowing the prosecution Mr. Assange to continue, Mr. Melzer wrote to Mr. Trump, “would mean that, under your legacy, telling the truth about such corruption and misconduct has become a crime.”

Mr. Melzer also denied the mere publication of classified U.S. documents was criminal and said prosecuting him for their release was akin to “shooting the messenger.”

“This would be incompatible with the core values of justice, rule of law and press freedom, as reflected in the American Constitution and international human rights instruments ratified by the United States,” he wrote.

Mr. Assange, 49, has a respiratory condition that puts him at higher risk for COVID-19, the contagious disease caused by the novel coronavirus, Mr. Melzer added. He raised similar concerns earlier this month with British authorities in light of reports about a COVID-19 outbreak at Belmarsh Prison in London where Mr. Assange is jailed.

Mr. Assange has been charged with violations of the U.S. Espionage Act and conspiring to commit the U.S. Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. He argues he acted as a journalist, not a criminal.

A cross-party group of five members of the Bundestag, the German parliament, announced the formation Tuesday of a “Free Julian Assange” working group that agrees.

“The extradition proceedings has precedent-setting character for journalists worldwide,” said Sevim Dagdelen of German Left Party, adding that defending “Assange‘s freedom is the defense of freedom itself.”

UK still plans to ease restrictions on holiday gatherings

U.K. still plans to ease restrictions on holiday gatherings

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A woman dances with purple feathers in the West End of London after pubs close, before London moves into the highest tier of coronavirus restrictions from Wednesday as a result of soaring case rates, Tuesday Dec. 15, 2020. (Aaron Chown/PA … more >

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By Pan Pylas

Associated Press

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

LONDON (AP) — Britain’s easing of restrictions for family gatherings over Christmas looks like it’s still on despite a sharp spike in new coronavirus infections that’s raised fears of another wave of cases and deaths in the new year.

Britain’s communities secretary, Robert Jenrick, said further discussions will take place on Wednesday between leaders from the four nations of the U.K. about the planned relaxation. However, he gave no indication that a change would be announced, beyond urging people to think harder about their holiday plans.

“It could be counterproductive to produce overly restrictive rules rather than providing very clear and sober guidance and ask people to think carefully and come to their informed judgment,” he told BBC radio.

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Criticism of the planned five-day easing of restrictions, which would allow three households to form a holiday bubble, have ratcheted higher in recent days. With new infections rising in many places, concerns are growing that the relaxation will only escalate infections and deaths and put too much pressure on the already-stressed National Health Service.

Michael Gove, a senior member of Britain’s Conservative government, which sets public health policy for England, has met with leaders from Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland on the U.K.’s Christmas plans, and the group will meet again Wednesday. They agreed last month to allow a maximum of three households to mix between Dec. 23 and Dec. 27, regardless of what local restrictions are in place.

On Wednesday, London and nearby areas entered the highest level of local restrictions in England — Tier 3 — in which pubs and restaurants had to close again apart from takeout, and more curbs were placed on different households meeting up. Other areas in England, including the cities of Manchester and Birmingham, are finding out later Wednesday whether they will be moved down to Tier 2 restrictions.

Jenrick said the rollout of the coronavirus vaccine developed by America’s Pfizer and the German company BioNTech had changed the narrative since the Christmas bubble decision was made. The U.K. on Dec. 8 became the first country in the world to use the vaccine, which has a high efficacy rate of around 95%.

“It’s given hope that early in the new year, if not before, those people can be vaccinated. So why not wait a few weeks or months to get family together when you can do so safely in 2021?” he said.

Britain’s new vaccines minister, Nadhim Zahawi, said Wednesday that 137,897 people had received a vaccination shot since inoculations began. All those people must return in three weeks for a follow-up shot.

“A really good start to the vaccination program,” he said in a tweet.

The government, which is providing the vaccine free of charge mainly at hospitals so far, is first targeting nursing home workers and elderly people over 80. Nursing home residents are now being vaccinated as well after issues relating to the transportation of the vaccine, which needs to be kept at super-cold temperatures, were addressed.

Despite the update, questions remain over how many people can be inoculated on any given day, and what proportion of people being offered the vaccine are agreeing to get a shot.

To date, 800,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine are known to be in the U.K. and 5 million more are expected to arrive this year, half of the original expectation.

Other vaccines from American biotechnology firm Moderna and one developed by the University of Oxford and British pharmaceutical firm AstraZeneca are currently being assessed by British regulators.

Donald Trump orders ‘majority’ of U.S. troops out of Somalia

Trump orders ‘majority’ of U.S. troops out of Somalia

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U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Damian T. Donahoe, deputy commanding general, Combined Joint Task Force – Horn of Africa, center, talks with service members during a battlefield circulation Saturday, Sept. 5, 2020, in Somalia. No country has been involved in Somalia’s … more >

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By Ben Wolfgang

The Washington Times

Friday, December 4, 2020

President Trump on Friday ordered that a “majority” of the 700 U.S. troops stationed in Somalia be relocated by early next year, Pentagon officials said, signaling a shift in how the U.S. wages war against the al-Shabab terror network and accelerating a trend of American military reconfiguration around the world.

It’s unclear exactly how many troops will remain in Somalia. The Defense Department seemed to suggest that nearly all forces will be reassigned elsewhere in Africa or to other bases in the region.

Despite the move, officials stressed that the U.S. remains committed to its anti-terror mission and is by no means abandoning the fight against al-Shabab or other extremist organizations operating in the Horn of Africa.

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“The U.S. is not withdrawing or disengaging from Africa. We remain committed to our African partners and enduring support through a whole-of-government approach,” the Pentagon said in a statement. “While a change in force posture, this action is not a change in U.S. policy. We will continue to degrade violent extremist organizations that could threaten our homeland while ensuring we maintain our strategic advantage in great power competition.

“As a result of this decision, some forces may be reassigned outside of East Africa,” the statement continued. “However, the remaining forces will be repositioned from Somalia into neighboring countries in order to allow cross-border operations by both U.S. and partner forces to maintain pressure against violent extremist organizations operating in Somalia.”

The announcement comes amid other major U.S. drawdowns in Afghanistan and Iraq. Total U.S. troop presence in each country will be down to 2,500 by Jan. 15, five days before presumptive President-elect Joseph R. Biden takes office.

Those drawdowns have met with fierce resistance on Capitol Hill, including from leading Republicans who argue that the U.S. may be opening the door to a resurgence of groups such as al Qaeda and the Islamic State.

In Somalia, the change in U.S. force posture could have immediate effects. Al-Shabab, an al Qaeda affiliate, already is estimated to control as much as 25% of Somali territory.

A U.S. drone war against the group has largely kept it in check and prevented al-Shabab militants from overrunning the capital of Mogadishu or seizing control of other strategically vital areas. The U.S. also trains and advises Somali troops — though specialists have warned that those troops are by no means ready to battle al-Shabab on their own.

The American drawdown likely will be cast by al-Shabab as a major victory over the West and almost surely will provide a huge boost to morale and recruiting.

The Pentagon announcement also comes just weeks before Somalia is expected to hold presidential and parliamentary elections. Specialists have warned that a major U.S. move could put those elections in jeopardy.

Critics say the elections are just one potential casualty of the move, with the other being the potential loss of U.S. influence to China, its chief global competitor.

“With upcoming elections in Somalia and conflict raging in neighboring Ethiopia, abandoning our partners could not come at a worse time,” Rep. Jim Langevin, Rhode Island Democrat, said in a statement. “Al-Shabab will message our withdrawal as a victory, which may propel some of their political affiliates into government. All the while, China will seize the opportunity to build their influence in the region, to the detriment of those who care about representative governance and equality.”

But military officials argued that the U.S. will remain able to target and contain terrorist forces, suggesting that drone strikes will continue as they have throughout the Trump administration.

“The U.S. will retain the capability to conduct targeted counterterrorism operations in Somalia, and collect early warnings and indicators regarding threats to the homeland,” the Pentagon said in its statement.

Some analysts argued that the drawdown represents a realization that the U.S. can no longer commit itself to open-ended conflicts in historically chaotic countries across the Middle East and Africa.

“The nation’s two decades of seemingly endless counterterrorism wars show that staying until there are zero potential terrorists on the ground means never leaving,” said Benjamin Friedman, policy director at the think tank Defense Priorities, which advocates more limited U.S. intervention abroad.

“Staying until countries long-ravaged by civil war are stable means staying indefinitely,” he said.

Jake Sullivan, Joe Biden national security adviser, believed in anti-Trump dossier

Biden’s national security adviser a dedicated ‘get Trump’ member of Hillary’s inner circle

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President-elect Joe Biden’s national security adviser nominee, Jake Sullivan, speaks at The Queen theater, Tuesday, Nov. 24, 2020, in Wilmington, Del. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster) more >

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By Rowan Scarborough

The Washington Times

Monday, November 30, 2020

Presumptive President-elect Joseph R. Biden’s national security adviser has held favorable views of the Hillary Clinton campaign-financed dossier that proved to be highly inaccurate with its various felony allegations against President Trump.

Jake Sullivan, who served as the Clinton campaign’s senior policy adviser, attended a postelection meeting in February 2017 with Glenn R. Simpson, co-founder of the investigative firm Fusion GPS. Mr. Simpson orchestrated the dossier’s distribution to the FBI, other government agencies and Washington reporters in an effort to try to bring down Mr. Trump.

The meeting, also attended by campaign chairman John Podesta, showed that Mrs. Clinton’s operatives had not relinquished their “get Trump” goal.

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Mr. Sullivan was asked about the meeting in December 2017 during a closed-door appearance before the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.

“So this is after the dossier had come out and after everything was out publicly,” Mr. Sullivan testified, according to a publicly posted transcript. “I don’t remember who raised having the meeting, but Podesta and I went and sat down with him basically just to say, like, now that we’ve learned you were doing this and you commissioned this dossier and so forth, like how — kind of look him in the eye and say: What do you make of all this? And what do you have to say about it? That was the purpose of the meeting.”

When Mr. Podesta testified before the same committee, he provided a more detailed description. He said Mr. Simpson was seeking funds to keep his anti-Trump project going in an alliance with Daniel J. Jones, a former staffer to Sen. Dianne Feinstein, California Democrat.

“They were actively trying to raise resources and funds for this,” Mr. Podesta testified. “And people who I knew from kind of the donor world asked me, you know, what did I think, was this on the level, did they do good work? … They wanted to know that. They wanted to continue that effort. And, as I said, they were trying to raise money for it and were hoping that I would, if someone asked me, would say that they were, you know, responsible journalists who had now gone into a different line of work, but that they were on the level.”

Mr. Simpson once worked for The Wall Street Journal. Mr. Jones told the FBI that he eventually raised $50 million from liberal donors to pursue Mr. Trump.

The dossier that Mr. Simpson promoted was compiled by former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele. He relied greatly on one source: a Russia-born U.S. resident named Igor Danchenko, who had collected anti-Trump gossip from Kremlin friends and contacts repeating second- and thirdhand accounts from Russians.

Mr. Danchenko, whom the FBI at one time suspected of being a Kremlin agent, regularly fed stories to Mr. Steele in London. Mr. Steele put the grab bag of unverified claims and gossip into a 35-page dossier and shipped it to Mr. Simpson, who used former Justice Department lawyer Bruce Ohr as a messenger to deliver the dossier to Crossfire Hurricane, the FBI team investigating Mr. Trump.

