Iran Envoy: ‘All-out War’ to Result if Hit for Saudi Attack

Any attack on Iran by the U.S. or Saudi Arabia will spark an “all-out war,” Tehran’s top diplomat warned Thursday, raising the stakes as Washington and Riyadh weigh a response to a drone-and-missile strike on the kingdom’s oil industry that shook global energy markets.

The comments by Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif represented the starkest warning yet by Iran in a long summer of mysterious attacks and incidents following the collapse of Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, more than a year after President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew the U.S. from the accord.

They appeared to be aimed directly at U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who while on a trip to the region earlier referred to Saturday’s attack in Saudi Arabia as an “act of war.”

Along with the sharp language, however, there also were signals from both sides of wanting to avoid a confrontation.

In his comments, Zarif sought to expose current strains between the Americans and the Saudis under Trump, who long has criticized U.S. wars in the Middle East.

Trump’s close relationship with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has been challenged by opponents following the killing of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi last year in the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul and the kingdom’s long, bloody war in Yemen. That country’s Houthi rebels claimed the oil field attack Saturday in Saudi Arabia, although the U.S. alleges Iran carried it out.

“I think it is important for the Saudi government to understand what they’re what they’re trying to achieve. Do they want to fight Iran until the last American soldier? Is that their aim?” Zarif asked in a CNN interview. “They can be assured that this won’t be the case … because Iran will defend itself.”

Asked by the broadcaster what would be the consequence of a U.S. or Saudi strike, Zarif bluntly said: “An all-out war.”

“I’m making a very serious statement that we don’t want war. We don’t want to engage in a military confrontation,” he said. “We believe that a military confrontation based on deception is awful.”

Zarif added: “We’ll have a lot of casualties, but we won’t blink to defend our territory.”

Pompeo, who was in the United Arab Emirates, dismissed Zarif’s remarks, saying: “I was here (doing) active diplomacy while the foreign minister of Iran is threatening all-out war to fight to the last American.”

Pompeo said he hoped Iran would choose a path toward peace, but he remained doubtful. He described “an enormous consensus in the region” that Iran carried out the attack.

“There are still those today who think, ‘Boy, if we just give Iran just a little bit more money they’ll become a peaceful nation,’” he said. “We can see that that does not work.”

Pompeo met Abu Dhabi’s powerful crown prince, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan. The UAE is a close ally of Saudi Arabia and joined the kingdom in its war with the Houthi rebels in Yemen. The 4-year-old war has killed tens of thousands of people and destroyed much of the country, with millions more driven from their homes and thrown into near starvation.

On Wednesday, Pompeo met with the Saudi crown prince in Jiddah about the attack on the kingdom’s crucial oil processing facility and oil field, which cut its oil production in half.

While Pompeo struck a hard line, Trump has been noncommittal on whether he would order U.S. military retaliation. He said separately Wednesday that he is moving to increase financial sanctions on Tehran over the attack, without elaborating. Iran already is subject to a crushing American sanctions program targeting its crucial oil industry.

The UAE said it had joined a U.S.-led coalition to protect waterways across the Middle East after the attack in Saudi Arabia.

The state-run WAM news agency quoted Salem al-Zaabi of the Emirati Foreign Ministry as saying the UAE joined the coalition to “ensure global energy security and the continued flow of energy supplies to the global economy.”

Saudi Arabia joined the coalition on Wednesday. Australia, Bahrain and the United Kingdom also are taking part.

The U.S. formed the coalition after attacks on oil tankers that Washington blamed on Tehran, as well as Iran’s seizure of tankers in the region. Iran denies being behind the tanker explosions, although the attacks came after Tehran threatened to stop oil exports from the Persian Gulf.

Iraq said it would not join the coalition. The government in Baghdad, which is allied with both Iran and the U.S., has tried to keep a neutral stance amid the tensions.

At a news conference Wednesday, the Saudis displayed broken and burned drones and pieces of a cruise missile that military spokesman Col. Turki Al-Malki identified as Iranian weapons collected after the attack. He also played surveillance video that he said showed a drone coming in from the north. Yemen is to the south of Saudi Arabia.

