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Trump makes last ditch effort to retain House majority as Americans vote in crucial mid-term polls

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Washington | President Donald Trump made a last-ditch effort to retain majority in the US House of Representatives as he appealed to his supporters across the country to “get out and vote” for his Republican party in the crucial mid-term polls on Tuesday which will decide the balance of powers in the Congress over the next two years.

Americans would elect 435 members of the House of Representatives and 35 of the 100 Senate seats in the mid-term polls.

The Republican party currently has majority in both the Senate and the House and Trump and his team left no stone unturned to campaign in favour of his Republican party.

During an election-eve rally in Cleveland on Monday, President Trump claimed that mid-term elections, which used to be “boring”, have now become the “hottest thing” because of him, attributing voter turnout and media attention to his presidency.

Addressing his supporters, he said, “The key is you have to go out to vote because in a sense I am on the ticket. You got to go out to vote.”

Thereafter, he held campaign rallies in Indiana and Missouri wherein he urged his supporters to vote for his party as he wants to retain majority on the US House of Representatives.

According to political pundits, the Democrats have a good chance of winning the House, while the Republicans are likely to retain the Senate.

US House of Representatives – similar to India’s Lok Sabha – has 435 seats, of which the Republicans in the current Congress has 235 seats and the Democrats have 193.

Elections for all the members of the House are held every two years. The Republicans are expected to increase their tally in the 100-Senate seat where they already have a very thin majority.

Before leaving on his campaign trail, Trump exuded confidence that the Republicans is doing good in the elections.

“There is a great electricity in the air. I don’t know if you report it that way, but there’s a great electricity in the air, like we haven’t seen, in my opinion, since the 2016 election,” he said.

At the same time, Trump pointed that the president’s party normally does not do well in the mid-term.

“I think we’re going to do very well in the House. If you look, over a hundred years, for whatever reason, the party with the president doesn’t do very well. I think we’re going to do pretty well,” he said.

Talking to reporters at Fort Wayne in Indiana, Trump said he would have to do things differently if Democrats get the majority in the House.

“We’ll just have to work a little bit differently. It’ll all work out. But I don’t think that’s going to happen. I think we’re doing very well in the House. I think we’re doing very well in the Senate. There is something going on. I’m just telling you,” he said referring to the large crowd he addressed in Ohio.

At Fort Wayne Trump said that if “the radical Democrats take power, they will take a wrecking ball to our economy and to the future of our country.”

“A vote for Republicans is a vote to continue our extraordinary prosperity,” he said, adding that a vote for Democrats is a vote to bring this economic boom crashing down very rapidly.

“The Democrat agenda will deliver a socialist nightmare. It’s what it is. The Republican agenda is delivering the American dream,” he said.

On the eve of the mid-term elections, Democrats continue to hold a double-digit lead over Republicans in a generic congressional ballot among likely voters, according to a new CNN Poll conducted by SSRS.

The party’s 55 per cent to 42 per cent advantage in the new poll mirrors their lead in early October and is about the same as the 10-point edge they held just after Labor Day.

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Trump to make ‘major’ announcement on shutdown, border issue

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Donald Trump

Washington | US President Donald Trump has said he will make a “major” announcement Saturday on the ongoing federal government shutdown and the humanitarian crisis on the country’s southern border. No further detail about the announcement was immediately available from the White House.

The shutdown, the longest-ever in US history, is a result of the bitter political divide over border security issue between the Trump-led Republican party and the opposition Democratic party led by the House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

The Democrats, who now enjoy majority in the House, have refused to approve a legislation approving USD 5.7 billion in federal funding to construct a wall across the US-Mexico border, a poll promise by the Republican president. “I will be making a major announcement concerning the Humanitarian Crisis on our Southern Border, and the Shutdown, tomorrow afternoon at 3 P.M. (1:30 am Sunday IST), live from the @WhiteHouse,” President Trump tweeted Friday.

Functioning of several key wings of the US government, including Security and State departments, has been paralysed for nearly four weeks now because of the ongoing partial government shutdown. President Trump insists that building a wall is the only solution to protect the nation from a large flow of illegal immigrants and drug smuggling.

The Democrats are opposed to any such funding. After Trump walked out of a meeting at the White House last week, Democrats have refused to come to the negotiation table. Pelosi and the Democratic party argue that such a funding is a wastage of tax payers payer and does not reflect the ethos of American culture. The divide between the parties has led to some 800,000 federal government employees being rendered without work.

The ongoing shutdown on January 12 broke the previous record of 21 days of US government shutdown under the Bill Clinton administration in December 16, 1995 to January 5, 1996.