Former agent Peter Strzok, the team leader, told The Atlantic earlier this year that the dossier was inaccurate and contained disinformation that sent him on “wild-goose chases.” The FBI greatly relied on the dossier to wiretap a Trump volunteer and pursue other Trump allies. No Trump-Kremlin conspiracy was found.

Mr. Sullivan gave his seal of approval to another Fusion GPS pet project. This one claimed that Mr. Trump maintained a secret computer server at Trump Tower that communicated directly with Alfa Bank, Russia’s largest commercial lender. It was, so the theory goes, evidence of collusion.

Mr. Simpson failed to persuade The New York Times to write the story about it, but he had better luck with Slate.com, which ran an Alfa story on Oct. 31, 2016.

The Clinton-planted story then drew a reaction from the candidate herself, in a now-famous tweet: “Computer scientists have apparently uncovered a covert server linking the Trump Organization to a Russian-based bank.”

Her tweet was buttressed by the imprimatur for Mr. Sullivan, who issued a statement with Mrs. Clinton’s tweet: “New Report Exposing Trump’s Secret Line of Communication to Russia.”

“This could be the most direct link yet between Donald Trump and Moscow,” Mr. Sullivan said. “Computer scientists have apparently uncovered a covert server linking the Trump Organization to a Russian-based bank.

“This secret hotline may be the key to unlocking the mystery of Trump’s ties to Russia. It certainly seems the Trump Organization felt it had something to hide, given that it apparently took steps to conceal the link when it was discovered by journalists.”

In February 2017, the FBI concluded that such a Trump-Alfa server did not exist, according to Justice Department Inspector General Michael D. Horowitz’s December 2019 report on bureau wiretap abuses.

Mr. Sullivan maintained a liking for the dossier even as its claims remained unverified. In late 2017, he told the House intelligence committee that a Democratic attorney “would share certain things” and “I would also hear very similar things from reporters around town.”

“So, from my perspective, a lot of these kinds of things were floating out there,” he testified. “And my basic take on them was most of this is pretty consistent with everything else we know to be true about Donald Trump. So I can’t say that I was shocked by almost any of it.”

He considered Mr. Steele to be reliable: “Other people I know who have worked with Steele in the past in various contexts have said over the course of this year, ‘You know, this guy is serious business. He knows what he’s up to.’”

By the end of 2017, none of Mr. Steele’s key claims had been proved and most were discredited.

The FBI had found no evidence of a wide conspiracy between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin, as reported by Mr. Steele. The bureau discounted Mr. Steele’s story about Trump attorney Michael Cohen’s secretly travel to Prague in August 2016 to meet with aides of Russian President Vladimir Putin and orchestrate a cover-up of Russian computer hacking. Cohen always denied the Steele claim.

The Daily Caller unearthed comments by Mr. Sullivan a month after his House testimony in January 2018. He said on Democratic strategist David Axelrod’s podcast that he didn’t know at first that the campaign had paid Mr. Steele.

“I certainly don’t want my saying that I didn’t know who paid for the dossier to suggest I’m saying I want to distance myself from it,” Mr. Sullivan said. “By no means am I saying that.

“I believe that it is perfectly appropriate and responsible if we get wind, or if people associated with the campaign get wind, that there may be real questions about the connections between Donald Trump, his organization, his campaign and Russia that that be explored fully,” he said.

The Biden transition team did not respond to a query from The Washington Times about how Mr. Sullivan views the dossier today.

Donald Trump tees up executive orders as Joe Biden eyes post-inauguration reversals

Trump tees up executive orders as Biden eyes post-inauguration reversals

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President Donald Trump speaks while on a phone call with leaders of Sudan and Israel in the Oval Office of the White House, Friday, Oct. 23, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon) more >

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By Dave Boyer, Bill Gertz and Gabriella Muñoz

The Washington Times

Thursday, November 12, 2020

President Trump signed an order on Thursday barring U.S. investments in Chinese companies owned or controlled by China’s military, as he tees up a series of executive actions on school choice, immigration and other conservative priorities before Jan. 20 that would force presumptive President-elect Joseph R. Biden to work to reverse next year.

The order, which could impact some of China’s biggest companies, was necessary because Beijing is “increasingly exploiting United States capital” to develop its military and intelligence capabilities, Mr. Trump said.

“To protect the United States homeland and the American people, I hereby declare a national emergency with respect to this threat,” the president said.

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Trump tees up executive orders as Biden eyes post-inauguration reversals

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It was the first of what are likely to be many executive actions before the expected inauguration in January of Mr. Biden, whom Mr. Trump has accused of being soft on China.

At the same time, Mr. Biden is planning to rescind a slew of Mr. Trump’s executive orders starting on Day One of his administration.

The Democrat aims to issue executive actions to end the president’s restrictions on federal funding of Planned Parenthood, reinstate the U.S. in the Paris climate accord and stop the withdrawal from the World Health Organization, revive the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program and repeal Mr. Trump’s travel ban on mostly Muslim countries.

The rapid flip-flopping of priorities, assuming that Mr. Biden is certified as the winner of the election, shows the limits of governing by executive action instead of enacting legislation.

“What’s been done by executive order can be undone by executive order. That’s low-hanging fruit,” said Tony Payan, director of the Center for the U.S. and Mexico at Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy.

Although Mr. Trump hasn’t conceded the election, the White House is gathering proposals that the president can achieve with the stroke of his pen in the next 70 days. Conservative economist Stephen Moore said he has recommended to the West Wing that the president authorize that billions of dollars in unspent COVID-19 relief could go to school vouchers for parents of students whose districts aren’t providing regular in-person instruction.

“Arizona has money left over, Utah has money left over that they could use for the [voucher] purpose only if a school system is not fully open,” he said. “That’s one the president is very much considering.”

Mr. Moore also has recommended an order that would index capital gains for inflation, which would lower the tax bills mainly for wealthier investors.

The White House didn’t confirm any other pending actions Thursday.

“Since taking office, President Trump has never shied away from using his lawful executive authority to advance bold policies and fulfill the promises he made to the American people, but I won’t speculate or comment on potential executive action,” said deputy press secretary Judd Deere.

Mr. Trump issued 192 executive orders through last week, according to the American Presidency Project at the University of California, Santa Barbara. President Obama issued 147 executive orders during his first term.

Mr. Biden is gearing up to rescind several of Mr. Trump’s defining actions, many of which were aimed at erasing Obama administration policies. Liberals on Thursday urged Mr. Biden to use his executive pen to help Democrats overcome gains made by Republicans in Congress last week.

“We have to encourage Joe Biden and Kamala Harris to use executive orders and rule changes aggressively early in many areas,” said Rep. Mark Pocan, Wisconsin Democrat and co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. “That is going to be our single best way to be able to get around any obstructionism or tight vote margins.”

On immigration, Mr. Biden plans to reinstate the DACA program, which allows “Dreamers,” who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children, to remain in the country. The Supreme Court ruled last summer that the Trump administration didn’t go about ending the program correctly.

“I think a Biden administration will not challenge DACA any longer,” Mr. Payan said.

He said Mr. Biden also is likely to take action to reverse the administration’s “public charge” rule, which allowed officials to deny green cards to immigrants who might need food stamps or housing vouchers. A federal judge also ordered the administration this month to vacate the policy.

“That can be rolled back very quickly,” Mr. Payan said.

Mr. Biden also is expected to roll back the Trump administration’s Medicaid work requirements and block grants.

Mr. Trump is widely expected to issue more pardons, which cannot be reversed. Among the possible recipients are former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn and former campaign manager Paul Manafort.

The president’s order on U.S. investments in 31 Chinese companies takes effect on Jan. 11. It gives investors until November 2021 to divest from any Chinese securities in those companies.

Two companies, China Mobile Communications and China Telecommunications Corp., trade on U.S. exchanges. The order also targets telecom giant Huawei.

Peter Navarro, White House director of trade and manufacturing policy, said the order is designed to prevent the use of American capital to finance “Chinese communist weapons literally aimed at killing Americans and driving the U.S. military out of Asia.”

“This strong action by President Trump puts a stop to that Wall Street insanity,” he told reporters.

The order provides what Mr. Navarro said was a “decent interval” for American investors to unwind stakes in 31 Chinese companies identified earlier this year by the Pentagon as linked to the Chinese military.

The Chinese companies are involved in U.S. stock and bond markets and other financial investments such as Morgan Stanley Capital International, or MSCI, an investment firm that provides stock indexes.

Mr. Navarro said the order blocks American investment in the Aviation Industry Corp. of China, which has built China’s J-20 stealth fighter from stolen technology from the F-35 and F-22 front-line fighter.

Other companies such as Huawei Technologies and the video company Hikvision were described by Mr. Navarro as “tips of the spear for battlefield [artificial intelligence] for the Chinese military.

Hikvision also has been linked to mass surveillance of ethnic Uighurs in China who have been placed in concentration camps.

Other Chinese firms hit by the order include China Shipbuilding, which has been producing naval warfare systems, and China South Industries and Norinco, which are linked to firearms, tanks and armored vehicles.

Chinese missile manufactures and companies engaged in telecommunications cables also will be affected.

“What you have here is a situation where in typical fashion Wall Street facilitates the flow of American capital to support Chinese militarization,” Mr. Navarro said. “What this executive order does is put a stop to that in a way which provides American investors with effectively an exit strategy.”

In addition to the 31 companies, the order hits subsidiaries of the companies, such as AVIC’s 20 subsidiaries.

Mr. Navarro said the total investment in U.S. and foreign markets by the Chinese military-linked companies is at least $500 billion.

“This is a sweeping order designed to choke off American capital to Chinese militarization,” he said.

The president said China’s development of its military and intelligence with U.S. capital allows Beijing “to directly threaten the United States homeland and United States forces overseas, including by developing and deploying weapons of mass destruction, advanced conventional weapons and malicious cyber-enabled actions against the United States and its people.”

He said Beijing compels civilian Chinese companies to support its military and intelligence activities.

“At the same time, those companies raise capital by selling securities to United States investors that trade on public exchanges both here and abroad, lobbying United States index providers and funds to include these securities in market offerings, and engaging in other acts to ensure access to United States capital,” he said. “In that way, the [People’s Republic of China] exploits United States investors to finance the development and modernization of its military.”

John Brennan rips John Ratcliffe for declassifying Clinton, Russia notes

Brennan blasts DNI Ratcliffe for declassifying Clinton, Russia notes

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In this May 23, 2017, file photo, former CIA Director John Brennan testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, before the House Intelligence Committee Russia Investigation Task Force. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais, File) more >

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By Andrew Blake

The Washington Times

Wednesday, October 7, 2020

John O. Brennan, the former director of the CIA, accused President Trump’s director of national intelligence on Wednesday of selectively declassifying information to advance political interests.

“Just the way Donald Trump has abused the responsibilities and authorities of the office of the presidency, John Ratcliffe has followed in his footsteps and has totally abused those responsibilities and authorities of the Office of Director of National Intelligence,” Mr. Brennan said on MSNBC.

Mr. Brennan, who led the CIA under former President Barack Obama, was reacting to the ODNI releasing some his handwritten notes from during the 2016 election.

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The largely redacted notes, released Tuesday, relate to a July 2016 briefing in which Mr. Brennan told Mr. Obama about Russia and its interest in the race between Mr. Trump and Hillary Clinton.