Eighteen drones and seven cruise missiles were launched in the assault, Al-Malki said, with three missiles failing to hit their targets. He said the cruise missiles had a range of 700 kilometers (435 miles), meaning they could not have been fired from inside Yemen. That opinion was shared by weapons experts who spoke to The Associated Press .

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian similarly was skeptical of the Houthi claim of responsibility.

“This is not very credible, relatively speaking,” he told CNews television. “But we sent our experts to have our own vision of things.”

Separately, a U.N. panel of experts on Yemen arrived in Saudi Arabia to investigate the attack, U.N. spokesman Farhan Haq said.

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Trumps Denies Improper ‘Promise’ to Foreign Leader

VOA National Security Correspondent Jeff Seldin contributed to this report.
 
WHITE HOUSE — U.S. President Donald Trump is uttering his oft-cited ‘Fake News’ accusation to rebut reports he made a ‘promise’ to a foreign leader that sparked an American intelligence official to file a whistleblower complaint.

“Is anybody dumb enough to believe that I would say something inappropriate with a foreign leader while on such a potentially ‘heavily populated’ call. I would only do what is right anyway, and only do good for the USA!” the president tweeted on Thursday.

Trump, who has frequently accused the U.S. intelligence community of being part of a ‘Deep State’ opposition to his presidency, said he is aware that “virtually anytime I speak on the phone to a foreign leader, I understand that there may be many people listening from various U.S. agencies, not to mention those from the other country itself. No problem!”

Another Fake News story out there – It never ends! Virtually anytime I speak on the phone to a foreign leader, I understand that there may be many people listening from various U.S. agencies, not to mention those from the other country itself. No problem!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 19, 2019

Trump’s comments came as the House intelligence committee held a closed-door session with Michael Atkinson, the U.S. intelligence community’s inspector general.

The Trump administration is declining to comment on reports that the whistleblower, whose identity has not been disclosed, is an intelligence officer detailed to the National Security Council and was authorized to listen in on the call or have access to its transcript.

Attorney Andrew Bakaj, a former CIA officer, who is “one of the top experts on these issues” and a national security whistleblower himself will represent the official, according to Mark Zaid who runs a Washington law firm specializing in national security.

Our Of Counsel, colleague & client @AndrewBakaj has been confirmed as attorney for #whistleblower. Andrew is one of the top experts on these issues & #natsec whistleblower himself. He authored @CIA‘s PPD-19/ICD 120 regs for CIA while at CIA OIG. https://t.co/LJQwfYYKj0

— Mark S. Zaid (@MarkSZaidEsq) September 19, 2019

Lawmakers are hoping to learn more details of the secret whistleblower complaint that has sparked a legal battle between lawmakers and the Trump administration.

Atkinson told lawmakers on Thursday he was unable to confirm or deny anything about the substance of the complaint, including whether it involved the president, reported the New York Times, attributing the information to people who spoke on condition of anonymity to describe the closed-door conversation.

Reporters wait outside of a closed hearing room while Intelligence Community Inspector General Michael Atkinson testifies on a whistleblower complaint, on Capitol Hill, in Washington, Sept. 19, 2019.

Atkinson’s testimony came the morning after the Washington Post reported the complaint involves communications between Trump and a foreign leader that mentioned a ‘promise.’

The Post says its report was based on two former U.S. officials familiar with the matter, but it is not clear which leader was in communication with Trump or what the president may have promised.

White House records indicate Trump spoke with at least five foreign leaders in the preceding five weeks before the reported August 12 date of the complaint when he was at his golf resort in Bedminster, New Jersey.

They are Russian President Vladimir Putin, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan, Netherlands’ Prime Minister Mark Rutte and Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al-Thani.

The complaint has triggered the latest tug of war between the executive and legislative branches of the U.S. government.

The acting director of national intelligence, Joseph Maguire, is scheduled to testify publicly on September 26 before the House Intelligence Committee, but he is declining, so far, to provide details of the complaint to lawmakers. A lawyer for Maguire’s office says the allegation in the complaint does not meet the “urgent concern” standard.

FILE – House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, a Democrat, speaks during a hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, July 24, 2019.

If the inspector general said the complaint is “urgent,” then it cannot wait, according to the committee’s chairman, Adam Schiff, who added that “someone is trying to manipulate the system” to keep information from the lawmakers.

This “likely involves either the president or people around him,” said Schiff.

