McCain Again Takes on Trump Administration, Will Offer Afghan War Strategy

U.S. Senator John McCain was back in Arizona on Monday to begin treatment for brain cancer, but his situation did not stop him from again slamming the Trump administration for having “no strategy for success in Afghanistan” more than six months after the presidential inauguration.

“When the Senate takes up the National Defense Authorization Act in September, I will offer an amendment based on the advice of some our best military leaders that will provide a strategy for success in achieving America’s national interests in Afghanistan,” McCain, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said in a statement released Monday.

“Eight years of a ‘don’t lose’ strategy has cost us lives and treasure in Afghanistan,” the Republican added. “Our troops deserve better.”

Defense Secretary James Mattis had promised to deliver to Congress a strategy by mid-July, yet no finished strategy has materialized. The administration is still debating a plan that could send up to 5,000 more American troops to Afghanistan, where the U.S. has been fighting the Taliban since 2001.

your ad here

Trump to Travel to Promote Tax Overhaul Legislation

President Donald Trump, who has been criticized for not doing enough to help pass health care legislation, will do more traveling to try to drum up support for tax legislation, a senior White House aide said on Monday.

Specifically, Trump could travel to some Midwest states like Michigan and Wisconsin that he won during the 2016 presidential campaign but are still represented by Democrats in Congress.

“In terms of travel, I think you will see him out there more … in the states where we need votes,” said Marc Short, the White House’s legislative liaison.

The Republican effort to repeal Obamacare failed in the Senate last week, leaving party leaders looking ahead to try to tackle an overhaul of the tax code. But it has also left many questioning how taxes will be different, especially if Trump, who suffers from low national approval ratings, does not become more actively involved in pushing for the bill.

Short said that unlike the health care, which he called more complicated, the White House has been working to build support for tax reform among national groups aligned with their ideology.

His remarks came at a tax panel discussion sponsored by Americans for Prosperity, a group funded by Republican donors Charles and David Koch that organizes supporters across the country to contact their members of Congress in favor of conservative legislation.

Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, speaking on the same panel, echoed his remarks.

“The message is [tax reform] may not be perfect for everything you want, but it’s going to be really really good for the economy and better than what we have,” Mnuchin said.

your ad here

US Sanctions Maduro After ‘Illegitimate’ Vote

The United States has imposed sanctions on Venezuela’s president, Nicolas Maduro, over what it called his “illegitimate” election of an assembly to rewrite the constitution.

All of Maduro’s assets in the United States are frozen and Americans are forbidden from doing any business with him.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin announced the sanctions Monday in Washington, calling Maduro a “dictator” who ignores the will of the Venezuelan people.

“By sanctioning Maduro, the United States makes clear our opposition to the policies of his regime and our support for the people of Venezuela, who seek to reform their country to a full and prosperous democracy.”

Maduro showed his apparent indifference to the sanctions late Monday, calling them a sign of President Donald Trump’s “desperation and hate.”

“I will not obey imperial orders. I do not obey any foreign governments. I’m a free president,” Maduro declared. “Why the hell should we care what Trump says? We care about what the sovereign people of Venezuela say,” he shouted Monday to a crowd of supporters in Caracas.

The sanctions against Maduro follow those imposed last week on a number of current and former senior Venezuelan officials.

Mnuchin would not comment on future sanctions, including a ban on Venezuelan oil exports. He said the U.S. will monitor the situation, but that “our objective is not to do anything to hurt the people of Venezuela.”

Peru has called for a meeting of Latin America foreign ministers in Lima next week to discuss the crisis in Venezuela.

The European Union also says it will not recognize the assembly, along with Canada, Spain, and nearly every Latin American country.

Maduro is defying the global condemnation, especially from what he regards as Venezuela’s arch enemy, the United States.

Maduro presses ahead

The Maduro government appeared determined to go through with forming the 545-member constituent assembly, even before it releases final results of the election.

The government said more than 8 million people cast ballots; the opposition, which boycotted the vote, said the turnout was much lower. Reporters on the ground in Caracas said dozens of polling places were almost deserted Sunday.

If 8 million people voted, that would be less than half of all registered voters. Pre-election polls showed more than 70 percent of all Venezuelans opposed the assembly.

Details on what is likely to be included in a new constitution are unclear. Maduro has said it is the only way to pull Venezuela out of its severe economic and social crisis and stop the seemingly endless violence.

The opposition said the measure would bring on a socialist dictatorship. It contended the vote was rigged, in order to pack the assembly with Maduro supporters who could dissolve the opposition-controlled national assembly and fire officials who disagree with the government. Maduro’s opponents are demanding early presidential elections.

Violent protests

Sunday’s election was the bloodiest day in four months of anti-government protests, with at least 10 people killed in clashes around the country. More than 120 have died since early April.

Treasury Secretary Mnuchin on Monday accused the Venezuelan government of “deliberately and repeatedly” using violence to repress the opposition.

The drop in global energy prices, together with political corruption, have destroyed oil-rich Venezuela’s economy. Gasoline, medicine, and such basic staples as cooking oil, flour and sugar are scarce, and many Venezuelans cross into neighboring Colombia and Brazil to buy food.

Maduro has blamed the country’s woes on what he calls U.S. imperialism and its supporters inside Venezuela. He has warned against intervention by the Organization of American States, saying that would surely lead to civil war.

your ad here

Trump Insists There’s No Chaos at White House

President Donald Trump insisted Monday there is no chaos at the White House, even as his new chief of staff is entering a West Wing battered by crisis.

