Iran slams new US sanctions, says they mean 'end of diplomacy'

Agencies
June 25, 2019

Tehran, Jun 25: Iran on Tuesday slammed the Trump administration over new US sanctions targeting the Islamic Republic’s supreme leader and other top officials, with the Foreign Ministry saying the measures spell “permanent closure” of diplomacy between Tehran and Washington.

President Donald Trump enacted the new sanctions on Monday against Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and his associates. US officials also said they plan sanctions against Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.

Iran’s state-run IRNA news agency on Tuesday quoted Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi as saying that Trump’s move means the end of diplomacy between the two countries.

“The fruitless sanctions on Iran’s leadership and the chief of Iranian diplomacy mean the permanent closure of the road of diplomacy with the frustrated US administration,” Mousavi said.

Washington said the measures were taken to discourage Tehran from developing nuclear weapons and supporting militant groups. This comes amid heightened tensions between Iran and the US over Tehran’s unraveling nuclear deal with world powers.

Mousavi’s statement echoed that of Iran’s UN ambassador, Majid Takht Ravanchi, who warned on Monday that the situation in the Persian Gulf is “very dangerous” and said any talks with the US are impossible in the face of escalating sanctions and intimidation. Meanwhile, the US envoy at the United Nations, Jonathan Cohen, said the Trump administration’s aim is to get Tehran back to negotiations.

The sanctions follow Iran’s downing last week of a US surveillance drone, worth over USD 100 million, over the Strait of Hormuz, an attack that sharply escalated the crisis in the Persian Gulf. After the downing of the drone, Trump pulled back from the brink of retaliatory military strikes but continued his pressure campaign against Iran.

Trump last year re-imposed sanction on Iran after pulling the US out of the nuclear pact that world powers made with Tehran in 2015. Other nations stayed in the deal, which eased sanctions on Iran in exchange for curbing its nuclear program.

The latest round of sanctions denies Khamenei and senior Iranian military figures access to financial resources and blocks their access to any financial assets they have under US jurisdiction.

Trump said the new sanctions are not only in response to the downing of the American drone. The US has blamed Iran for attacks on two oil tankers this month near the Strait of Hormuz. Citing those episodes and intelligence about other Iranian threats, the US has sent an aircraft carrier to the Persian Gulf region and deployed additional troops alongside the tens of thousands already there.

The sanctions were announced as US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was holding talks in the Middle East with officials in the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia about building a broad, global coalition that includes Asian and European countries to counter Iran. Pompeo is likely to face a tough sell in Europe and Asia, particularly from those nations still committed to the 2015 nuclear deal.

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Agencies
January 12,2021

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Washington, Jan 12: Four Americans have been killed as supporters of President Donald Trump stormed the US Capitol on Wednesday to stop Congress from certifying President-elect Joe Biden's victory in the November election.

A young woman was shot and killed by the police inside the building while three others died because of medical emergencies. 14 police officers were injured – two of whom remain hospitalized. 52 Trump supports were also arrested.

In a late night news conference, Metropolitan Police Department Chief Robert J. Contee declined to identify the woman a Capitol Police officer shot and killed, saying next of kin notification was still pending.

Contee also said 47 of the 52 arrests were related to violations of Mayor Muriel Bowser's 6 p.m. curfew, with 26 of those involving people arrested on US Capitol grounds.

The Capitol Police are now facing questions about why they did not do more to secure the Capitol and let many of the rioters later exit the building without arrests.

Washington DC mayor Muriel Bowser's Bowser said police intend to ask the public for help in identifying rioters, many of whom posed for photos inside the Capitol.

"We will be on the lookout," she said. "Some of them, we think ... have to be held accountable for the carnage."

The FBI also asked the public to submit tips, such as images, videos and other information to help agents identify people were "actively instigating violence" in the pro-Trump rally.

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Agencies
January 8,2021

President Donald Trump faced the threat on Thursday of a second impeachment, a day after his supporters breached the US Capitol in a stunning assault on American democracy as Congress was certifying President-elect Joe Biden’s victory.