The “law is written very clearly” on how to handle whistleblowers, according to the congressman, pushing back on the administration’s claim of privilege preventing relevant lawmakers from seeing the complaint.

His committee wants “to make sure national security is protected and this whistleblower is protected,” added Schiff. “If this whistleblower is not protected, then no whistleblower is protected.”
 
“I obviously trust the judgement” of Schiff, replied House Speaker Nancy Pelosi when asked on Thursday about the matter.

Senator Mark Warner said Thursday he and Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr “have made it very clear” that they expect Maguire and Atkinson to testify and “clear this issue up.”

Warner added that “you cannot end up with some circumstance where you have got a whistleblower muzzled.”

 

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Sanders Still Wants a Revolution, But Now He’s Got Company

Bernie Sanders is still leading a revolution. But his ideas no longer feel quite so revolutionary.

The Vermont senator acknowledges that many of his top proposals, which were dismissed as radical four years ago, have been adopted by much of the crowded 2020 Democratic presidential primary field: “Medicare for All,” tuition-free college, spending trillions to combat climate change and a national $15 per hour minimum wage. But he’s out to prove that his second presidential campaign is still about fresh energy and ideas even if its refrains now sound familiar.

“Not only can I lead it, I think I am the person to lead it,” Sanders said in an interview at a plumbers and pipefitters union hall in Las Vegas, when asked if he could helm a revolution when so many of his presidential rivals agree with him.

“What we need to do is to look at somebody who four years ago had the courage to break new ground in this country,” he added. “We’re continuing to break new ground today.”

But there are signs that may not be enough. The campaign is restructuring its staff in key early voting states as the 78-year-old Sanders faces crosscurrents that weren’t in play four years ago. No longer the sole progressive alternative to an overwhelming favorite in Hillary Clinton, Sanders is one of several candidates making explicit appeals to the party’s left wing. This time, his rivals have taken him seriously from the start, a sign of his name recognition but also a status that subjects Sanders to more scrutiny and criticism than at this stage of the 2016 campaign.

And some of Sanders’ younger competitors are calling for generational change, an issue that could resonate because of questions raised about the readiness for the presidency of another senior candidate, 76-year-old former Vice President Joe Biden.

FILE – Supporters wave signs in support of Democratic presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders, as he speaks during a campaign rally in Denver, Colorado, Sept. 9, 2019.

Not all Democrats have embraced Sanders’ core principles. Kamala Harris is a co-sponsor of his Medicare for All legislation, but the California senator now says she doesn’t favor its call to scrap all private health insurance. Biden, the early front-runner in the primary, has repeatedly hammered Sanders over the plan’s costs.

Few candidates line up more closely with Sanders than Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren. While they don’t agree on everything, Warren is such a fan of Medicare for All that she’s repeatedly declared, “I’m with Bernie,” when it comes to health care.

Because they agree on so much, Warren is becoming a growing threat to Sanders. She packed tens of thousands of supporters into New York’s Washington Square Park on Monday, harkening back to Sanders’ success in attracting massive 2016 crowds. On the same day, she picked up an endorsement from the progressive Working Families Party, which backed Sanders’ first campaign.

A national NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll released Tuesday found Warren leading Sanders among Democratic primary voters 25% to 14%. Biden still came out on top at 31%. Sanders is in second behind Biden in other national and early state surveys.

Sanders is working to fortify his campaign, recently parting ways with his political director in Iowa, which holds the nation’s first caucus, and replacing his state director in New Hampshire, a state critical to Sanders’ efforts given his landslide primary victory there in 2016.

“They have some challenges,” Brian Fallon, who was chief spokesman for Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign, said of Sanders’ team. “In a binary race, there were a lot of people who united around an alternative to Clinton. There continue to be true blue Bernie supporters and that probably gives him the most stubborn floor of support of any candidate, but those numbers are smaller. The non-establishment vote is spread around.”

Sanders rejected the notion that the primary may eventually force liberal Democrats to choose between him and Warren, saying, “I think that Sen. Warren, who is a friend of mine, is running her campaign. We are running our campaign.”

FILE – Democratic Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren participate in the first of two Democratic presidential primary debates hosted by CNN, at the Fox Theatre in Detroit, Michigan, July 30, 2019.