Retired Gen. John Kelly, previously the Homeland Security secretary, takes over Monday from the ousted Reince Priebus, bringing his military experience to an administration weighed down by a stalled legislative agenda, a cabal of infighting West Wing aides and a stack of investigations.

 

While Trump is looking for a reset, he pushed back against criticism of his administration on Twitter Monday. He said: “Highest Stock Market EVER, best economic numbers in years, unemployment lowest in 17 years, wages raising, border secure, S.C.: No WH chaos!”

Kelly’s success in a chaotic White House will depend on how much authority he is granted and whether Trump’s dueling aides will put aside their rivalries to work together. Also unclear is whether a new chief of staff will have any influence over the president’s social media histrionics.

 

Former Trump campaign manager Cory Lewandowski, who was ousted from the campaign in June 2016, said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that he expected Kelly would “restore order to the staff” but also stressed that Trump was unlikely to change his style.

 

“I say you have to let Trump be Trump. That is what has made him successful over the last 30 years. That is what the American people voted for,” Lewandowski said. “And anybody who thinks they’re going to change Donald Trump doesn’t know Donald Trump.”

Kelly’s start follows a tumultuous week, marked by a profane tirade from the new communications director, Trump’s continued attacks on his attorney general and the failed effort by Senate Republicans to overhaul the nation’s health care law.

 

In addition to strain in the West Wing and with Congress, Kelly starts his new job as tensions escalate with North Korea. The United States flew two supersonic bombers over the Korean Peninsula on Sunday in a show of force against North Korea, following the country’s latest intercontinental ballistic missile test. The U.S. also said it conducted a successful test of a missile defense system located in Alaska.

 

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., said on CBS’ “Face the Nation” that she hopes Kelly can “be effective,” and “begin some very serious negotiation with the North and stop this program.”

 

Another diplomatic fissure opened Sunday when Russian President Vladimir Putin said the U.S. would have to cut its embassy and consulate staff in Russia by several hundred under new sanctions from Moscow. In a television interview, Putin indicated the cutback was retaliation for new sanctions in a bill passed by Congress and sent to Trump.

 

Trump plans to sign the measure into law, the White House has said. After Putin’s remarks, the State Department deemed the cutbacks “a regrettable and uncalled for act” and said officials would assess the impact and how to respond to it.

 

While Trump is trying to refresh his team, he signaled that he does not want to give up the fight on health care. On Twitter Sunday, he said: “Don’t give up Republican Senators, the World is watching: Repeal & Replace.”

 

The protracted health care fight has slowed Trump’s other policy goals, including a tax overhaul and infrastructure investment. But Trump aides made clear that the president still wanted to see action on health care. White House budget director Mick Mulvaney said on CNN’s “State of the Union,” that senators “need to stay, they need to work, they need to pass something.”

 

Asked if nothing should be voted on in Congress until the Senate votes again on health care, Mulvaney said: “well, think _ yes. And I think what you’re seeing there is the president simply reflecting the mood of the people.”

 

On Saturday, Trump threatened to end required payments to insurance companies unless lawmakers repeal and replace the Obama-era health care law. He tweeted that if “a new HealthCare Bill is not approved quickly, BAILOUTS for Insurance Companies and BAILOUTS for Members of Congress will end very soon!”

 

The payments reduce deductibles and co-payments for consumers with modest incomes. Trump has guaranteed the payments through July, but has not made a commitment going forward.

White House counselor Kellyanne Conway said on “Fox News Sunday” that Trump would make a decision on the payments this week.

 

Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, who opposed the efforts to move a health bill forward this week, said on CNN that cutting the payments would “be detrimental to some of the most vulnerable citizens” and that the threat has “contributed to the instability in the insurance market.”

 

The House has begun a five-week recess, while the Senate is scheduled to work two more weeks before a summer break.

your ad here

Is Washington Sending Signal of Renewed Commitment to Balkans?

As Vice President Mike Pence prepares to visit Montenegro and hold talks with Western Balkan leaders this week, a senior State Department official says U.S. engagement in the region remains strong. This is being welcomed by those countries’ leaders amid concerns that deep cuts in the proposed budget for the State Department could diminish Washington’s role in these fragile democracies exposed to Russian interference. VOA’s Keida Kostreci reports.

your ad here

Jeanne Moreau Dies at 89

Husky-voiced, French actress Jeanne Moreau has died. She was 89.

The French president’s office announced her death Monday in a statement.

American director Orson Welles once described Moreau as “the best actress in the world.”

Moreau is perhaps best known, in her long, prolific career, for her role in Francois Truffaut’s 1962 film “Jules and Jim.”

Her international career found her acting in films with a host of directors, including Welles, Michelangelo Antonioni, Tony Richardson and Luis Bunel.

She turned down the role of Mrs. Robinson in Mike Nichols “The Graduate.”

She received a number of awards for her work, including a best actress prize at Cannes, a BAFTA, and a honorary Oscar.

French President Macron said Moreau “embodied cinema” and was a free spirit who “always rebelled against the established order.” He praised her range that extended beyond her early roles as a femme fatale.

Moreau, who worked into her 80s, was found dead at her home in Paris Monday morning, the French news agency, AFP, reported.

your ad here