Mr. Brennan said he told Mr. Obama that the CIA gleaned intelligence suggesting that Russians thought Mrs. Clinton may have approved a plan to stir up a scandal by connecting Mr. Trump to Russia.

But he said Mr. Ratcliffe, a former Republican congressman, revealed details about the briefing in a way that falsely gives the impression that Mrs. Clinton might have done something illegal.

“He has very selectively declassified and released information to try to promote the interests of Donald Trump,” said Mr. Brennan.

Mr. Brennan, a longtime CIA official who retired when Mr. Trump entered office, said he was trying to show Mr. Obama the agency’s ability to collect and access Russian intelligence.

He also stressed claims about Mrs. Clinton wanting to possible start a scandal involving Mr. Trump and Russia were unverified allegations that would not be unlawful or illegal even if true.

“It is incontrovertible that the Russians interfered in the 2016 election on behalf of Donald Trump. It is my view that their assistance really helped get Donald Trump over the finish line in terms of the electoral victory,” said Mr. Brennan.

“And so therefore what John Ratcliffe is doing is really a great disservice,” he continued. “Not just to the women and men of the intelligence community who work around the globe 24 hours a day, seven days a week to keep this country safe. It’s a disservice to the American people, and he should be ashamed, and it’s a disgrace, and I can’t understand how he is allowed to continue in that position.”

The ODNI did not immediately respond to a message seeking its reaction.

Donald Trump counters China on rare earth minerals

Countering China on tech minerals

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President Trump is shown here in a Sept. 30, 2020 file photo walking out of the Oval Office. (Associated Press) **FILE** more >

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By Bill Gertz

The Washington Times

Wednesday, October 7, 2020

President Trump has signed an executive order aimed at countering China’s drive to corner the international market on rare earth minerals — key elements used in high-tech products that are the backbone of the U.S. economy and key weapons systems.

The Sept. 30 order calls on the government to end reliance on China and develop domestic supplies of processed rare earth minerals. A number of reports by government agencies must be sent to the White House in the coming weeks to describe the progress toward those goals.

“Our dependence on one country, the People’s Republic of China, for multiple critical minerals is particularly concerning,” Mr. Trump said in announcing the order, noting that the United States now imports 80% of its rare earth elements directly from China and some of the remainder is indirectly sourced from China through other countries.

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China used aggressive economic practices to strategically flood the global market for rare earth elements and displace its competitors,” Mr. Trump added.

As a result, China exploited its dominance in the rare earths market “by coercing industries that rely on these elements to locate their facilities, intellectual property and technology in China,” he said.

The president noted the danger revealed in 2010 when China suspended exports of processed rare earths to Japan during a dispute over waters in the East China Sea. That forced several companies to add factory capacity in China, threatened Japan’s industrial and defense sectors, and drove up prices worldwide.

Critical minerals are not actually rare, but there is a shortage of manufacturing facilities used to process them. Currently, around 80% of all rare earths are produced in China.

Former Chinese leader Jiang Zemin ordered state companies in 1991 to step up development of rare earths to “change the resource advantage into economic superiority.”

Mr. Trump’s presidential order cites the danger that China could cut off U.S. imports of barite, currently 50% of American imports. Barite is used in oil fracking, a process vital to U.S. energy production.

China also dominates the market for gallium, which is used in semiconductors for cellphones, blue and violet LEDs, diode lasers and 5G telecommunications. U.S. manufacturing also is completely reliant on imports for the graphite used in batteries for cellphones, laptops and electric cars. China produces 60% of the world’s graphite.

The Pentagon is in the process of building a heavy rare earth element separation and processing capability. The plant will process dysprosium and terbium, used in powerful magnets employed in precision-guided munitions flight control systems, pumps, sensors and advanced naval radar and ship cooling systems.

Rare earths got the name because, unlike minerals such as iron or silicon, they do not exist in large deposits and the process of extracting them is laborious and involves the use of toxic chemicals.

The United States in the past was a major producer and processor of rare earths, but the Mountain Pass mine in California and its plants were closed.

QUAD TO CONFRONT CHINA

State Department officials say the United States, Japan, Australia and India, known collectively as the Quad, agreed to step up pressure on China over its aggression in regional waters and its use of disinformation and influence operations to promote Beijing’s authoritarian policies.

During a three-hour meeting in Tokyo this week, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and foreign ministers from Japan, Australia and India held the first formal meeting of what U.S. officials hope could become a kind of “Asian NATO” grouping.

Rather than a formal alliance, the Quad may be set up as a formal “framework” of nations bound together in agreement about the need to promote freedom and democracy in the face of Chinese expansionism.

“There’s no avoiding the fact that it’s China and its actions in the region that make the Quad actually matter and function this time around,” said a senior State Department official who spoke to reporters on Mr. Pompeo’s flight back to the United States.

Mr. Pompeo has been a leading international voice calling out the policies of the Communist Party of China, including its handling of the coronavirus outbreak, the stifling of freedom in Hong Kong, building military bases in the South China Sea and repressing Uighurs in western China.

For the Indians, the China threat boiled over in a border clash in the Himalayas that led to the beating deaths of Indian and Chinese troops recently.

Japan is pushing back against Chinese attempts to take control of the Senkaku Islands, a group of uninhabited islands ruled by Tokyo for decades and recently claimed by Beijing.

Australia raised China’s extensive covert infiltration and subversion operations in its country that included the forced resignation of a senator with hidden links to the Chinese Communist Party.

“If you look at the single thing that’s driving all this, it’s a sudden turn toward gross aggression by the Chinese government in its entire periphery,” said one State Department official. “All the way around the Indo-Pacific and its western borders, you’re seeing things that you haven’t seen before, and [the Quad governments] are responding to that.”

Another topic of discussion in Tokyo was joint freedom of navigation and aerial transit in the face of Chinese expansionism in places like the Indian Ocean, the South China Sea and the East China Sea.

Quad leaders’ discussions also focused on responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has damaged economies around the world. Australia’s government angered Beijing in announcing that an international investigation should be launched into how the virus outbreak began, something China has refused to do.

A second U.S. official noted: “Chinese aggression certainly draws a big part of this, but it’s also about the different models that we stand for, democratic countries and an authoritarian model, and which ones will be sort of more successful in the long run.

“This isn’t about a U.S.-China dispute. This is about the free world versus Chinese authoritarianism.”

One area of common concern is Beijing’s use of disinformation and the need to speak out against disinformation campaigns and Chinese propaganda.

“It’s important that we shine a light on what the Chinese Communist Party is doing,” the second official said.

CHINA FIRES ROCKET FROM FREIGHTER

China last month conducted a flight test of a Long March-11 rocket from the deck of a merchant ship, a sign, analysts say, that indicates Beijing could be developing the capability of firing missiles from freighters.

The Sept. 15 flight test of the rocket was carried out in the Yellow Sea from the deck of a heavy lift ship, according to two specialists at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute.

Malcolm Davis and Charlie Lyons Jones wrote in a recent analysis that the Chinese military reporting on the launch said firing systems off freighters provides strategic advantages. The PLA Daily, the official military newspaper, said sea-based missile firing “increases launch efficiency and rocket-carrying capacity” and permits “the freedom to choose launch sites, [which can] effectively offset unwanted risks.”

The PLA also believes sea-based surface-ship ballistic missiles provide tactical flexibility not present in land-based missiles at fixed locations that are more easily targetable.

The LM-11 launch was sponsored by the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology and used solid-fuel technology similar to the systems in the DF-21 and DF-26 intermediate-range missiles.

“The launching of the Long March-11 from a civilian vessel raises the prospect that China’s merchant fleet could be used to fire ballistic missiles in wartime,” the two analysts stated.

The use of freighters as missile-firing platforms increases the risk that China’s extensive international network of port facilities could eventually double as military bases. China has one of the largest merchant fleets in the world and is building a network of commercial port facilities around the world.

Iran is also known to have conducted a missile test off the deck of one of its merchant ships.

Some American military analysts have suggested that the Navy could rapidly augment its fleet of warships by developing its own missile-firing capability from merchant ships.

“The Navy should acquire and arm merchant ships, outfitting them with modular weapons and systems to take advantage of improving technology and shipping market conditions, while providing capability more rapidly and less expensively than traditional acquisition efforts,” R. Robinson Harris, Andrew Kerr, Kenneth Adams, Christopher Abt, Michael Venn and T.X. Hammes wrote last year in the U.S. Naval Institute journal Proceedings.

• Contact Bill Gertz on Twitter at @BillGertz.

Court reinstates Georgia’s Election Day mail ballot deadline

Court reinstates Georgia’s Election Day mail ballot deadline

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By KATE BRUMBACK

Associated Press

Friday, October 2, 2020

ATLANTA (AP) – A federal appeals court on Friday reinstated Georgia’s Election Day deadline for the receipt of mail-in ballots, staying a lower court ruling that had extended that deadline by three days for November’s general election.

Georgia law says absentee ballots must be received by the close of polls on Election Day. U.S. District Judge Eleanor Ross on Aug. 31 issued a preliminary injunction ordering that absentee ballots that are postmarked by Election Day and arrive at county election offices by 7 p.m. three business days later be counted.

The state appealed and a three-judge panel of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled 2-1 to stay the injunction pending the outcome of the appeal.

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The power of federal judges “does not extend to second-guessing and interfering with a State’s reasonable, nondiscriminatory election rules,” Circuit Judge Britt Grant wrote in the majority opinion.

“We are glad the 11th Circuit recognized that long-standing Georgia law should remain in place for this election,” Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said in a statement, adding that his office has taken steps to make it easier for voters to meet the Election Day deadline by implementing an online portal to request absentee ballots and providing drop boxes for their return.

Ross’ ruling came in a lawsuit filed by the New Georgia Project, a voter registration group, and several individual voters.

Nse Ufot, chief executive of the New Georgia Project, called Raffensperger’s efforts to appeal Ross’ ruling “simply anti-democratic.”

“The job of the Secretary of State is to remove barriers to voting,” she said in a statement. “This is not only a waste of taxpayers money but an effort to impede Georgian’s access to free and fair elections.”

In her ruling, Ross noted that Georgia election officials received a record number of absentee ballot requests for the June primary election after Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger encouraged Georgians to vote by mail amid concerns about the coronavirus pandemic. With the virus outbreak still going, there will likely be even more absentee ballot requests for the November general election, Ross wrote.

The risk of disenfranchisement is great and the “narrowly tailored” remedy of extending the deadline by three business days is appropriate, she wrote.

But Grant said it is up to states to set the rules governing how they run elections.

“COVID-19 has not put any gloss on the Constitution’s demand that States – not federal courts – are in charge of setting those rules,” she wrote, adding that, “Georgia’s decades-old Election Day deadline for absentee ballots does not threaten voting rights, and is justified by a host of interests.”

Ross “erred on two analytical fronts: first, in finding that Georgia’s Election Day deadline severely burdened the right to vote; and second, in improperly weighing the State’s interests against this burden,” the opinion says.

In a dissenting opinion, Circuit Judge Charles Wilson wrote that when reviewing a lower court’s order for a preliminary injunction, a federal appeals court should be looking for an abuse of discretion. That review should be “narrow” and “deferential,” he wrote, citing circuit precedent.