Warren has similarly praised her longtime friendship with Sanders rather than answer questions about whether a showdown is coming.

Still, there are questions about how long the holding pattern can last. On Sunday, Sanders will travel to Oklahoma, where he’ll attend a Comanche Nation Fair Powwow. While he’s not expected to directly talk about Warren, the trip will take Sanders to her native state a month after she apologized to Native Americans over her past claim to tribal heritage. Sanders has also gotten more aggressive with Biden lately, ticking through a list of the former vice president’s unpopular votes while he was in the Senate — including supporting the Wall Street bank bailout.

With just over four months before primary voting begins, Sanders said he doesn’t believe anyone in so crowded a field will carry states with 50% of the vote.

“So the question is, who is going to get the 30, 35, 40% of the vote that you need to carry the states?” he said. “I think that because of our strong grassroots movement we are in a strong position to do that.”

Sanders’ advisers, meanwhile, argue that his appeal now goes beyond political insurgency, noting that he campaigned hard for Clinton after the 2016 primary and that he has begun working more closely with state parties this cycle, trying to build support through traditional channels.

Fallon also noted that Sanders has been ahead of many of his rivals on things like joining striking McDonald’s workers in Iowa — giving him revolutionary political cred that rises above policy overlap with other candidates.

“With the Bernie crowd, that’s the space to say, `Don’t settle for imitators,”’ Fallon said.

A lot of Sanders’ central message remains the same, though, and still appeals to voters.

“I think I’ve heard a lot of what he’s said already,” said Alejandro Hernandez Jr., a 23-year-old federal employee who saw Sanders at a recent Latino issues forum in Las Vegas. “But just to see his actual energy and presence, the way he commands the room and really the elegance with which he speaks, it’s truly impressive.”

 

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Trump Cancels California’s Auto Pollution Rules 

The state that made smog famous is losing its half-century-old authority to set air pollution rules. 
 
President Donald Trump announced Wednesday on Twitter that the Environmental Protection Agency was withdrawing California’s authority to issue stricter vehicle efficiency rules than the federal government. 
 
The move was the latest in the administration’s efforts to loosen regulations aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions. 
 
Thirteen states and the District of Columbia follow California’s standards. Together, they account for a third of auto sales in the United States. 
 
‘Devastating consequences’

California has pledged to fight the decision. 
 
“It’s a move that could have devastating consequences for our kids’ health and the air we breathe if California were to roll over,” California Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, said in a statement. “But we will fight this latest attempt and defend our clean car standards.” 
 
Trump tweeted that the administration was revoking California’s air pollution prerogative “in order to produce far less expensive cars for the consumer, while at the same time making the cars substantially SAFER.” 
 
Opponents said the action was illegal and unwise. 
 
“It slams the brakes on technological advancement and throws a wrench into states’ ability to deal with air pollution and confront the growing risk of climate change,” Ken Kimmell, president of the Union of Concerned Scientists, said in a statement. “It’s yet another way the administration is defying science, the law and democratic norms to enable increased pollution.” 
 

FILE – Vehicles make their way west on Interstate 80 across the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge as seen from Treasure Island in San Francisco, Dec. 10, 2015.

Led the way 
 
California has set its own air pollution rules since the late 1960s. Responding to eye-watering smog in Los Angeles, the state issued the nation’s first vehicle air pollution rules in 1966. When the 1970 Clean Air Act was passed, the state was allowed to request waivers to issue stricter standards than the federal government’s. 
 
The EPA has approved more than 100 such waivers, according to the California Air Resources Board. None has been revoked. It’s not clear if the EPA has the authority to take back a waiver once it has been issued, according to Richard Revesz, director of New York University School of Law’s Institute for Policy Integrity. 
 
“This attempt to revoke California’s authority has no legal basis, and it is an affront to the well-established rights of California and more than a dozen other states,” he said in a statement. 
 
Nationwide standards 
 
Revoking California’s waiver is the first salvo in an attempt to lower vehicle efficiency standards nationwide. 
 
During the Obama administration,  the EPA required auto manufacturers’ fleets to average 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025.  The Trump administration plans to lower the standard to 37 mpg for model years 2021 to 2026. 
 
