House committee grills Comey and Rogers on Trump and Russia: key points

FBI director confirms investigation of Trump campaigns ties to Russian government and smacks down several of the presidents tweets

The House intelligence committee hearing on Russian tampering in the US election has wrapped, as has day one of judge Neil Gorsuchs confirmation hearings. Heres what happened.

  • FBI director James Comey announced for the first time that the FBI, as part of our counterintelligence mission, is investigating the Russian governments efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election, and that includes investigating the nature of any links between individuals associated with the Trump campaign and the Russian government, and whether there was any coordination between the campaign and Russias efforts.
  • Trump campaign figures mentioned at the hearing included Michael Flynn, Carter Page, Paul Manafort, Roger Stone, JD Gordon, Jeff Sessions and Kellyanne Conway. Comey declined to say whether the president was or is being personally investigated.
  • Comey knocked down Trumps assertion on Twitter that Barack Obama had wire tapped him. We do not have any information that supports those tweets, Comey said.
  • Republican chairman Devin Nunes admitted: We know there was not a physical wiretap at Trump Tower. However it is possible that other surveillance technology was used against President Trump and his associates.
  • Tweets sent from the @potus account during the hearing mischaracterized Comeys testimony and that of NSA director Michael Rogers. One tweet said the witnesses had told Congress that Russia did not influence electoral process.
  • Comey was asked about the tweet. Weve offered no opinion, have no view, have no information on potential impact, because its not something weve looked at, Comey said. It certainly wasnt our intention to say that today.
  • Rogers denied a White House claim that the Obama administration asked GCHQ to conduct surveillance on Trump, saying it would have been a violation of US law to ask the British to conduct such an operation.
  • Republicans called for punishment for anyone who leaked classified information to the press, concerning Flynns contacts with Russian operatives or other issues.One member promised to grill former CIA director John Brennan and former director of national intelligence James Clapper about leaks next week.
  • It emerged that the FBI investigation of Russian tampering was launched in late July, although the public did not learn of the investigation for months, well after the FBI saw fit to announce its investigation of Hillary Clintons emails.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/mar/20/key-points-house-committee-hearing-trump-russia-comey

Donald Trump anti-China tweet gives Rex Tillerson a fresh wall to climb

As secretary of state travels to Beijing, his mission to set stage for a leaders summit is hampered by presidents hectoring messages

Donald Trump took his latest online swipe at Chinas leaders as his secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, flew into Beijing to finalise plans for a high-stakes summit designed to soothe tensions after months of bad blood and uncertainty.

Trump is expected to host Xi Jinping at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach on 6-7 April for an informal no necktie encounter similar to the 2013 Sunnylands summit between Barack Obama and the Communist party chief.

Tillerson was due to arrive in Chinas capital on Saturday tasked with making final preparations for that presidential tte–tte. He will reportedly meet senior leaders, including Xi.

But on the eve of Tillersons two-day visit, during which he is also expected to call on Beijing to step up pressure on North Korea over its nuclear programme, Trump risked complicating those negotiations with his latest 140-character rebuke to Chinas leaders.

North Korea is behaving very badly. They have been playing the United States for years. China has done little to help! the US president wrote on Twitter in a message that is likely to anger and unnerve Beijing.

Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump)

North Korea is behaving very badly. They have been “playing” the United States for years. China has done little to help!

March 17, 2017

Paul Haenle, the national security councils China director under George W Bush and Barack Obama, said US officials would be concerned about the possibility of totally off-message late-night tweets marring Xis stay in Mar-a-Lago.

His rash way of dealing with things could offend the Chinese and could offend personally Xi Jinping … Its the Trump factor, he said.

It is so important to the Chinese that their leader is being treated with real respect. If he travels there and then something happens that appears to be disrespectful to Xi Jinping that could play very badly in the domestic politics here.

Trumps shock election sparked fears that US-China relations were entering a new era of confrontation. In books and interviews, on the stump and on Twitter, the billionaire has spent years berating Beijing over everything from currency manipulation to political repression.

During Xis last trip to the US, in 2015, Trump accused Chinas leader of crippling American industry by devaluing the Chinese currency and called on Obama to feed him a double-sized Big Mac.

However, tensions have subsided following President Trumps first phone call with Xi last month when he backed away from threats to challenge Beijings claim over Taiwan.

Experts say they are encouraged that after months of simmering discord Xi and Trump are preparing to thrash it out at the so-called Winter White House.

I think it actually has the potential to be quite a game-changing moment, said Orville Schell, the head of the centre on US-China relations at New Yorks Asia Society.