“The majority’s review is not ‘narrow,’ nor is it ‘deferential,’” Wilson wrote. “The district court did not act unreasonably when it directed the State to accept and count valid absentee ballots that are postmarked by and received within three days of Election Day. The district court applied the correct legal standards, made no clearly erroneous factfinding, and its conclusions are not unreasonable nor are they incorrect.”

For those reasons, he wrote, he would have denied the state’s request to stay the injunction.

Separately, in another case, the state on Friday filed a notice of appeal of another judge’s ruling requiring that every polling place have at least one updated paper backup list of eligible voters. U.S. District Judge Amy Totenberg entered the order Monday, calling it “a limited common sense remedy” to “real and repetitive voting impediments” voters have faced.

Voting integrity activists sought the change, arguing that malfunctioning electronic pollbooks created bottlenecks that contributed to long lines during the primary election in June and runoff election in August.

Another judge steps away from stalled Guantanamo 9/11 trial

Another judge steps away from stalled Guantanamo 9/11 trial

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FILE – In this June 27, 2006, file photo, reviewed by a U.S. Department of Defense official, U.S. military guards walk within Camp Delta military-run prison, at the Guantanamo Bay U.S. Naval Base, Cuba. A federal judge has turned back … more >

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By BEN FOX

Associated Press

Friday, October 2, 2020

WASHINGTON (AP) – Another military judge has stepped down from the Sept. 11 war crimes tribunal at the U.S. Navy base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, a further blow to an already long-stalled case.

Marine Col. Stephen F. Keane said in an order issued Friday that he must recuse himself from the case because of his past work for the government and personal connections to victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. He was appointed last month.

Keane is the fifth judge to preside over the trial by military commission for five men held at Guantanamo who are charged with planning and assisting the hijacking plot that killed nearly 3,000 people in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania.

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Keane said he believes he could serve as an impartial judge in the death penalty case. But the Marine colonel said he did not want to cause further delays or grounds for appeal in a case that has been bogged down in pretrial proceedings since the May 2012 arraignment.

“My continued presence as the military judge in this case arguably creates an appearance of bias,” Keane wrote, before concluding that his recusal is “immediately required.”

Keane, describing his possible conflicts, noted that he grew up in the New York City area and had a close relative who worked for the Fire Department but retired before the Sept. 11 attacks. He also served in a Defense Department counter-terrorism task force, in which he conducted legal reviews concerning the transfer of detainees from Afghanistan to Guantanamo, where the U.S. now holds 40 prisoners.

He also served as a Marine Corps fellow at the Justice Department, working on counter-terrorism issues dealing with al-Qaida, though not on any work directly involving the five defendants in the Guantanamo war crimes case.

In addition, Keane said has a “significant personal connection” to people who were “directly affected by the events of 9/11,” though he did not provide any details.

The five defendants face charges that include terrorism and nearly 3,000 counts of murder in violation of the laws of war. The men include Khalid Shaikh Mohammad, who has portrayed himself as the architect of the Sept. 11 attack and other plots.

Their case has been stalled by its complexity and the challenge of staging a proceeding that combines military and civilian law at the remote base, with prosecution and defense teams flying in periodically for pretrial hearings.

It has also been delayed over legal challenges stemming from the brutal treatment of the five defendants in CIA custody before they were charged. Their lawyers are challenging statements they made to authorities as the product of torture.

The case also has been held up by non-legal issues, including the coronavirus outbreak and the departure of the previous judges.

The initial judge, Army Col. James Pohl, announced his retirement in August 2018 after a long career. The judge who replaced him then retired as well. A third judge, also a Marine colonel, left to take another position last year, leaving a senior judge to preside for about six months until Keane was appointed to the case in September.

A trial before a jury of military officers had, at one point, been scheduled to start in January but a new date has not been set. The next pretrial hearing is in March.

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, Qassem Soleimani deaths absent from Donald Trump campaign pitch

Trump’s top counterterrorism triumphs missing from campaign pitch

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President Donald Trump salutes as he arrives on Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, Wednesday, Aug. 30, 2017, as he returns from Springfield, Mo. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster) more >

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By Ben Wolfgang

The Washington Times

Monday, July 20, 2020

President Trump’s two highest-profile counterterrorism victories have been largely absent from his reelection pitch, a departure from recent elections in which the winning candidate made a prominent case for fortitude in battling jihadis.

Unlike President George W. Bush, who ran for reelection during his war on terror, or President Obama, who made the raid that killed 9/11 mastermind Osama bin Laden a cornerstone of his 2012 campaign, Mr. Trump and his team have yet to fully capitalize on the president’s successes against terrorism.

Neither the mission in October that resulted in the death of Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi nor the January strike that killed Iranian Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani has been given significant attention in Mr. Trump’s battle with presumptive Democratic nominee Joseph R. Biden.

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The successful operations, which eliminated two of the world’s most powerful and dangerous terrorist leaders and seemingly offer powerful ammunition for a commander in chief who prides himself on strength, have been mostly missing from Mr. Trump’s recent speeches. His campaign also hasn’t made them the focus of a major concerted advertising blitz in the way political observers might expect.

Analysts say there are several reasons why. The COVID-19 pandemic and its associated economic free fall, as well as recent racial justice protests, have consumed so much political space that there is little room for foreign policy on the campaign trail let alone a serious appetite among voters to hear about it.

But political insiders say other factors are also at play. They say a more aggressive pitch on the president’s counterterrorism successes could backfire.

One concern is that the deaths of al-Baghdadi and Soleimani, while important victories in the fight against extremism, wouldn’t have the same emotional impact among voters as bin Laden’s demise.

“President Trump has had many foreign policy successes to advertise, though admittedly it’s hard to compare killing terrorist leaders who aren’t household names with the man responsible for 9/11 attacks,” said J.D. Gordon, a former Trump campaign national security adviser and Pentagon spokesman.

“Another complicating factor in getting that positive message out is that since many of our 2016 campaign advisers were framed as Russian agents by the #Resistance, including Democrats in Congress and legacy media, it could be safer for the current campaign to avoid foreign policy altogether,” he said.

Foreign policy record

The Biden campaign and its liberal allies have been taking the foreign policy fight to Mr. Trump. They say the president has been soft on Russia, bungled relations with China, unnecessarily stoked tensions with Iran, abandoned American allies in Syria and made a host of other serious missteps.

The backdrop of the political attacks is broader turmoil inside the Trump campaign.

Last week, Bill Stepien was tapped as Mr. Trump’s new campaign manager in a seeming demotion for Brad Parscale.

Although campaign officials denied that Mr. Parscale had been punished or demoted, the development added to an appearance of internal upheaval at a moment of questionable polling numbers for the president.

Recent polls have shown Mr. Biden with a commanding lead over Mr. Trump nationally and in key battleground states.

One of the big questions heading into the campaign’s final three months centers on the extent to which Mr. Trump may or may not try to steer public attention toward his foreign policy record.

As it tries to regain its footing, the Trump campaign seems willing to fight over foreign policy when attacked. Top campaign officials are quick to contrast the president’s record with that of Mr. Biden, who served as vice president while the Islamic State rose to power in Iraq and Syria.

Mr. Biden and Mr. Obama also oversaw the Iran nuclear deal, which lifted some economic sanctions on Tehran but, as critics assert, allowed millions of dollars to flow to Soleimani’s Quds Force and the various terrorist outfits it backs across the Middle East.

A matter of messaging

Trump campaign officials say they are aware of the president’s wins on counterterrorism and are prepared to tout them publicly within a wider narrative of national security success over the past four years.

“President Trump kept his promise to rebuild the American military after it was severely depleted under the Obama/Biden administration,” Ken Farnaso, the campaign’s deputy national press secretary, told The Washington Times. “And his ‘America First’ agenda has secured the elimination of two most-wanted terrorists, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and Qassem Soleimani, the destruction of the ISIS caliphate, and sustained strong political and economic pressure on adversaries like Iran, Venezuela and Russia.”

The president and his surrogates have made those arguments, but there are key differences between the way the Trump campaign is handling the issue this year and how the Obama camp approached it in 2012.

Mr. Obama was reelected in the year after the raid that killed bin Laden, capping nearly a decade of searching for the man behind the 9/11 attacks. The Obama campaign team used the event as a sharp political weapon and suggested that Republican nominee Mitt Romney might not have ordered the mission as commander in chief.

The narrative proved effective in portraying Mr. Obama as a strong, decisive leader and blunting Republican efforts to once again cast a Democrat as weak on international affairs.

One of the more memorable campaign advertisements of 2012 featured former President Bill Clinton saying it was a momentous decision for Mr. Obama to order the assault on bin Laden’s secret compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan.

“Suppose the Navy SEALs had gone in there and it hadn’t been bin Laden. Suppose they’d been captured or killed. The downside would have been horrible for him,” Mr. Clinton said in the commercial. “He took the harder and the more honorable path, and the one that produced, in my opinion, the best result.”

The ad then asked, “Which path would Mitt Romney have taken,” before highlighting the Republican’s questioning about whether the U.S. should launch counterterrorism strikes in Pakistan or spend time and resources searching for a single terrorist leader.

Successes overshadowed

Mr. Trump has aired some memorable campaign commercials, but some political analysts say none has brought his counterterrorism achievements to the forefront the way the Bill Clinton ad did for Mr. Obama.

Some specialists also argue that there may be little the Trump campaign can do at this point to effectively capitalize on the al-Baghdadi and Soleimani operations.

Talking about the strikes or crafting multimillion-dollar ad campaigns to highlight foreign policy achievements of the past, they said, likely would turn off voters who are rightfully consumed with domestic crises playing out at the moment.

“When you have people dying at the numbers they’re dying at in the United States right now, the threat from international terrorism seems to pale by comparison,” said Stephen Zunes, a professor at the University of San Francisco who studies the intersection of politics and foreign policy.

“If Trump embraced that,” Mr. Zunes said, “it could even backfire.”

Illegal migration, trade on agenda as Donald Trump hosts Mexico’s president

Illegal migration, trade on agenda as Trump hosts Mexico’s president

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In this April 5, 2020, file photo, Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador speaks at the National Palace in Mexico City. For his first foreign trip as president, López Obrador travels to Washington Tuesday, July 7, 2020, to meet with … more >

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By Dave Boyer

The Washington Times

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

President Trump will discuss efforts to halt illegal migration with Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador when they hold their first meeting at the White House on Wednesday.

While the two leaders also will confer on trade, a senior administration official said migration will be a major topic.

“Illegal migration is now down 85% … mostly from Central American countries,” a senior administration official said. “That would not be possible without the help of President Lopez Obrador with the Migrant Protection plan that we worked together on, and the 25,000 National Guardsmen men and women that he has put forward to the northern and southern borders to protect people from coming illegally.”

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The official told reporters, “We’re now able to now build upon that and have long-term impact with private sector-led growth in southern Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador.”

Mr. Lopez Obrador arrived in Washington on Tuesday night, flying coach on a commercial airline. It’s his first trip outside Mexico since taking office in December 2018.

Mr. Trump also will host a dinner for the Mexican president with business leaders from Mexico and the U.S.

Republicans urge Donald Trump to reconsider Germany troop reduction plan

Republicans urge Trump to reconsider Germany troop reduction plan

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Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, the ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, is joined at left by Chairman Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., during a hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Oct. 23, 2019. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite) ** FILE … more >

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By Lauren Meier

The Washington Times

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Six Republicans on the House Foreign Affairs Committee are urging President Trump to reconsider his plan to cut the number of troops stationed in Germany, arguing that the move would weaken NATO’s long-standing deterrence against China and Russia.