Automakers initially came to the administration asking for relief from the Obama administration’s vehicle efficiency standards. But several major manufacturers have switched sides. Ford, Volkswagen of America, Honda and BMW signed an agreement with California to follow the state’s efficiency rules.

FILE – An electric bus produced by China’s BYD Co. is parked at the announcement of the opening of an electric bus manufacturing plant in Lancaster, Calif., May 1, 2013.

Other regulations targeted
 
The Trump administration is working to undo climate regulations across the board. The EPA has loosened rules for carbon dioxide emissions from power plants and weakened emissions restrictions from oil and gas drilling of methane. The Department of Energy is relaxing efficiency rules for light bulbs. These rollbacks and others face court challenges. 
 
The Trump administration is rescinding permission California received in 2013 for programs that lower vehicle greenhouse gas emissions and mandate zero-emissions vehicles. 
 
The EPA says California does not need the waiver because these rules “address environmental problems that are not particular or unique to California.”

Lower costs predicted
 
The administration says revoking California’s waiver will lower costs for consumers and make newer, safer cars more affordable.  

FILE – Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Andrew Wheeler speaks at a news conference in Washington, Sept. 12, 2019.

EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler told the National Automobile Dealers Association on Tuesday that automakers have to sell more electric vehicles in order to meet the higher efficiency standards. EVs cost more to manufacture but are less popular than conventional vehicles, he said. 
 
“One way for automakers to meet the standards is to lower the price of electric vehicles and raise the price of other, more popular vehicles, such as SUVs and trucks,” Wheeler said. “In other words, American families are paying more for SUVs and trucks so automakers can sell EVs at a cheaper price.” 
 
Environmental and consumer groups note that drivers spend less on gas under California’s standards. 
 
“The existing standards will save drivers money at the pump, cut hazardous air pollution and help us address climate change,” Luke Tonachel, director for clean vehicles and fuels at the Natural Resources Defense Council, said in a statement. “Cleaner, more efficient cars are cheaper to own because the fuel savings dwarf any initial expense.” 

Safety measure                               
 
The administration also says lowering vehicle costs will save hundreds of lives per year because it will be easier for people to buy newer, safer cars, a claim opponents question. 
 
“Pretending that automakers cannot make cars that are both safe and efficient is ridiculous,” Tonachel said. 

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Trump Names Robert O’Brien as New National Security Adviser

VOA National Security Correspondent Jeff Seldin contributed to this report.

President Donald Trump has named Robert O’Brien as his new National Security Adviser, replacing John Bolton who was fired last week.

“I am pleased to announce that I will name Robert C. O’Brien, currently serving as the very successful Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs at the State Department, as our new National Security Advisor. I have worked long & hard with Robert. He will do a great job!,” Trump said on Twitter Wednesday.

I am pleased to announce that I will name Robert C. O’Brien, currently serving as the very successful Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs at the State Department, as our new National Security Advisor. I have worked long & hard with Robert. He will do a great job!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 18, 2019

Trump said Bolton had been a “disaster” on North Korea policy, “out of line” on Venezuela, and did not get along with important administration officials.

O’Brien, Trump’s fourth national security adviser, was chosen from a list of five candidates.

He was selected after having collaborated with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on a number of hostage situations.

“It’s a privilege to serve with the president,” O’Brien said to reporters as he stood alongside Trump, who was on a campaign fundraising trip to California.

O’Brien’s appointment comes as Trump is confronted with multiple crises in the Middle East, including weekend attacks on Saudi oil facilities, and efforts to help negotiate peace agreements in Afghanistan and the Taliban, and between the Israelis and Palestinians.

The administration is also struggling with how to deal with an increasingly aggressive Iranian regime, the target of new sanctions Trump announced just moments before tweeting about O’Brien’s appointment.  

“Any advice I give the president would be something I give him confidentially,” O’Brien said in response to a reporter’s question about Iran and Saudi Arabia.

In his State Department position, which he held since May 2018, O’Brien worked closely with families of American hostages, and advised the administration on hostage issues. He previously helped lead the agency’s initiative for justice reform in Afghanistan during the administrations of George W. Bush and Barack Obama.