This will allow Trump to exhibit something he has not been able to really put on display in the public foreign policy realm, namely his putative deal-making skills. I think either the meeting will go very well, with some rather surprising deals announced, or it could go completely south. And that would be a very bad sign indeed.

Haenle, now head of the Carnegie-Tsinghua Centre in Beijing, said China would see the meeting, which has yet to be officially confirmed, as a chance to bypass the most stridently anti-Beijing voices in Trumps team.

Trump likely thought that by getting Xi on his turf he could kick off efforts to strike a new deal with China. North Korea will be a the top of the list and rebalancing the economic relationship is going to be huge, said Haenle.

Speaking in Seoul on Friday, Tillerson warned that a pre-emptive US military strike against North Korea was an option and said Washingtons strategic patience with Pyongyang had run out.

Schell said it was possible the Mar-a-Lago summit would see some big breakthrough on the issue. I think it is a long shot but it is possible that Trump could just say to Xi, Listen, you and I have a lot of important things to do together. This is something that is important to us … what do you want?

Haenle expected Xi to bring a list of gestures such as infrastructure investment or market access that would allow Trump to emerge from the summit and tweet: Xi Jinping came and I got X!.

But he doubted China would do more on North Korea, with foreign minster Wang Yi recently describing Beijing and Pyongyang as being as close as lips and teeth. The US and China are in very different places right now, at least in terms of the rhetoric that we are hearing.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/mar/18/donald-trump-anti-china-tweet-gives-rex-tillerson-a-fresh-wall-to-climb

Trump golf resort and Scottish planners clash over the environment

US presidents Scotland development is under fire as it seeks to expand its boutique hotel and ditch its ecological monitoring group

The Trump Organization is facing a new battle with Scottish planners and conservationists over the protection of rare dunes and wildlife at its Aberdeenshire golf resort.

Trump International Golf Course Scotland has challenged a key part of the planning permission it won for the resort in 2008 as it pushes ahead with plans for a second 18-hole golf course and an extension to its boutique hotel.

The company, now being run by Donald Trumps son Eric, applied to Aberdeenshire council last week to discharge clauses in its planning permission which require it to run an environmental advisory group to oversee construction across the rare, legally protected dune system used for the course.

To the alarm of conservationists, it wants to replace the group, which Trump unilaterally closed down in 2013, with annual environmental inspections for the next three years.

In January, the president signalled a fresh offensive against out of control environmental regulations in the US as he offered to cut pollution controls on the car industry, while declaring he was to a large extent an environmentalist who had won awards.

The proposal risks putting the Trump Organization into conflict with Scottish government planning inspectors who ruled in December that robust environmental monitoring of any new building was needed at the resort.

Insisting Trump follow the 2008 master plan in full, the inspectors said the site was environmentally sensitive and part of a legally protected site of special scientific interest (SSSI). They said ecological monitoring may need to be strengthened.

It will be essential for robust environmental assessments to inform detailed development proposals and to ensure necessary environmental safeguards are in place. Environmental assessments and management plans concluded some years ago may require to be revised, updated, extended or amended, they said.

The inspectors also objected to Aberdeenshires proposals to include Trumps latest plan to build 850 private homes and 1,900 leisure accommodation units because that new scheme was too dissimilar to the plans approved in 2008.

They said the Trump Organization should stick to the original plan, requiring the US company to pay for a primary school and affordable homes if it tries to build a timeshare complex and private housing estate. Aberdeenshire council is expected to accept the inspectors recommendations on Thursday 9 March.

The Menie Environmental Monitoring Advisory Group (Memag), named after the estate where the resort is based, was originally proposed by Trumps advisers to placate environmental groups and the government conservation agency Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH).

Ecologists objected strenuously to the resort because it involved bulldozing large parts of one of Scotlands rarest coastal dune habitats protected by the Foveran Links SSSI mentioned by planning inspectors.

Those objections played a large part in forcing Scottish ministers, who publicly backed Trumps plans, to put the resort application to a formal planning inquiry. It approved the plans in 2008 partly on condition that SNH and the Scottish Environment Protection Agency, the countrys water and air pollution watchdog, had seats on Memag.

To the alarm of environment groups, the Trump Organization has since allowed Memag to lapse. It last met in January 2013. After that point, the Trump organisation said it had fulfilled its purpose and been closed down. Aberdeenshire failed to take any action to force Trump to keep it running.

TIGCS has now written to the council saying it had carried out an internal review which found no evidence Memag added value to the monitoring work by council officials now that its first golf course had been built.