Mr. Trump earlier this month ordered the Pentagon to cut thousands of troops by September, a move that experts have warned could deeply impact the historic U.S.-German relationship.

The president later doubled down on the move, when he told reporters that he’s prepared to recall about half of the U.S. soldiers stationed in Germany if that nation doesn’t pay more to NATO and treat Washington more fairly on trade issues.

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In a new letter obtained by The Washington Times Tuesday, the lawmakers, led by Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois and the committee’s top Republican Michael McCaul of Texas, expressed “concern” over the plan and said that the U.S. presence in Germany has benefited American interests beyond just Europe, and into the Middle East and Africa where Russia and China have been repositioning their posture.

“The U.S. forward presence in Germany serves as a cornerstone of NATO’s deterrent against Russian aggression,” the lawmakers wrote. “This is not the time to take any action that might cause the Putin regime to question the credibility of the NATO deterrent or might lead our NATO allies and partners to doubt the U.S. commitment to our collective security.”

At his campaign rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, on Saturday, Mr. Trump said Germany has been “delinquent” in its NATO payments and reiterated his plan to reduce the U.S. force presence within the borders of the historic American ally.

“They haven’t been paying what they’re supposed to be paying,” he said.

The president’s plan would reduce by about 28% the number of U.S. military personnel in the country, pulling back 9,500 from the 34,500 who are now there. There has also been speculation some of the forces in Germany could be redeployed in Poland and elsewhere in Europe closer to Russia.

“Our adversaries understand that the American alliance network is at the heart of the U.S. comparative advantage and will seek to exploit any cracks in transatlantic ties,” the lawmakers wrote, adding that they are “troubled” that members of the alliance had not been consulted prior to Mr. Trump’s announcement.

They praised Mr. Trump’s attempts to encourage other nations to contribute more to NATO costs, but they said that a troop withdrawal would reverse the efforts to convince allies to spend more and instead put U.S. interests at risk.

“The United States should continue to lead by example and remain fully committed to the NATO alliance, which has successfully deterred the outbreak of another costly world war on the continent since its formation,” the lawmakers wrote.

Twitter bans Katie Hopkins, a British commentator retweeted by Donald Trump

Twitter bans Katie Hopkins, a British commentator retweeted by Donald Trump

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This April 26, 2017, file photo shows the Twitter app icon on a mobile phone in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File) more >

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By Andrew Blake

The Washington Times

Saturday, June 20, 2020

Twitter said Friday it permanently suspended Katie Hopkins, a conservative British commentator whose posts on the platform had been shared by President Trump on several occasions.

“Keeping Twitter safe is a top priority for us — abuse and hateful conduct have no place on our service and we will continue to take action when our Rules are broken,” a Twitter spokesperson told The Washington Times.

“In this case, the account has been permanently suspended for violations of our Hateful Conduct policy,” said the Twitter spokesperson.

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Ms. Hawkins, 45, first gained fame in 2007 as a contestant on the British version of “The Apprentice,” the reality TV show that first aired in the U.S. with Mr. Trump as its host.

She later became a columnist for several U.K. publications, where she established a reputation for espousing far-right opinions on subjects including immigration.

Indeed, Ms. Hopkins was formally condemned by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights after comparing migrants to “cockroaches” and “feral humans” in a 2015 columns.

More recently, she made waves last year when Mr. Trump’s account on Twitter shared, or retweeted, several of her posts to the president’s tens of millions of social media followers.

Among the tweets posted by Ms. Hopkins and then retweeted by Mr. Trump was one commending the president’s campaign after a racist chant broke out during a rally he held last July.

Mr. Trump had been speaking at the rally about Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, a former Somali refugee, when supporters began chanting: “Send her back!”

“Send her back is the new lock her up,” Ms. Hopkins said in a tweet subsequently shared by Mr. Trump. “Well done to #TeamTrump.”

Twitter did not specify what tweet or tweets prompted the social media service to permanently ban Ms. Hawkins. The company’s policy against hateful conduct prohibits promoting violence against, attacking or threatening people on the basis of protected categories such as race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender and religion, among others.

A message requesting sent to an email address associated with Ms. Hopkins requesting comment on the Twitter ban was not immediately answered.

Donald Trump moves to sanction ICC officials over probe of U.S. war crimes in Afghanistan

Trump moves to sanction ICC officials over probe of U.S. war crimes in Afghanistan

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President Donald Trump speaks during a roundtable discussion with African-American supporters in the Cabinet Room of the White House, Wednesday, June 10, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky) more >

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By Dave Boyer

The Washington Times

Updated: 3:38 p.m. on
Thursday, June 11, 2020

President Trump signed an executive order Thursday authorizing sanctions against officials of the International Criminal Court over its investigation into whether U.S. troops committed war crimes in Afghanistan.

Top administration officials said the U.S. believes Russia is behind the ICC’s actions targeting American troops for prosecution.

“We are concerned that foreign powers like Russia are manipulating the ICC in pursuit of their own agenda,” said Attorney General William P. Barr.

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Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called the ICC a “kangaroo court” and said the European body is waging “an ideological crusade against American service members” who were engaged in counterterrorism operations in Afghanistan.

“Making sure this doesn’t happen is the essence of ‘America First’ foreign policy,” Mr. Pompeo said.

The order authorizes Mr. Pompeo, in consultation with Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin, to block assets in the U.S. of ICC employees involved in the probe. Mr. Pompeo also can block the targeted individuals from entering the U.S.

Mr. Pompeo said decisions on sanctions will be made on a case-by-case basis.

Defense Secretary Mike T. Esper and Mr. Pompeo said the U.S. has a much more effective system of military justice to punish wrongdoers.

“Ultimately our justice system ensures that our people are held to account under the United States Constitution, not the International Criminal Court or other overreaching inter-governmental bodies,” Mr. Esper said. “Moreover, there is no other force more disciplined and committed to compliance with the laws of war than the United States military, which has made lasting contributions to the cause of justice and accountability in armed conflict.”

The White House said the U.S. “has repeatedly rejected the International Criminal Court’s assertions of jurisdiction over United States personnel.”

“The International Criminal Court’s actions are an attack on the rights of the American people and threaten to infringe upon our national sovereignty,” said White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany. “The International Criminal Court was established to provide accountability for war crimes, but in practice, it has been an unaccountable and ineffective international bureaucracy that targets and threatens United States personnel as well as personnel of our allies and partners.”

The ICC decided to investigate after prosecutors’ preliminary review in 2017 determined that war crimes may have been committed in Afghanistan and that the court has jurisdiction.

The ICC is based in The Hague in the Netherlands. Mr. Trump has repeatedly challenged the court’s right to prosecute U.S. personnel without American consent.

Ten nations on the UN Security Council that are parties to the ICC accord, including the United Kingdom, Germany and France, issued a statement on Wednesday of “unwavering support for the court as an independent and impartial judicial institution.”

“We reiterate our commitment to uphold and defend the principles and values enshrined in the [ICC accord] and to preserve its integrity undeterred by any threats against the court, its officials and those cooperating with it,” their joint statement said.

Mr. Pompeo issued a warning to U.S. allies about the ICC’s reach: “Your people could be next, especially those from NATO countries who fought terrorism in Afghanistan right alongside of us.”

He said the U.S. also is “gravely concerned” about a threatened ICC investigation of Israel’s security actions in the West Bank and in the Gaza Strip.

“Given Israel’s robust civilian and military legal system and strong track record of investigating and prosecuting wrongdoing by military personnel, it’s clear the ICC is only putting Israel in its crosshairs for nakedly political purposes,” Mr. Pompeo said.

Sen. Patrick Leahy, Vermont Democrat, said the announcement of sanctions “is predictable from a president whose idea of justice is to encourage the police to abuse prisoners, pardon his friends, and override the Pentagon in cases of military justice.”

He said the ICC “has successfully prosecuted some of the world’s worst war criminals, and has done so judiciously and professionally.”

“War crimes and crimes against humanity occur in all wars, just as police brutality occurs in all countries,” Mr. Leahy said. “The ICC only has jurisdiction if a government fails to prosecute violations of the laws of war by its own soldiers. The United States cannot profess to stand for accountability and refuse to be accountable itself, especially when it involves egregious crimes like torturing prisoners.”

Donald Trump pushing for in-person G-7 at White House, a portion at Camp David

Trump pushing for in-person G-7 at White House, a portion at Camp David

June event was shifted online due to coronavirus pandemic

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President Donald Trump talks to reporters before departing the White House for a trip to Michigan, Thursday, May 21, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci) more >

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By Tom Howell Jr.

The Washington Times

Thursday, May 21, 2020

President Trump said Thursday he’s pushing to host Group of Seven leaders at the White House in June, as he tries to revert from a virtual summit to a live-person event amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“It looks like G-7 may be on because we’ve done well, we’re ahead of schedule in terms of our country, and some of the other countries are doing very well,” he told White House reporters. “It looks like the G-7 will be on, a full G-7, and we’ll be announcing something early next week.”

“When that all comes together, probably it will be in D.C. at the White House,” he said, adding that a portion would be held at the Camp David presidential retreat in Maryland.

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It’s unclear if the other members of the G-7 will agree to come to the U.S. for an in-person summit, which is planned for June 10-12.

French President Emmanuel Macron suggested he would try, if the health conditions allow it, and other European leaders struck a wait-and-see stance.

The U.S. is still banning travel from many several member countries, so it is unclear if the restrictions will be lifted before then or if leaders and their aides will get special permission to enter.

Donald Trump’s use of malaria drug likely to be welcomed in India

Trump’s use of malaria drug likely to be welcomed in India

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A chemist displays hydroxychloroquine tablets in Mumbai, India, Tuesday, May 19, 2020. (AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool) more >

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By Emily Schmall and Aniruddha Ghosal

Associated Press

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

NEW DELHI (AP) — President Donald Trump’s declaration that he was taking an antimalarial drug of dubious effectiveness to help fend off the coronavirus will likely be welcomed in India.

Trump’s previous endorsement of hydroxychloroquine catalyzed a tremendous shift in the South Asian country, spurring the world’s largest producer of the drug to make much more of it, prescribe it for front-line health workers treating the virus and deploy it as a diplomatic tool, despite mounting evidence against using the drug for COVID-19.

Trump said Monday that he was taking hydroxychloroquine as a measure of protection against the virus. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration, however, has cautioned against using it outside of hospitals because of the risk of serious heart problems.

SEE ALSO: Trump says he’s taking hydroxychloroquine to stave off COVID-19

Suhhil Gupta, a pharmacist in New Delhi, said Tuesday that Trump’s announcement shouldn’t carry any weight in India.

“He’s not a pharmacist. His statements are not relevant to the field,” Gupta said.

Still, India’s policy on the decades-old drug, used to prevent malaria and treat lupus and rheumatoid arthritis, drastically changed after Trump tweeted in March that the drug, used together with an antibiotic, could be “game changers” in the fight against the pandemic. India’s health ministry quickly approved it as a prophylactic for health care workers and others at high risk of infection, and as a treatment for critically ill patients.

Officials in Mumbai even drew up a plan to administer hydroxychloroquine to thousands of slum dwellers as a preventive measure against the virus.
Indian health officials have declined repeated requests for comment, limiting communications to daily health briefings, the last of which occurred May 11.

