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Democrats capture House but Trump says midterm poll results ‘tremendous success’

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Washington | US President Donald Trump has described the midterm election results as a “tremendous success” even as opposition Democrats wrested the House of Representatives from the ruling Republican party, which managed to retain its majority in the Senate in the highly polarised polls.

Trump, who campaigned aggressively in the last several weeks, Wednesday offered an olive branch to Democrats, saying he wanted to work together with the Democratic leadership to continue delivering for the American people, including on economic growth, infrastructure, trade, lowering the cost of prescription drugs.

“Last night the Republican Party defied history to expand our Senate majority while significantly beating expectations in the House for the midterm year,” Trump told reporters, hours after the Republicans lost control of the House for the first time in eight years.

“These are some of the things that the Democrats do want to work on, and I really believe we’ll be able to do that. I think we’re going to have a lot of reason to do it,” he said as he termed the midterm poll results as a “tremendous success”.

The Democrats now have majority in the 435-member House, while Trump’s party has retained majority in the 100-member Senate.

The statements from the Democratic party leaders after the results indicated it would make it tough for President Trump, who wants major legislative changes on some of his signature issues including immigration, tax and healthcare reforms.

By capturing the House of Representatives, the Democrats may exert a major institutional check on Trump and break the Republican monopoly in Washington.

In the House of Representatives, the Democrats seized at least 28 seats from Republican hands – enough for the majority in the 435-membered chamber.

In the outgoing House, the Republicans had 235 seats while the Democrats 193.

All four incumbent members of the so-called ‘Samosa Caucus’ — Raja Krishnamoorthi, Pramila Jayapal, Ro Khanna and Ami Bera — were re-elected to the House. The new House would come into being next January.

However, the ruling Republican Party retained its majority in the 100-member Senate where it currently has a razor-thin majority of 51-49 seats. Thirty-five of the 100 Senate seats went to polls. The latest reports put the Republican tally at 51 and Democrats at 46.

A record number of close to 100 women, a majority of them being Democrats, won seats in the House, a massive victory for female candidates across the political spectrum. At least 28 of them were elected to the House for the first time. The elections also resulted in Rashida Tlaib becoming the first Muslim woman elected to the House of Representatives along with Somali-American Ilhan Omar.

Leading from the front, Trump addressed some 30 rallies in last 60 days crisscrossing some of the major battleground States.

Trump said he achieved this result in spite of a very dramatic fund-raising disadvantage driven by Democrats’ wealthy donors and special interests, and very hostile media coverage.

“The media coverage set a new record and a new standard,” he alleged.

“This vigorous campaigning stopped the blue wave that they talked about. I don’t know if there ever was such a thing, but could have been. If we didn’t do the campaigning, probably, there could have been,” he said.

Trump said during the first mid-term of his predecessor Barack Obama in 2010, the Democrats lost 63 seats in the House and six Senate seats.

By expanding the Senate majority, the voters have also clearly rebuked the Senate Democrats for their handling of the Justice Brett Kavanaugh hearings, Trump said, adding that those Republicans who did not “embrace” his policies lost their elections very badly.

Trump also said he was ready for a different approach with the Democrats if they desire to take that path.

After their victory Tuesday night, some of the Democrats have been seeking investigations against Trump.

“They can play that game, but we can play it better, because we have a thing called the US Senate, and a lot of very questionable things were done, between leaks of classified information and many other elements that should not have taken place,” he said.

Trump said but it will end up nowhere in the next two years and it would be easy for him to go back to the people during his re-election and blame the Democrats for everything.

“I really respected what Nancy (Pelosi) said last night about bipartisanship and getting together. She used the word “uniting” and she used the bipartisanship statement, which is so important because that’s what we should be doing,” Trump said.

Trump said now was the time for members of both parties to join together, put partisanship aside, and keep the American economic miracle going strong.

International

A leader who doesn’t take timely U-turns is not a real leader: Imran Khan

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Imran Khan

Islamabad | Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan on Friday said a leader who does not take timely “U-turns” is not a “real leader”.

During an interaction with journalists at the PM House, Khan cited an example from his cricket days when he led Pakistan’s national team said, “We used to make a strategy and then step out into the field but if the opponent team formed a strategy against ours then we would have to change it.”

To buttress his point, the 66-year-old cricketer-turned-politician also referred to Adolf Hitler and Napoleon Bonaparte, Geo News reported. “Hitler and Napoleon suffered huge defeats and caused losses as they did not take U-turns,” it quoted Khan as saying. “If you are walking and there is a wall in front of you, then you will have to change and find another way,” the Geo News journalist quoted Imran as explaining.  “A leader who does not take U-turns as per the requirements of the situation is not a real leader,” The News quoted Khan as saying.

Khan also attacked former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, saying what he told an accountability court on Friday was not a U-turn but a “lie”. “What Nawaz Sharif did in court was not a U-turn but a lie,” Khan said, apparently referring to the Pakistan Muslim League supremo telling the court that he had never had any transaction with Qatari Prince Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber Al-Thani.