Trump sent O’Brien to Sweden earlier this year to monitor the criminal case against American recording artist A$AP Rocky, who was found guilty of assault in August. O’Brien’s presence in Stockholm drew criticism from critics who believed Trump had inappropriately intervened in the legal affairs of an allied nation.

In 2005, Bush nominated O’Brien to be U.S. Representative to the U.N. General Assembly, where he worked with Bolton.  At the time, Bolton was U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.

O’Brien has also served as an adviser to the Republican presidential campaigns of former Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas.

O’Brien was a major in the U.S. Army Reserve. After graduating from the University of California-Berkeley School of Law, he founded a law firm in California that focused on international arbitration issues.

Larry Pfeiffer, director of the Michael V. Hayden Center for Intelligence, Policy and International Security at George Mason University, told VOA he does not know O’Brien but notes “(O’Brien) doesn’t have the depth of national security experience of any of his recent predecessors.”

“He seems to be a thoughtful man who loves his country, but who likely just took the first step towards an early return to his successful law practice, if the president’s history with national security advisers is telling,” Pfeiffer added.

As national security adviser, O’Brien will be the highest-ranking Mormon in the U.S. government, a notable development for a church that has shown some wariness of Trump. The religious community is also expected to be a significant voting demographic in certain states in the 2020 presidential election.

 

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Polarized Politics Deepen Divide Over Who Is a ‘Real’ American

In the United States, the growing political divide along ethnic lines, along with President Donald Trump’s race-related rhetoric, are renewing debate over what it means to be an American.  

The growing divide and rising ethnic tensions come amid a time of rapid demographic change in the country.  White European-Americans are projected to lose their majority status by 2045, to be eclipsed by the growing populations of Hispanic Americans, African Americans, and Asian Americans.  

“Demographic shifts are certainly fueling animosity but it’s more about, in essence, white people feeling they’re losing control of their country,” said Andre Perry, a scholar and commentator on issues of race, structural inequality and education at both the Brookings Institution and American University in Washington.

Former President Barack Obama seemed to foreshadow a new demographic alignment in the U.S. when he won two decisive election victories in 2008 and 2012, with surging support from minority voters, in addition to winning over large numbers working class whites, traditionally affiliated with the Democratic Party. 

Immigration rhetoric

Many of those same Democrats switched in 2016 to help elect Donald Trump as president, however, galvanized in key battleground states to support the head of the Republican ticket in part because he made illegal immigration a key campaign issue.   

Trump, his critics say, also stoked ethnic tensions by engaging in racially charged rhetoric, referring to undocumented Mexican immigrants as criminals and calling for a “total and complete” immigration ban on all Muslims following a terrorist attack in San Bernardino, California, that was carried out by a Pakistani-born immigrant.

While in office, the president has continued to single out minority groups for criticism. Trump denounced African American football players for kneeling during the national anthem to protest police brutality and inequality in the country. He refused to strongly condemn a neo-Nazi and white nationalist demonstration in Charlottesville, Virginia, that turned violent. And he questioned the loyalty to the country of two Muslim American congresswomen who a support a boycott movement against U.S. ally Israel over its occupation of Palestinian territories.

Trump’s defenders dismiss charges of racism against the president. They say Trump’s political strategy is to tie the Democratic Party to what he sees as its most unpopular issues and divisive leaders, adding that Trump’s reflex is to fiercely attack all critics.

“President Trump, I think is an equal opportunity insulter. Anybody who raises his ire or criticizes him is liable to be insulted regardless of race, creed, color, or ethnic origin,” said Michael Barone, a conservative political analyst with the American Enterprise Institute in Washington.

Real American 

The president’s critics worry that the promise of the American dream, where all immigrants can assimilate into a diverse cultural melting pot, is today complicated by questions of loyalty, legality and racism.

They say Trump’s tough talk, and his restrictive policies of severely reducing immigration from Muslim majority countries and accelerating deportations of undocumented Hispanic immigrants, are tainting entire ethnic groups in the U.S. as being un-American. The detractors worry that’s a way to gain political advantage.

“At the end of the day, we know that people are using racism as a way to gain power and resources for the privilege of some and burden of others,” said Perry. 

Amid Trump’s attacks against minority critics, including tweeting that four Congresswomen of color should “go back” to the “places from which they came,” there are growing reports of ethnic minorities being criticized in public spaces for not speaking English and being told to go back to the country from which they came.  