The rules say that drugs such as hydroxychloroquine be used only after a rigorous scientific and ethical review, continued oversight by an ethics committee and ensuring informed consent — none of which happened with HCQ, according to Dr. Amar Jesani, a medical ethics expert.

The Mumbai proposal was ultimately shelved amid questions of the ethics of administering HCQ, as the drug is known, without first subjecting it to clinical trials. Still, the Indian government has recommended more and more people use it, contravening 2017 rules for emergency use of untested drugs, Jesani said.

India initially banned HCQ exports, but lifted the ban after Trump threatened “retaliation.” At the same time, India’s government ordered manufacturers to ramp up production from 1.2 million to 3 million pills a month — causing company shares to skyrocket. From the U.S. to Australia, sales jumped.

Officials have even said that Indian plantations could increase the growing capacity of cinchona trees, whose bark contains the compound quinine, which has been used to treat malaria since the 1860s. Quinine can also be made synthetically.

The Indian government itself purchased 100 million HCQ pills, according to government data, to distribute to states and donate to countries including Afghanistan, Myanmar and the Dominican Republic.

India is the world’s largest producer of generic drugs, a fast-growing industry that has brought down pharmaceutical prices globally. During the HIV/AIDs crisis, India played a similar role as in the coronavirus pandemic, boosting global supplies of life-saving drugs.

The problem this time, experts say, is that the hydroxychloroquine hype is based on a flimsy study, with little to no evidence that it prevents or treats COVID-19.

Still, a sharp rise in demand has reduced supplies for patients with lupus and rheumatoid arthritis.

India’s hurried guidance has also impeded scientific trials that could determine whether the benefits of taking HCQ outweigh the risks.

“We should do a trial. I think that is the right way to come to answer on this question. But the (government) made our job harder,” said Dr. Bharath Kumar, whose team has proposed a trial.

Meanwhile, evidence against using HCQ for the coronavirus is growing.
A U.S. study of 368 patients in veterans’ hospitals, the largest study yet examining HCQ’s value as a coronavirus antidote, found no benefits and even more deaths among those given the drug.

The Indian government’s own assessment of 19 drugs found that HCQ wasn’t the most promising. A task force noted that while HCQ was readily available, the strength of scientific evidence for the mechanism of action was fairly low.

With more than 101,000 cases and 3,163 deaths, the coronavirus hasn’t yet overwhelmed India’s limited health care system. But that’s starting to change in some hot spots as a stringent weeks-long nationwide lockdown begins to ease, allowing for greater mobility of the country’s 1.3 billion people.

Nowhere is this clearer than in Maharashtra, the coastal state in central India bearing a third of India’s virus caseload. The state’s medical education and research agency has been administering HCQ to patients in public hospitals and clinics, according to court records.

Agency chief Dr. Tatyarao P. Lahane said protocols set by India’s government were being followed and declined to answer further questions.

Dr. Shriprakash Kalantri of the Mahatma Gandhi Institute of Medical Sciences in Maharashtra said the government was recommending HCQ for “off label,” or unapproved, use, meaning that patients must be told that “there is a small but significant risk that it might harm you.”

“If there is no evidence backed by solid clinical trials, then why are the scientific bodies pushing this drug and giving an impression to the public that this is a magic bullet and this is your last hope?” Kalantri said.

___

Associated Press writer Biswajeet Banerjee in Lucknow, India, contributed to this report.

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President Donald Trump pauses while speaking with reporters on the South Lawnof the White House in Washington, Sunday, May 17, 2020. Trump is returning from a visit to nearby Camp David, Md. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon) more >

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By Dave Boyer and Stephen Dinan

The Washington Times

Sunday, May 17, 2020

President Trump is stepping up his confrontations with China as the U.S. death toll mounts from the COVID-19 pandemic, blocking trade with Chinese tech giant Huawei, halting some U.S. retirement investments in China and floating the suggestion that Beijing should compensate the world for the coronavirus first discovered in Wuhan.

The president, who once boasted of his warm relationship with Chinese President Xi Jinping, has cut off communications for now with Mr. Xi, even as both sides negotiate quietly to uphold the massive trade deal signed at the White House in January.

“For sure, his personal rhetoric has changed,” said James Carafano, a national security specialist at The Heritage Foundation. “Trump has always liked to play the good cop in our ‘good cop, bad cop’ diplomacy. His role has sharpened. In the great power competition, it’s ‘game on.’”

SEE ALSO: Trump says China ‘could have stopped’ coronavirus: ‘It got out of control’

But Mr. Carafano said the president’s strategy “has always been making across-the-board military, diplomatic, economic challenges to Beijing where they are impinging on vital U.S. interests. That’s how to you get to stable relationship.”

The escalating feud with China also meshes with the president’s campaign strategy of portraying presumptive Democratic nominee Joseph R. Biden as too soft on China. It’s a subject of the campaign’s $10 million nationwide ad blitz against Mr. Biden that began Thursday, and aides say the theme will be prominent through Election Day.

In a fundraising email to supporters on Sunday, the Trump campaign said the “fake news media and their corrupt Democrat Partners will defend Sleepy Joe until the end. They don’t care that he’s in bed with China and wants to see America fail.”

The American public’s views of China have soured during COVID-19 shutdowns. The Pew Research Center found last month that 66% of respondents had a negative opinion of China, the highest percentage recorded since Pew began asking the question in 2005. Only 26% of Americans had a favorable attitude.

“There is a domestic component,” Mr. Carafano said. “Across the board, Americans rightfully blame the failures of the Chinese Communist Party for the global pandemic outbreak.”

On the policy side, the administration is showing no signs of revoking the China trade deal that the president has been hammering out since the start of his presidency.

Asked Friday whether he is considering new tariffs against China or ripping up the trade deal, Mr. Trump replied brusquely, “I don’t want to talk about it.

China is buying a lot of our products,” the president told reporters. “But the trade deal — the ink was barely dry when this [coronavirus] came in from China. So it’s not like we’re thrilled.”

He told Fox Business that the 4-month-old trade deal “doesn’t feel the same to me.”

“I’m not happy with anything to do with that particular subject right now,” Mr. Trump said during an interview with Fox’s Maria Bartiromo. “Right now, I don’t want to speak to [Mr. Xi].”

White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said the trade deal “is continuing, absolutely.” He said trade negotiators from both sides, including Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, had successful phone calls last week.

While the trade talks proceed, however, Mr. Trump is ratcheting up pressure on China on several fronts.

The Commerce Department moved Friday to block global chip supplies to blacklisted telecomm giant Huawei Technologies. A new rule expands U.S. authority to require licenses for sale of semiconductors to Huawei, increasing Washington’s ability to halt exports to the world’s second-largest maker of smartphones.

Sen. Ben Sasse, Nebraska Republican and a member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, said the rule was long overdue to prevent the “Chinese Communist Party’s tech puppet from obtaining U.S. semiconductor technology.”

“The United States needs to strangle Huawei,” Mr. Sasse said. “Modern wars are fought with semiconductors, and we were letting Huawei use our American designs. This is pretty simple: Chip companies that depend on American technology can’t jump into bed with the Chinese Communist Party.”

In response, China’s governnment-controlled Global Times said Beijing was ready to put U.S. companies on an “unreliable entity list.”

China is lashing out at American lawmakers who are trying to hold it accountable in U.S. courts for spreading the coronavirus. According a Global Times report, Beijing is ready to “hit back” with its own sanctions.

The communist government is suggesting that China’s massive economy could halt investments in states represented by those who attempt to assign blame. At least four members of Congress “will be put on China’s sanctions list,” said the Global Times, citing “sources close to the matter.”

A number of lawmakers were named in the story, but those who drew particular attention from the Chinese press were Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas, Josh Hawley of Missouri, and Rep. Chris Smith of New Jersey, all Republicans.

“American Congresspeople who hold an anti-China stance like Smith have been long-term hawks on China-relevant topics such as Taiwan and Xinjiang. And Republicans like Hawley are also backed by some U.S. defense companies and other companies that compete with Chinese firms,” Diao Daming, a U.S. studies expert at the Renmin University of China in Beijing, told the newspaper last week.

Mr. Smith, who last year authored the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, said he wouldn’t bow to pressure.

“Sanctions will not silence me or anyone who demands genuine accountability for this horrific pandemic,” he said in a statement over the weekend.

He pointed to the death toll from COVID-19 in New Jersey. “Beijing cannot continue to hide, lie and now threaten to stop us from demanding the truth.”

Mr. Hawley took to Twitter on Friday to call the sanctions threat a “badge of honor.”

Mr. Hawley is a former Missouri attorney general. His successor, Eric Schmitt, has filed a lawsuit arguing that the Chinese Communist Party directed the policies that have failed the world, allowing COVID-19 to spread and devastate the global economy.

In Missouri alone, Mr. Schmitt said in the lawsuit, “billions of dollars” have been lost to the coronavirus outbreak.

The Global Times said China will take steps to punish Missouri’s economy.

The White House pressured the board that runs the retirement savings program for federal employees and military personnel last week to halt, at least temporarily, a plan to invest funds in Chinese businesses.

The Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board voted unanimously to pause its plan to shift billions of dollars in retirement assets to an index fund that includes about 8% Chinese companies, citing the COVID-19 pandemic and a new slate of board nominees from Mr. Trump.

Labor Secretary Eugene Scalia sent a letter to the Thrift Savings Plan’s governing board saying that “at the direction of President Trump, the board is to immediately halt all steps” toward switching to the broader international stock market index.

Mr. Kudlow and national security adviser Robert C. O’Brien also urged the board to “cease implementation immediately.” They said the Chinese government hid crucial information about the virus from the U.S. and the rest of the world.

“These events dramatically increase the risk that Chinese companies could be subject to sanctions or boycotts that jeopardize their business and profitability and strongly militate against the Board making a significant investment of federal workers’ retirement funds in Chinese companies at this time,” they wrote.

White House trade adviser Peter Navarro said Saturday that there needs to be a broader discussion on hitting China for “compensatory damages” because of the way it handled the coronavirus outbreak.

“I think there needs to be a national discussion — has to be bipartisan — about compensatory damages by a country that inflicted this pandemic on the world,” Mr. Navarro said on Fox Business. “This crisis, and China’s role in virtually manufacturing this whole crisis, we need to have a national discussion.”

The coronavirus has infected more than 4.5 million people worldwide and contributed to the deaths of more than 300,000. The U.S., with a population of about 330 million, has recorded nearly 1.5 million cases and more than 88,000 deaths from COVID-19.

“It should have been stopped in China before it got out to the world — 186 countries are affected,” Mr. Trump said. “Russia is now badly affected, France is badly affected. Look at Italy, look at Spain — all of these great countries, in many cases, have had to fight through this. It’s a terrible thing that happened. It should have been stopped right at the source, but it wasn’t.”

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said Mr. Trump is “very frustrated with China.” She said China “slow-walked” information through the World Health Organization about human-to-human transmissions of the virus as well as information about its genetic sequencing, and allowed flights out of China while the virus was spreading.

“These decisions put American lives at risk, not just American lives, but lives around the globe,” she said.

While the U.S. grows more aggressive in economic competition, the administration is challenging Chinese influence in international organizations such as WHO. NATO put the issue of China on its agenda for the first time at a meeting in London in December.

Mr. Carafano said he expects “a lot more on that front,” including more robust action toward Beijing from the “quad-plus partners” — the U.S., Japan, India and Australia.