Sharif is currently facing trial in three corruption cases filed against him and his family by the National Accountability Bureau on a directive from the Supreme Court in the Panama Papers scandal. Khan said his government will uphold the decisions taken by the Supreme Court.

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Sri Lankan Parliament disrupted again, adjourned until Monday amid political crisis

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Sri Lanka

Colombo | Rival Sri Lankan lawmakers threw chilli powder and furniture at each other and disrupted the proceedings of Parliament for a second day Friday, forcing Speaker Karu Jayasuriya to summon police inside the House and adjourn the session until Monday.

The brawl occurred a day after the Speaker announced there is no prime minister or government following a no-confidence motion against disputed prime minister Mahinda Rajapaksa. Friday’s proceedings were to repeat the floor test which was disrupted on Thursday.

President Maithripala Sirisena, who installed Rajapaksa as prime minister last month in a controversial move, had agreed for a floor test with the leaders of ousted prime minister Ranil Wickremesinghe’s coalition during crisis talks last night.

The MPs supporting Rajapaksa took over the seat of the Speaker, delaying the proceedings, officials said. They shouted slogans against Jayasuriya broke furniture. Some Rajapakse loyalists were also seen throwing chilli powder at rival legislators and police, Colombo Gazette reported.

The Speaker summoned police inside Parliament chamber after 45 minutes of disruption. One of the rioting MPs Arundika Fernando occupied the seat of the Speaker with more MPs surrounding it. Gamini Jayawickrema Perera, a senior parliamentarian, was injured in the melee.

The rioting United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA) members demanded the arrest of two legislators of the Wickremesinghe’s United National Party (UNP). They charged that two UNP legislators, Palitha Thewarapperuma and Ranjan Ramanayake were carrying knives during the brawl which took place yesterday. Yesterday, UPFA MP Dilum Amunugama was injured in clashes inside the chamber.

Police Friday protected Jayasuriya from the rioting MPs as he called the Tamil National Alliance lawmaker MA Sumanthiran to propose the suspension of the standing orders. Jayasuriya on the basis of a voice vote announced that the motion against Rajapaksa was defeated as physical voting could not take place due to the brawl.  The rioting MPs threw books at the police. Jayasuriya immediately suspended the sittings until November 19 and left the House surrounded by police.

President Sirisena said that he would not ‘prorogue the Parliament under any circumstances.’ “I urge all Parliamentarians to uphold principles of democracy parliamentary traditions at all times. I will not prorogue Parliament under any circumstances,” the president tweeted. The trouble erupted in Parliament on Thursday when the Speaker agreed to a request from ousted premier Wickremesinghe’s UNP that a vote be taken on a statement made by Rajapaksa demanding fresh polls.

Jayasuriya allowed Rajapaksa to make a statement as a lawmaker after stating that he does not recognise the claim of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) leader who lost a no-confidence motion on Wednesday. Rajapaksa’s side has disputed the no-trust motion, saying proper procedure was not followed and accused Jayasuriya of bias towards his own party.

Parliament on Wednesday passed the no-confidence motion against Rajapaksa after the Supreme Court overturned the presidential decree to dissolve the House and hold snap polls on January 5. Amid raucous scenes, Parliament on Wednesday met for the first time since October 26, when Sirisena sacked premier Wickremesinghe, installed Rajapaksa in his place and suspended the House, plunging the island nation into an unprecedented Constitutional crisis.

The vote of no confidence against Rajapaksa has further complicated the political crisis. It is not yet clear whether Rajapaksa will resign or whether the ousted Wickremesinghe, who has the support of 122 lawmakers in the 225-member House, will return to power.

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Julian Assange charged in US: WikiLeaks

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Julian Assange

Washington | WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who was behind a massive dump of classified US documents in 2010, has been charged in the United States, WikiLeaks said on Thursday. Prosecutors revealed the existence of the sealed indictment inadvertently in a court filing in an unrelated case, WikiLeaks said.

The exact nature of the charges against Assange was not immediately known. “SCOOP: US Department of Justice ‘accidentally’ reveals existence of sealed charges (or a draft for them) against WikiLeaks’ publisher Julian Assange in apparent cut-and-paste error in an unrelated case also at the Eastern District of Virginia,” Wikileaks wrote on Twitter. The still unsealed charges against Assange were disclosed by Assistant US Attorney Kellen Dwyer as she made a filing in the unrelated case and urged a judge to keep that filing sealed.

Dwyer wrote, “due to the sophistication of the defendant and the publicity surrounding the case, no other procedure is likely to keep confidential the fact that Assange has been charged,” according to The Washington Post. Later, Dwyer wrote the charges would “need to remain sealed until Assange is arrested.”

US media were alerted late Thursday to the inadvertent disclosure thanks to a tweet from Seamus Hughes, deputy director of the Program on Extremism at George Washington University. He is known to follow court filings closely.

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