Assimilation qualms 

But in this highly polarized environment, some Trump supporters also have been confronted by angry critics of the president. 

Also, immigration skeptics say it is valid to raise concerns about undocumented immigrants who do not learn English, or about alarming reports that in the Muslim-American community in Minnesota, a number of Somali-Americans left to joined the Somalia-based Islamic insurgency, al-Shabab.

“I think that people have qualms about illegal immigrants, which is understandable. And people also have some qualms that our assimilation institutions are not working as well as they did a century ago,” said Barone.

Past waves of immigrants in the 19th and 20th centuries from Germany, Italy, and Ireland also experienced hostility and negative stereotypes similar to what Hispanics and Muslims face today. Just a few generations ago, many questioned whether Catholics were more loyal to the Pope than to their newly adopted country. 

While immigration today has become a highly politicized issue, critics and advocates generally agree that immigrants from all over the world can become fully assimilated. 

It can take generations to fully integrate into society, though, and ultimately minority groups have to learn how to exercise political power in the American democratic system before they can achieve equal status.

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EPA Set to End California’s Ability to Regulate Fuel Economy

The Trump administration is poised to revoke California’s authority to set auto mileage standards, asserting that only the federal government has the power to regulate greenhouse gas emissions and fuel economy.

Conservative and free-market groups have been asked to attend a formal announcement of the rollback set for Wednesday afternoon at Environmental Protection Agency headquarters in Washington.

Gloria Bergquist, spokeswoman for the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, said Tuesday that her group was among those invited to the event featuring EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler and Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao.

The move comes after the Justice Department recently opened an antitrust investigation into a deal between California and four automakers for tougher pollution and related mileage requirements than those sought by President Donald Trump. Trump also has sought to relax Obama-era federal mileage standards nationwide, weakening a key effort by his Democratic predecessor to slow climate change.

Top California officials and environmental groups pledged legal action to stop the rollback.

The White House declined to comment Tuesday, referring questions to EPA. EPA’s press office did not respond to a phone message and email seeking comment.

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Andrew Wheeler speaks at a news conference in Washington, Sept. 12, 2019.

But EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler told the National Automobile Dealers Association on Tuesday that the Trump administration would move “in the very near future” to take steps toward establishing one nationwide set of fuel-economy standards.

“We embrace federalism and the role of the states, but federalism does not mean that one state can dictate standards for the nation,” he said, adding that higher fuel economy standards would hurt consumers by increasing the average sticker price of new cars and requiring automakers to produce more electric vehicles.

Word of the pending announcement came as Trump traveled to California on Tuesday for an overnight trip that includes GOP fundraising events near San Francisco, Los Angeles and San Diego.

California’s authority to set its own, tougher emissions standards goes back to a waiver issued by Congress during passage of the Clean Air Act in 1970. The state has long pushed automakers to adopt more fuel-efficient passenger vehicles that emit less pollution. A dozen states and the District of Columbia also follow California’s fuel economy standards.

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said Tuesday that the Trump administration’s action will hurt both U.S. automakers and American families. He said California would fight the administration in federal court.

“You have no basis and no authority to pull this waiver,” Becerra, a Democrat, said in a statement, referring to Trump. “We’re ready to fight for a future that you seem unable to comprehend.”

FILE – California Gov. Gavin Newsom addresses a news conference in Sacramento, July 23, 2019.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom said the White House “has abdicated its responsibility to the rest of the world on cutting emissions and fighting global warming.”

“California won’t ever wait for permission from Washington to protect the health and safety of children and families,” said Newsom, a Democrat.

The deal struck in July between California and four of the world’s largest automakers — Ford, Honda, BMW and Volkswagen — bypassed the Trump administration’s plan to freeze emissions and fuel economy standards adopted under Obama at 2021 levels.

The four automakers agreed with California to reduce emissions by 3.7% per year starting with the 2022 model year, through 2026. That compares with 4.7% yearly reductions through 2025 under the Obama standards. Emissions standards are closely linked with fuel economy requirements because vehicles pollute less if they burn fewer gallons of fuel.

The U.S. transportation sector is the nation’s biggest single source of planet-warming greenhouse gasses.