Besides the border issue, the divide between Trump and Pelosi deepened after he denied her a military plane for an “excursion” to Brussels and war-torn Afghanistan, a tit-for-tat retaliation after the House Speaker asked the president to reschedule his annual State of the Union address slated for January 29. Pelosi, who is third in line to the presidency, had made the suggestion citing security reasons triggered by the shutdown that has entered its 28th day.

The House Speaker Friday accused Trump of endangering the lives of US nationals by revealing to the world about her secretive trip to Afghanistan. She told reporters that “any time anyone with a bright light, of the presence of a high-level, or any level of Congressional Delegation in a region, you’ve heightened the danger. And this was a high power.”

However, Trump had alleged that Pelosi and her Congressional delegation was headed on an “excursion” trip.  Why would Nancy Pelosi leave the country with other Democrats on a seven-day excursion when 800,000 great people are not getting paid. Also, could somebody please explain to Nancy & her big donors in wine country that people working on farms (grapes) will have easy access in! Trump tweeted.

The White House denied Pelosi’s allegations, with as senior administration official saying, When the speaker of the house and about 20 others from Capitol Hill decide to book their own commercial flights to Afghanistan, the world is going to find out. The idea we would leak anything that would put the safety and security of any American at risk is a flat out lie.”.

Pelosi later told reporters that she has abandoned her trip to Afghanistan.

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Fuel pipeline blaze in Mexico kills 20, 54 injured: government

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Mexico City |  A leaking fuel pipeline triggered a massive blaze in central Mexico on Saturday, killing at least 20 people and injuring another 54, officials said.

Omar Fayad, governor of Hidalgo state, said locals at the site of the leak were scrambling to steal some of the leaking oil when at least 20 of them were burned to death. “I’ve been told that 20 have been burned to death and another 54 burn victims being treated” in hospitals, Fayad told local FaroTV.

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Trump to meet Kim Jong-un again in February: White House

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Washington | US President Donald Trump will hold a second summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in late February on Pyongyang dismantling its nuclear and missile programmes, the White House has announced. The two leaders had met on June 12 last year in Singapore for the first summit.

While the White House did not identify a location for the second summit between the two leaders, according to media reports preparations were under way to host the summit, most likely in Vietnam’s capital Hanoi or coastal city of Danang. The announcement came after Trump met with North Korean envoy, Kim Yong Chol, on Friday for a discussion that included talk about Kim Jong-un’s unfulfilled pledge to dismantle his country’s nuclear weapons programmes.

President Trump sat down with Kim Yong Chol, a high-level official in North Korea’s Communist government, in the Oval Office, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said. “President Donald J Trump met with Kim Yong Chol for an hour and half, to discuss denuclearization and a second summit, which will take place near the end of February.  “The president looks forward to meeting with Chairman Kim at a place to be announced at a later date. she said in a statement. The press secretary told reporters: “We continue to make progress, we continue to have conversations.”

The US is going to continue to keep “pressure and sanctions” on North Korea until “we see fully and verifiable denuclearization”, she said. “We had very good steps and very good faith from the North Koreans with the release of hostages and other moves and so we’ll continue this conversation.And the President looks forward to it next February,” Sanders’ told reporters.

The North Korean envoy arrived at the White House after a closed-door meeting with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and US special envoy for North Korea Stephen Biegun at a hotel here.

Following the White House meeting the North Korean official and a delegation he was leading were invited to lunch by Pompeo at Foggy Bottom headquarters of the State Department.

The Secretary, Special Representative Biegun, and Vice Chairman Kim discussed efforts to make progress on the commitments President Trump and Chairman Kim Jong Un made at their summit in Singapore. At the conclusion of the Secretary’s meeting with Vice Chairman Kim, the two sides held a productive first meeting at the working level, State Department Deputy Spokesperson Robert Palladino said.

Democratic Congressman Brad Sherman said that in Singapore, Trump capitulated to Kim Jong-un handing North Korea a propaganda coup in exchange for empty words. During a second summit, he must deliver concrete, verifiable commitments from Pyongyang, he demanded.

Last year in Singapore, Trump had described his first-ever historic meeting with Kim Jong-un as “really fantastic” and said they had agreed to “sign” an unspecified document after their “very positive” summit, aimed at normalising ties and complete denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula. The US president had said he believed he and Kim Jong-un will “solve a big problem, a big dilemma” and that by working together, “we will get it taken care of”.

The summit at Singapore’s Sentosa island – the first between a sitting US president and a North Korean leader – had marked a turnaround of relations between Trump, 72, and Kim, 36, after a long-running exchange of threats and insults.

The US insists it will accept nothing less than complete denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula.

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