As Democratic leaders demanded his ouster, Trump came closer than he ever has to a formal concession, acknowledging a new administration would be sworn in on Jan. 20 and vowing to ensure a “smooth transition” in a video released on Thursday evening.

The president condemned on Wednesday’s violence, saying rioters had defiled the seat of American democracy and must be held accountable.

Just a day earlier, Trump had told supporters: “We love you. You’re very special,” as he urged them to go home after they broke into the Capitol.

pic.twitter.com/csX07ZVWGe

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 8, 2021

In his remarks on Thursday, the president said: “We have just been through an intense election, and the emotions are high, but now tempers must be cooled and calm restored.

“We must get on with the business of America,” Trump, a Republican, added, adopting a conciliatory tone seldom seen from the mercurial president.

The statement was a stark reversal for Trump, who has spent months insisting he prevailed in the Nov. 3 election, alleging widespread fraud despite no evidence. As recently as Thursday morning, when he issued a statement via an aide, Trump was still claiming the election had been stolen.

In the video, he defended his efforts to challenge the election in court, saying his goal was to “ensure the integrity of the vote.”

Factfile on the US Capitol, home of the US legislature pic.twitter.com/qESCqXyt0V

— AFP News Agency (@AFP) January 8, 2021

But his exhortation on Wednesday to thousands of supporters that they march to the Capitol to protest the election results whipped up a mob that overran police officers and invaded the Capitol building, forcing members of Congress into hiding for their own safety.

The violence claimed four lives, including a woman among the demonstrators who was shot by authorities. After reports that a Capitol Police officer had died, the agency issued a statement saying they were inaccurate.

Hundreds of President Trump’s supporters converged on the Capitol, where bloody chaos ensued inside one of the most recognizable symbols of American democracy. Here’s how the events unfolded https://t.co/LZIsEwAjN5 pic.twitter.com/cbIwIzR3sq

— Reuters (@Reuters) January 8, 2021

The top Democrats in Congress, House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer, called on Vice President Mike Pence and Trump’s Cabinet to use the U.S. Constitution to remove Trump for “his incitement of insurrection.”

The 25th Amendment allows a majority of the Cabinet to remove a president from power if he is unable to discharge the duties of the office.

But a Pence adviser said the vice president, who would have to lead any such effort, was opposed to using the amendment to oust Trump from the White House.

New impeachment proceedings?

If Pence fails to act, Pelosi signaled she would likely reconvene the House to initiate impeachment proceedings against Trump for his role in Wednesday’s violence. House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler, whose committee would likely draft any articles of impeachment, voiced his support earlier on Thursday.

It was not clear whether House Democrats would have enough time to initiate and complete impeachment proceedings, with less than two weeks remaining in Trump’s term. Aides to Mitch McConnell, the Republican Senate leader, did not comment on the statement by Pelosi and Schumer.

The Democratic-led House impeached Trump in December 2019 after he pressured the president of Ukraine to investigate Biden, but the Republican-controlled Senate acquitted him of charges of abusing his power and obstructing Congress.

A handful of Republicans joined calls for Trump’s removal. The Wall Street Journal editorial page, seen as a leading voice of the Republican establishment, called on Trump to resign on Thursday evening.

Several members of Trump’s administration, including Elaine Chao, the transportation secretary and McConnell’s wife, resigned as a symbolic gesture against the violence.

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos also submitted her resignation, citing Trump’s rhetoric before the assault on the Capitol, the Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday night.

Congress formally certified Biden’s election victory early on Thursday, after authorities cleared the Capitol. More than half of House Republicans and eight Republican senators voted to challenge the election results, backing Trump.

Biden blamed Trump for the attack but stopped short of calling for his ouster.

“He unleashed an all-out assault on the institutions of our democracy from the outset. And yesterday was but the culmination of that unrelenting attack,” Biden said at a news conference to announce his selection for U.S. attorney general, federal appeals Judge Merrick Garland.

After Trump posted several messages about the demonstrations on Wednesday, Facebook Inc said it would ban Trump posts until Biden’s Jan. 20 inauguration. Twitter Inc suspended Trump’s account for 12 hours.

