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White House suspends press credentials of CNN senior journalist after spat with Trump

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CNN

Washington | In an unprecedented move, the White House has suspended the credentials of a senior CNN journalist for his “disgusting and outrageous” behaviour, hours after he had a testy exchange with President Donald Trump during a marathon news conference.

The move came just hours after CNN’s chief White House correspondent Jim Acosta drew the ire of Trump by persisting with questions about his views on a caravan of Central American migrants making its way to the US border and refused to the President’s orders to sit down and clung to the microphone.

The removal of Acosta’s pass is a sharp escalation of tensions between the Trump administration and the media.

At the news conference, which lasted 1 hour and 26 minutes, Trump snapped at the press corps, called reporters “rude” for asking questions, and made baseless claims about political polling.

Acosta was one of the first reporters Trump called on. “Thank you, Mr. President,” he said. “I want to challenge you on one of the statements that you made in the tail end of the campaign.”

Trump leaned into the microphone and said, “Here we go” seemingly relishing the confrontation.

“As you know, Mr. President, the caravan is not an invasion,” Acosta said. “It’s a group of migrants moving up from Central America towards the border with the US.”

Trump, sarcastically, replied, “Thank you for telling me that, I appreciate it.”

Acosta: “Why did you characterise it as such?”

“Because I consider it an invasion. You and I have a difference of opinion.”

“But do you think that you demonised immigrants?”

“No, not at all. I want them to come into the country. But they have to come in legally,” Trump said.

That’s what the migrants are trying to do they say they intend to seek asylum, he said.

Acosta called out the misleading ad released by the Republican Party and said: “They’re hundreds of miles away, though. They’re hundreds and hundreds of miles away. That’s not an invasion.”

“You know what? I think you should,” Trump started to say, pointing at Acosta. “Honestly, I think you should let me run the country. You run CNN. And if you did it well, your ratings would be much better.”

“Okay, that’s enough,” a visibly angry Trump said as Acosta tried to ask another question. Then a White House intern unsuccessfully tried to take the microphone from the CNN correspondent.

Trump backed away from the podium for a moment, signalling he was done, while Acosta asked the question again and then let go of the microphone.

Defending Acosta, the CNN said the Trump administration’s decision was “a threat to democracy”.

Describing Acosta’s behaviour as “disgusting and outrageous”, the White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders, in a statement on Wednesday said, “As a result of today’s incident, the White House is suspending the hard pass of the reporter involved until further notice.”

Sanders said Trump believes in a free press and expects and welcomes tough questions of him and his administration. “We will, however, never tolerate a reporter placing his hands on a young woman just trying to do her job as a White House intern. This conduct is absolutely unacceptable,” she said.

“It is also completely disrespectful to the reporter’s colleagues not to allow them an opportunity to ask a question,” she said.

Sanders claimed Trump has given the press more access than any President in history.

“Contrary to CNN’s assertions, there is no greater demonstration of the President’s support for a free press than the event he held today.

“Only they would attack the President for not being supportive of a free press in the midst of him taking 68 questions from 35 different reporters over the course of an hour and a half including several from the reporter in question,” she said.

Meanwhile, the CNN said the revocation of Acosta’s pass “was done in retaliation for his challenging questions at today’s press conference…This unprecedented decision is a threat to our democracy and the country deserves better”.

Acosta was stopped by the Secret Service from entering the White House at about 7 pm.

Former president of the White House Correspondents Association, Jeff Mason, refuted the White House accusation that Acosta placed his hand on a female White House intern.

“I was seated next to Acosta at today’s press conference and did not witness him placing his hands on the young intern, as the White House alleges,” he tweeted.

Mason, a Reuters correspondent, said Acosta held on to the microphone as the intern reached for it and later posted a few pictures from the press conference to prove his point.

Peter Baker from The New York Times, who has been covering the White House for 22 years, said, “This is something I have never seen since I started covering the White House in 1996. Other presidents did not fear tough questioning.”

The White House Correspondents Association (WHCA) also said such a decision is “unacceptable” and urged the White House that it “immediately reverse its decision”.

“Journalists may use a range of approaches to carry out their jobs and the WHCA does not police the tone or frequency of the questions its members ask of powerful senior government officials, including the President,” WHCA president Olivier Knox said.

The White House, meanwhile, said it stands by its decision.

“We stand by our decision to revoke this individual’s hard pass. We will not tolerate the inappropriate behaviour clearly documented in this video,” Sanders said, posting a video of the CNN reporter allegedly placing his hand on a young woman.

International

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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International

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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International

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

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Trump; North; Kim

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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