Wheeler said Tuesday: “California will be able to keep in place and enforce programs to address smog and other forms of air pollution caused by motor vehicles.” But fuel economy has been one of the key regulatory tools the state has used to reduce harmful emissions.

Environmentalists condemned the Trump administration’s expected announcement, which comes as gasoline prices have crept higher following a weekend drone attack that hobbled Saudi Arabian oil output.

“Everyone wins when we adopt strong clean car standards as our public policy,” said Fred Krupp, president of Environmental Defense Fund. “Strong clean car standards give us healthier air to breathe, help protect us from the urgent threat of climate change and save Americans hundreds of dollars a year in gas expenses.”
 

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At Philadelphia Rally, Andrew Yang Casts Himself as Underdog

Andrew Yang, the entrepreneur-turned-presidential candidate, jogged onto the Philadelphia Art Museum steps made famous by Sylvester Stallone in “Rocky” on Tuesday, fully embracing the underdog plot of his campaign.

Instead of a grey sweatsuit, Yang sported a blue jacket and ball cap, declaring at his rally that he is seeking the presidency to solve the nation’s problems. The biggest problem, Yang said, is “How the heck did Donald Trump become our president?”

“I am not a politician. I’m a problem solver. I am an entrepreneur,” Yang said. “People will say to me all the time, ‘You don’t sound like any politician I’ve ever heard before,’ and they aren’t complaining.”

As Yang spoke, supporters waved signs that said “MATH” in bold white letters, as Yang has positioned himself as a data-driven candidate on a quest to Make America Think Harder. On Tuesday, Yang made a general-election pitch, saying he is one of the only candidates in the field who can attract a sizable share of Trump’s supporters and deliver Democrats the presidency.

But Yang’s pursuit of the presidency is perhaps improbable. Months after launching his campaign, Yang remains near the bottom of most national polls, but his campaign already has fared better than those of some of the more traditional candidates. Yang was one of 10 candidates to appear onstage at the last presidential debate. And his campaign has outlasted those of a sitting U.S. senator and a sitting governor.

His supporters say his candidacy provides a future-oriented platform that the sprawling Democratic field sorely needs.

“I think that we lost the last election worrying about who was going to win, and it came back to bite us,” said Alex Olson, 33, of Philadelphia. “I think you should support who you believe in. I think Andrew Yang is the best candidate by far. He’s the only person thinking outside of the box.”

“Nevertheless, Yang persisted”

As he waited for Yang to speak, Olson scrawled a handmade sign of support with the words “Nevertheless, Yang persisted.” That sign reflects a statement by Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader, in 2017 after Republican lawmakers voted to formally silence Sen. Elizabeth Warren — now a Democratic presidential candidate — as she was reading a 1986 letter from Coretta Scott King criticizing Sen. Jeff Sessions’ civil rights record.

Olson said he supported Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders in the 2016 presidential election, describing himself as “Bernie or Bust,” but believes Yang is a candidate for his generation.

“I mean, Yang wasn’t around,” he said when asked what changed his mind. “I love me some Bernie. I think that Yang is better.”

Yang has based his campaign around one central proposal: giving every American adult $1,000 a month — what Yang calls a “freedom dividend” — if he is elected president. The idea has gained traction and not just in Silicon Valley, where some prominent figures have expressed support. It also is being experimented with in some cities around the country.

During the presidential debate earlier this month in Houston, he said he would distribute those payments to 10 people for the next year. He has already been distributing $1,000-a-month payments to three families in Iowa, New Hampshire and Florida.

Online Raffle

On Monday, Yang’s campaign announced that he had raised $1 million in the 72 hours following the debate and had collected more than 450,000 email addresses from entrants to his online raffle. That $1 million influx positions Yang to best his second-quarter fundraising total of $2.8 million. The third fundraising quarter ends this month.

Still, Yang’s haul is likely to be dwarfed by top-tier candidates in the race, including former Vice President Joe Biden, Sanders and Warren.

Daniel Marzec, 31, of Philadelphia, said that after watching Yang in the debates, he’d decided to back Yang over his support for a universal basic income.

“We’re a city where we have the lowest per-capita income of any city of our size, and there’s not enough discussion about how much a community like West Philly would get every single month with the universal basic income. What that means over time, just that constant investment of resources,” he said.

 

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