“Expect the U.S. to do more, not less, with friends and allies,” he said. “The U.S. push on China in NATO context is just one example, as is the increased level of activity among the ‘quad plus’ partners.”

⦁ David Sherfinski and Gabriella Muñoz contributed to this report

Kendrick Lamar – XXX Lyrics

[Intro: Bono & Kid Capri]
America, God bless you if it’s good to you
America please take my hand
Can you help me underst—
New Kung Fu Kenny

[Verse 1: Kendrick Lamar]
Throw a steak off the yacht
To a pool full of sharks, he’ll take it
Leave him in the wilderness
With a sworn nemesis, he’ll make it
Take the gratitude from him
I bet he’ll show you somethin’, whoa
I’ll chip a nigga little bit of nothin’
I’ll chip a nigga little bit of nothin’
I’ll chip a nigga little bit of nothin’
I’ll chip a nigga, then throw the blower in his lap
Walk myself to the court like, “Bitch, I did that!”
X-rated
Johnny don’t wanna go to school no mo’, no mo’
Johnny said books ain’t cool no mo’ (no mo’)
Johnny wanna be a rapper like his big cousin
Johnny caught a body yesterday out hustlin’
God bless America, you know we all love him
Yesterday I got a call like from my dog like 101
Said they killed his only son because of insufficient funds
He was sobbin’, he was mobbin’, way belligerent and drunk
Talkin’ out his head, philosphin’ on what the Lord had done
He said: “K-Dot, can you pray for me?
It’s been a fucked up day for me
I know that you anointed, show me how to overcome.”
He was lookin’ for some closure
Hopin’ I could bring him closer
To the spiritual, my spirit do no better, but I told him
“I can’t sugarcoat the answer for you, this is how I feel:
If somebody kill my son, that mean somebody gettin’ killed.”
Tell me what you do for love, loyalty, and passion of
All the memories collected, moments you could never touch
I’ll wait in front a niggas spot and watch him hit his block
I’ll catch a nigga leavin’ service if that’s all I got
I’ll chip a nigga, then throw the blower in his lap
Walk myself to the court like, “Bitch, I did that!”
Ain’t no Black Power when your baby killed by a coward
I can’t even keep the peace, don’t you fuck with one of ours
It be murder in the street, it be bodies in the hour
Ghetto bird be on the street, paramedics on the dial
Let somebody touch my mama
Touch my sister, touch my woman
Touch my daddy, touch my niece
Touch my nephew, touch my brother
You should chip a nigga, then throw the blower in his lap
Matter fact, I’m ’bout to speak at this convention
Call you back—

[Interlude: Kendrick Lamar]
Alright, kids, we’re gonna talk about gun control
(Pray for me) Damn!

[Chorus: Bono]
It’s not a place
This country is to be a sound of drum and bass
You close your eyes to look around

[Verse 2: Kendrick Lamar]
Hail Mary, Jesus and Joseph
The great American flag
Is wrapped and dragged with explosives
Compulsive disorder, sons and daughters
Barricaded blocks and borders
Look what you taught us!
It’s murder on my street, your street, back streets
Wall Street, corporate offices
Banks, employees, and bosses with
Homicidal thoughts; Donald Trump’s in office
We lost Barack and promised to never doubt him again
But is America honest, or do we bask in sin?
Pass the gin, I mix it with American blood
Then bash him in, you Crippin’ or you married to blood?
I’ll ask again—oops—accident
It’s nasty when you set us up
Then roll the dice, then bet us up
You overnight the big rifles, then tell Fox to be scared of us
Gang members or terrorists, et cetera, et cetera
America’s reflections of me, that’s what a mirror does

[Chorus: Bono]
It’s not a place
This country is to be a sound of drum and bass
You close your eyes to look ar—

Rick Ross – Apple Of My Eye (feat. Raphael Saadiq) (Rather You Than Me Album)

[Intro: Rick Ross]
(Hahahah!)
Just being somebody that the neighborhood respected
And my mama could be proud of, was the apple of my eye
That’s all I ever wanted, just being something, man
So at that point what else can you ask for?
(Maybach Music)

[Verse 1: Rick Ross]
Tears runnin’ down a nigga face
In a room full of failures, I feel out of place
Still sleepin’ on the floor when you deserve better
Got you reekin’ through the cold even in warm weather
I told Meek, "I wouldn’t trust Nicki
Instead of beefin’ with your dog, you just give ’em some distance"
We all make mistakes, let’s not be too specific
We like, "I rather be a killer than be a statistic"
I never fold, no, I never ran
On my soul, I’ll roll like an avalanche
I thank the Lord I got some great friends
That’s why every bottle I open, I say, "Amen"
Just had seizure at the Super Bowl
Woke up in the third quarter lookin’ for the smoke
If it’s more than a quarter million, I’ll count it twice
Pucci broke my heart, shit, I call it life
And never will I call it right
Not perfect but I’m the one you would call at night
Travelin’ the world, I’m just reppin’ my city
But rarely do I hear that this nigga done did it
When niggas in fatigues will keep you intrigued
‘Cause the loss of life’s the only thing niggas believe
So I pray you listen carefully
Then I become another motherfuckin’ casualty

[Chorus: Raphael Saadiq]
Always speak and say hi
You just never ever walk on by (never ever walk on by)
You even stopped and put one in the sky (the sky)
You do it for the love of you and I (for the love of you and)

[Verse 2: Rick Ross]
Standin’ on your block but you so out of place
Uncle on the couch, momma runnin’ out of space
Lights off so you never tend to speak much
Go your separate ways every time the lease up
A fat ugly nigga, thought I’d never be nothin’
Another tree stump, happy with his free lunch
Duckin’ pigeons, I’m an eagle on a sunny day
Flap my wings once a week, pray I glide safe
I want fried chicken at my funeral
Rolls Royces, dope boys, Sway interviews
Everybody dyin’ for the same things
Cop kill a nigga, don’t nobody gangbang
I’m happy Donald Trump became the president
Because we gotta destroy, before we elevate
Real shit, look at me inside the white house
With a pocket full of weed inside the white house
Dead presidents tattooed on a nigga chest
U.S. treasury addressing me, mad at my address
Own the biggest residential pool in the U.S
Drake and Kanye can invite every bitch they ever met
Finger fuckin’ bitches in the holy water
Then I go an tell what happened to my only daughter
So her daddy told it to her firsthand
Never perfect but it’s not just ’bout them purses

[Chorus: Raphael Saadiq]
Always speak and say hi
I just never ever walk on by (never ever walk on by)
You even stopped and put one in the sky (the sky)
You do it for the love of you and I (yeah)

[Verse 3: Raphael Saadiq]
The streets could never teach me
All the things I got from you
I found myself in the wrong lane
And I ended up in pain (Pain)
I was strolling down a dark street
When this girl passed me by
She said you’ve always been a good friend (always been a good friend)
And you never never never let me down
I’ll just fall back, never turn back
Let it go, let it go
I’ll just fall back, never turn back
Let it go, let it go

[Chorus: Raphael Saadiq]
Always speak and say hi
I just never ever walk on by (never ever walk on by)
You even stopped and put one in the sky (the sky)
You do it for the love of you and I (for the love of you and I)

Freddie Gibbs – Crushed Glass (You Only Live 2Wice Album)

[Intro]
Diego, roll me one up, my nigga

[Verse 1]
The future started yesterday, nigga
Every minute feelin’ different, I am not the same nigga
I admit that I was timid at a younger age, nigga
Daddy asked me what I wanna be, I said "A paid nigga"
With them extras out the pot, I gave myself a raise, nigga
Heaven sent I can’t remember the last time I prayed, nigga
So the Devil introduced me to cookin’ cocaine, nigga
On the blade, seven days, ain’t bathe or shave, nigga
I was thuggin’ with my trey eight
Motherfuck a president, I got a Presidential Day-Date
I run a check up like a Chase bank
The police open up the package if your shipment come a day late
I just beat a rape case, groupie bitch I never fucked
Trying to give me ten for some pussy that I never touched
At a certain level, system tried to test a nigga’s nuts
Nigga hire like eleven lawyers, had to level up

[Chorus]
Living this life, just me myself and I
Level up, you know a nigga had to level up
If I gotta be by myself, I’ma be alright
Level up, you know a nigga had to level up
Living this life, just me myself and I
Level up, you know a nigga had to level up
And if I gotta be by myself, I’ma be alright
Level up, you know a nigga had to level up

[Verse 2]
The future started yesterday nigga
Every minute feelin’ different, I am not the same nigga
Had a baby, now my daughter getting up in age, nigga
When I die I bet she say, "My daddy was a paid nigga"
‘Round the world jail system like a slave trade, nigga
Got me in this foreign prison, monkey in a cage, nigga
Bail paid, locked me up for an extra 30 days, nigga
Barely let us use the shower ain’t bathed or shaved nigga
I was sittin’ in a cell missin’ show dates
Commissary late, I’m postin’ pictures with the toothpaste
Barely eat the food, stress’ll make a nigga lose weight
Enter the mental of a nigga that wish he knew his fate
Shit these bitches do to try to get your cash
Erica visit, can’t wipe her tears from behind the glass
Choppin’ the porcelain up for years, said I’m suckin’ glass
I beat the DEA and the task, now I’m on my ass

[Verse 3]
Future started yesterday nigga
Every minute feelin’ different, I am not the same nigga
Donald Trump gon’ chain us up and turn back to slaves, nigga
Got the recipe for dope, my reparations paid, nigga
Feel like that at some point, really I should feel ashamed, nigga
They kill us, we killin’ us, but that is not the way, nigga
Money tree up in the stripper club, I’m throwin’ shade, nigga
Did destruction on your flow when I paved the lane, nigga
Chest to chopper, blow your chest out where your heart at, nigga
Black Tony, Babyface, better scar that nigga
Sent the hit out, I’m just waitin’ on the call back, nigga
Shoot them pussies, burn it up, don’t bring the car back, nigga
Gangsta G, I fucked the industry, them crackers say I’m too aggressive
I turned myself into a boss without a fuckin’ question
Six whips, ghetto nigga gotta be excessive
I came up on fried bologna, boy what you expected?
What you expected?