The president has increasingly isolated himself in the White House, relying on a small group of diehard loyalists and lashing out at Pence and others who dare to cross him, four sources said.

A source familiar with the situation said Trump in recent weeks had discussed the possibility of pardoning himself. The White House declined comment. Constitutional scholars have said it is unclear whether the presidential pardon power can be used in that way.

Trump faces potential state legal actions when he leaves office, including a criminal probe in New York, that would not be covered by a federal pardon.

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Agencies
January 6,2021

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New York, Jan 6: US President Donald Trump and his supporters prepared to make one final, already doomed effort on Wednesday to overturn Joe Biden's election when Congress will put its seal on his victory in the November election.

Members of both the Senate and the House of Representatives will meet in a joint session presided over by Vice President Mike Pence to count and certify the electoral college votes, while Trump's supporters and opponents faceoff elsewhere in Washington.

Trump was expected to speak to his supporters in a highly irregular and potentially incendiary move.

Claiming that there was widespread fraud, Trump and his staunchest supporters have refused to accept the result of the November 3 election and the verdict of the electoral college that voted Biden as president and Kamala Harris as vice president on December 14.

More than 50 legal challenges by them in courts at various levels have failed.

While the constitutionally-required joint sessions have been mostly routine affairs, this time a small group of Republicans led by Senator Ted Cruz have announced that they will challenge the decision of the electoral college during the joint session.

The move by Trump's Congressional supporters will split his Republican Party because most of its leaders like Mitch McConnel, who heads the party in the Senate, are against what will ultimately be a symbolic resistance.

McConnell has already acknowledged Biden's election saying last month, "Our country has, officially, a president-elect and a vice-president-elect. I want to congratulate President-Elect Joe Biden."

Even Pence has reportedly turned down Trump's public requests to reject the electoral college's election of Biden and his running mate Kamala Harris.

Trump tweeted on Tuesday that "the Vice President has the power to reject fraudulently chosen electors," although in reality he is not legally empowered to do so.

Earlier on Monday, he told a rally in Georgia state, "I hope that our great vice president... comes through for us."

In what sounded like a warning, he added, "Of course, if he doesn't come through, I won't like him quite as much."

Pence met Trump on Tuesday, but several media reports quoting anonymous sources said to be close to him reported that he would follow the constitution and not interfere with the election.

The US presidential elections are conducted indirectly with the voters electing members of the electoral college who would vote for president.

Biden won 306 electoral college votes, in addition to getting 81.2 million popular votes to Trump's 232 electoral college votes and 74.2 million popular votes.

Trump won the 2016 election by getting a majority in the electoral college, where the votes allocated to proportionately to states, despite Hillary Clinton getting more popular votes.

When Trump's supporters challenge the electoral college votes, the Senate and the House will go into separate sessions to hear the objections and vote on them before reconvening jointly.

The effort is certain to fail because Democrats have a majority in the House and in the Senate, where the Republicans have a lead now, most members of the party have opposed the challenge.

Trump's supporters plan to challenge the votes of electors from states like Pennsylvania, where Trump has alleged there was massive fraud -- a claim not sustained by courts.

Democrats and Republicans opposed to Trump see the challenge to the electoral college verdict as a threat to democracy itself asserting that it would contribute to delegitimising the election process.

A bipartisan group of ten senators, including four Republicans said that "further attempts to cast doubt on the legitimacy of the 2020 Presidential election" will "only serve to undermine Americans' confidence in the already determined election results."

While Trump and many of his supporters probably realise their efforts are futile, for them it is a payback to the Democrats who tried to deligitimise Trump's election by claiming that he collaborated with the Russians to get elected -- a claim disproved by a commission of inquiry.

When Trump's election had to be certified in 2017 by Congress, some Democrats objected initially but did not persist in their opposition and the joint session presided by then-Vice President Biden endorsed Trump's victory.

Two Democrats objected to Republican George W. Bush's re-election by the electoral college in 2005 forcing the Senate and House to meet separately to vote down the objection and endorse his election at the resumed joint session.

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