[Chorus]
Living this life, just me myself and I
Level up, you know a nigga had to level up
If I gotta be by myself, I’ma be alright
Level up, you know a nigga had to level up
Living this life, just me myself and I
Level up, you know a nigga had to level up
And if I gotta be by myself, I’ma be alright
Level up, you know a nigga had to level up

[Outro]
Ooh, I will be alright
Ooh, I will live my life
Ooh, I will be alright
Ooh, I will live my life

KENDRICK LAMAR – The Heart Part 4 lyrics

Don’t tell a lie on me
I won’t tell the truth ’bout you
Don’t tell a lie on me
I won’t tell the truth ’bout you

30 millions later, my future favors
The legendary status of a hip-hop rhyme savior
Travel round the atlas in this spaceship candy-coated
My day shift’s been devoted to fuckin’ up bundles of paper
Pi equals 3.14
The devil’s pie is big enough to justify the whole thing
Wait up
Lampin’ in Jamaica, the cloud’s turnin’, my thought’s turnin’
Burnin’ castor oil, I been determined to make an earnin’
This seed in this soil is classified
I’m satisfied when I strategize my kid’s future
I ain’t sanctified enough to say that I won’t shoot ya
I done vandalized the industry full circuit
The earthiest slash thirstiest nigga you know versus this
Scum of a land that transcends two surfaces
The richer the poorer, the bigger the picture
The more blood pours, but…

Don’t tell a lie on me
I won’t tell the truth ’bout you
Don’t tell a lie on me
I won’t tell the truth ’bout you

My fans can’t wait for me to son ya punk ass and crush your whole lil shit
I’ll Big Pun ya punk ass, you a scared little bitch
Tiptoein’ around my name, nigga ya lame
And when I get at you homie don’t you just tell me you was just playin’
Oh I was just playin’ with you K-Dot, c’mon
You know a nigga rock with you, bro
Shut the fuck up, you sound like the last nigga I know
Might end up like the last nigga I know
Oh you don’t wanna clash? Nigga, I know
I put my foot on the gas, head on the floor
Hoppin’ out before the vehicle crash, I’m on a roll
Yellin’, “1, 2, 3, 4, 5
I am the greatest rapper alive”
So damn great motherfucker I’ve died
What you hearin’ now is a paranormal vibe
House on the hill, house on the beach nigga (facts)
A condo in Compton, I’m still in reach nigga (facts)
I’m fresh out the water I’m ’bout to breach nigga
The five foot giant woke up out of his sleep nigga
Oh yeah, oh yeah, more cars, more leers
More bars, no peers, no scars, no fear, fuck y’all, sincere
I heard the whispers, I curved the whispers, you know what the risk is
Earth indigenous, ya body reverting to stiffness
The whole world goin’ mad
Bodies is adding up, market’s about to crash
Niggas is fake rich, bitches is fake bad
Blacks that act white, Whites that do the dab
Donald Trump is a chump, know how we feel, punk
Tell ’em that God comin’
And Russia need a replay button, y’all up to somethin’
Electorial votes look like memorial votes
But America’s truth ain’t ignorin’ the votes
It’s blasphemy, how many gon’ blast for me?
I prophesied on my last song, you laughed at me
Oh when the shit get brackin’, don’t you ask for me
How many leaders gon’ tell you the truth after me?
G Malone big bro, kudos to him
I was 2 Os from an M, tryna be big as Em
30 millions later my future favors
The legendary status of a hip-hop rhyme savior
Salmon and capers, fame and lawsuits
You looking at me in Chucks, I’m looking at y’all suits
Me and Top Dawg playing rock, papers, scissors in court
And real hustler lose money just to go get some more
I said it’s like that, drop one classic, came right back
‘Nother classic, right back
My next album, the whole industry on the ice pack
With TOC
You see the flames and my E-Y-E’s
It’s not a game and the whole world is going mad, daddy
It’s sad, daddy
My only advice? Go and get you a bag daddy
Lee Baca, on trail tryin’ portray a boxer
Beatin’ up on my niggas while the COs watch ’em
Tables turn, lesson learned, my best look
You jumped sides on me, now you ’bout to meet Westbrook
Go celebrate with your team and let victory vouch you
Just know the next game played, I might slap the shit out you
Technical foul, I’m flagrant, I’m fouled
They throwin’ me out, you throwin’ the towel
Look at the crowd, they (nah, I don’t like that)
Look at my smile, I’m smirking
Calm but urgent (that ain’t the style, fuck)
So many verses, you live in denial (fuck)
So many verses, I never run out, what?
You making him nervous, the music is loud
Hoe, Jay Z Hall of Fame, sit your punk ass down (sit yo’ punk ass down)
So that means you ain’t bigger than rapping (what else?)
So that means no more playing the backseats (what else?)
My spot is solidified if you ask me (what else?)
My name is identified as “that king”
I’ll let y’all worry about a list, I’m on some other shit
A difference between accomplishments and astonishments
You know what time it is, ante up, this is in forever
Y’all got till April the 7th to get ya’ll shit together

Lets get it!
Look look, on foenem…

Kendrick Lamar – The Heart Part 4

[Chorus]
Don’t tell a lie on me
I won’t tell the truth ’bout you
Don’t tell a lie on me
I won’t tell the truth ’bout you

[Verse 1]
30 millions later, my future favors
The legendary status of a hip-hop rhyme savior
Travel round the atlas in this spaceship candy-coated
My day shift’s been devoted to fuckin’ up bundles of paper
Pi equals 3.14
The devil’s pie is big enough to justify the whole thing
Wait up
Lampin’ in Jamaica, the cloud’s turnin’, my thought’s turnin’
Burnin’ castor oil, I been determined to make an earnin’
This seed in this soil is classified
I’m satisfied when I strategize my kid’s future
I ain’t sanctified enough to say that I won’t shoot ya
I done vandalized the industry full circuit
The earthiest slash thirstiest nigga you know versus this
Scum of a land that transcend two surfaces
The richer the poorer, the bigger the picture
The more blood pours, but…

[Chorus]
Don’t tell a lie on me
I won’t tell the truth ’bout you
Don’t tell a lie on me
I won’t tell the truth ’bout you

[Verse 2]
My fans can’t wait for me to son ya punk ass and crush your whole lil shit
I’ll Big Pun ya punk ass, you a scared little bitch
Tiptoein’ around my name, nigga, ya lame
And when I get at you, homie, don’t you just tell me you was just playin’
Oh I was just playin’ with you K-Dot, c’mon
You know a nigga rock with you, bro
Shut the fuck up, you sound like the last nigga I know
Might end up like the last nigga I know
Oh, you don’t wanna clash? Nigga, I know
I put my foot on the gas, head on the floor
Hoppin’ out before the vehicle crash, I’m on a roll
Yellin’, "One, two, three, four, five
I am the greatest rapper alive"
So damn great, motherfucker, I’ve died
What you hearin’ now is a paranormal vibe
House on the hill, house on the beach, nigga (facts)
A condo in Compton, I’m still in reach, nigga (facts)
I’m fresh out the water I’m ’bout to breach, nigga
The five-foot giant woke up out of his sleep, nigga
Oh yeah, oh yeah, more cars, more leers
More bars, no peers, no scars, no fear, fuck y’all, sincere
I heard the whispers, I curved the whispers, you know what the risk is
Earth indigenous, ya body reverting to stiffness
The whole world goin’ mad
Bodies is adding up, market’s about to crash
Niggas is fake rich, bitches is fake bad
Blacks that act white, whites that do the dab
Donald Trump is a chump, know how we feel, punk
Tell ’em that God comin’
And Russia need a replay button, y’all up to somethin’
Electorial votes look like memorial votes
But America’s truth ain’t ignorin’ the votes
It’s blasphemy, how many gon’ blast for me?
I prophesied on my last song, you laughed at me
Oh, when the shit get brackin’, don’t you ask for me
How many leaders gon’ tell you the truth after me?
G Malone big bro, kudos to him
I was 2 Os from a M, tryna be big as Em
30 millions later my future favors
The legendary status of a hip-hop rhyme savior
Salmon and capers, fame and lawsuits
You looking at me in Chucks, I’m looking at y’all suits
Me and Top Dawg playing rock-paper-scissors in court
And real hustler lose money just to go get some more
I said it’s like that, drop one classic, came right back
‘Nother classic, right back
My next album, the whole industry on the ice pack
With TOC
You see the flames and my E-Y-E’s
It’s not a game and the whole world is going mad, daddy
It’s sad, daddy
My only advice? Go and get you a bag, daddy
Lee Baca, on trial tryna portray a boxer
Beatin’ up on my niggas while the COs watch ’em
Tables turned, lesson learned, my best look
You jumped sides on me, now you ’bout to meet Westbrook
Go celebrate with your team and let victory vouch you
Just know the next game played, I might slap the shit out you
Technical foul, I’m flagrant, I’m foul
They throwin’ me out, you throw in the towel
Look at the crowd, they (Nah, I don’t like that)
Look at my smile, I’m smirking
Calm but urgent (That ain’t the style, fuck)
So many verses, you live in denial (Fuck)
So many verses, I never run out, what?
You making him nervous, the music is loud
Hoe, Jay Z Hall of Fame, sit your punk ass down (Sit yo’ punk ass down)
So that means you ain’t bigger than rapping (What else?)
So that means no more playing the backseats (What else?)
My spot is solidified if you ask me (What else?)
My name is identified as "that king"
I’ll let y’all worry about a list, I’m on some other shit
A difference between accomplishments and astonishments
You know what time it is, ante up, this is in forever
Y’all got ’til April the 7th to get ya’ll shit together

[Outro]
Let’s get it!
Look look, on foenem

RICK ROSS – Apple Of My Eye lyrics

Just being somebody that the neighborhood respected
And my mama could be proud of, was the apple of my eye
That’s all I ever wanted, just to being something man
At that point what else can you ask for?

Tears running out of a nigga face
In a room full of failures I feel out of place
Still sleeping on the floor when you deserve better
Got you reeking through the cold even in warm weather
I told Meek I wouldn’t trust Nicki, instead of beefing with your dog you just give him some distance
We all make mistakes, lets not be to specific
You rather be a killer than be statistic
An never fold no I never ran
On my soul I’ll roll like an avalanche
I thank the lord I got some great friends
That’s why every bottle I open I say amen
Just had seizure at the Super Bowl
Woke up in the third quarter looking for the smoke
If its more then a quarter million, Ill count it twice
Poochie broke my heart shit I call it life
An never will I call it rite
Not perfect but I’m the one you would call at night
Traveling the world, I’m just reppin’ my city
But rarely do I hear that this nigga done did it
When niggas in fatigues will keep you intrigued
Cause the loss of lifes the only thing that niggas believe
So I pray you listen carefully
Then I become another muthafuckin’ casualty

Always speak and say right
I just never ever walk on by
(never ever walk on by)
You even stop and put one in the sky
(the sky)
You do it for the love of you and I
(for the love of you and..)

Standin’ on your block but you so out of place
Uncle on the couch, momma running out of space
Lights off so you never tend to speak much
Go your separate ways every time the lease up
A fat ugly nigga thought I’d never be nothing
Another tree stump, happy with his free lunch
Duckin’ pigeons, I’m an eagle on a sunny day
Flap my wings once a week, pray I glide safe
I want fried chicken at my funeral
Rolls Royces, dope boys, Sway interviews
Everybody dying for the same things
Cop kill a nigga don’t nobody gangbang
I’m happy Donald Trump became the president
Because we gotta destroy, before we elevate
Real shit, look at me inside the white house
With a pocket full of weed inside the white house
Dead presidents tattooed on a nigga chest
U.S. treasury addressing me, mad at my address
Own the biggest residential pool is the US
Drake and Kanye can invite every bitch they ever met
Finger fuckin’ bitches in the holy water
Then I go an tell what happened to my only daughter
So her daddy told it to her firsthand
Never perfect but its not just bout them purses

Always speak and say right
I just never ever walk on by
(never ever walk on by)
You even stop and put one in the sky
(the sky)
You do it for the love of you and I
(yeah)

The streets could never teach me
All the things I got from you
I found myself in the wrong lane
And I ended up in pain (Pain)
I was strolling down a dark street
When this girl passed me by
She said you’ve always been a good friend
(Always been a good friend)
And you never never never let me down
I’ll just fall back never turn back
Let it go let it go
I’ll just fall back never turn back
Let it go let it go

Always speak and say right
I just never ever walk on by
(never ever walk on by)
You even stop and put one in the sky
(the sky)
You do it for the love of you and I
(for the love of you and I)