Even though it originally proposed setting it up, its report to the council said the review had decided it was an unnecessary and disproportionate development management tool in the context of this development.

There are no known examples of a Memag mechanism elsewhere in Scotland in relation to golf course maintenance and operation.

James Reynolds, of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds Scotland, said they were not surprised. The Trump Organizations environmental commitments never seemed like anything more than greenwash at the time of application, in a cynical bid to secure consent for the golf development, he said.

It should not be forgotten that the irreversible environmental damage to this nationally important site of special scientific interest was justified by the then Scottish government due to its supposed national benefits for the economy, jobs and more. But now, with the promise of those myriad national benefits open to doubt, it begs the question was it worth it?

Debra Storr, an ex-councillor who voted against the original planning application, said attempts to remove Memag from the planning approval should be opposed.

I believe it was actively undermined by the Trump Organization and the council was negligent in permitting this, she said. The formal abandonment of Memag would send a further signal to Trump that he may trample the environment with impunity.

TIGCS has been approached for a comment.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/mar/05/trump-company-and-scottish-planners-clash-over-environment

Donald Trump and China on dangerous collision course, say experts

Report says ties between the two nuclear-armed countries could deteriorate into an economic or military confrontation

A highly combustible cocktail of Donald Trumps volatility and Xi Jinpings increasingly aggressive and autocratic rule threatens to plunge already precarious US-China relations into a dangerous new era, some of the worlds leading China specialists say in a new report.

For the last 18 months a taskforce of prominent China experts, some of whom have dealt with Beijing for more than 50 years, has been formulating a series of recommendations on how the incoming White House should conduct relations with the worlds second largest economy.

The groups report, which was handed to the White House on Sunday and will be published in Washington DC on Tuesday, says ties between the two nuclear-armed countries could rapidly deteriorate into an economic or even military confrontation if compromise on issues including trade, Taiwan and the South China Sea cannot be found.

Winston Lord, a former US ambassador to China and one of the reports authors, told the Guardian: Im not totally despondent. I think we can get through this. But I think right now because of Chinas policies and the uncertainties of Trump we are in the most uncertain situation certainly since the Tiananmen Square massacre.

Orville Schell, a veteran China scholar who was one of taskforces chairs, said he was fearful about Trumps apparent inclination to light a bonfire under decades of US policy towards China.

We have a weird situation and actually an incredibly dangerous one because Trump is so unpredictable, he said. This is Americas Cultural Revolution. Just as Mao overthrew the party establishment and unleashed his red guards, Trump is going after the foreign policy establishment elite and he is unleashing his populism.

Even before his shock election last November, Trump had indicated he would take a far harder line towards what he called the bad China.

There are people who wish I wouldnt refer to China as our enemy. But thats exactly what they are, Trump wrote in his bestselling campaign manifesto, Great Again: How To Fix Our Crippled America.

To Chinas dismay, Trump who has yet to speak with Xi Jinping since his inauguration has done little to tone down such rhetoric since his election victory.

On television and Twitter he has accused Beijing of militarising the South China Sea, manipulating its currency and hampering attempts to rein in North Koreas dictator, Kim Jong-un.

Trump has also angered Beijing by hinting he could offer greater political recognition to Taiwan, a democratically ruled island that China claims as part of its own territory.

The taskforces 74-page report describes threats to overturn the USs decades-old One China policy towards Taiwan under which it does not dispute Beijings claim to the island as exceedingly dangerous and possibly the most imminent danger to US-China relations and regional stability.

In Chinas universe if you dont agree on One China its like being in an evangelical church and having someone scream out: There is no God! Its blasphemy, said Schell.

The report also warns of a gathering storm in the South China Sea, where Trump has accused Beijing of building a massive fortress in order to tighten its grip over the strategic waterway through which $4.5tn (3.4tn) in trade passes each year.

It says Chinas increasingly assertive actions in the region which include placing sophisticated weapons systems on artificial islands coupled with growing domestic nationalism risks setting the US and China on a dangerous collision course.

Last week Trumps chief strategist, Steve Bannon, was reported to have claimed war between the US and China in the South China Sea was inevitable within five to 10 years.

Members of Trumps team have criticised Barack Obamas weak posture in the Asia-Pacific and called for an increased military presence there as part of a peace through strength strategy intended to push back against China.

However, the report cautions the White House against a short-sighted military buildup that it says would further inflame tensions.

If China believes the United States is simply bent on containing it militarily, then Beijing would lose any motivation to moderate its conduct and might instead double down on preparations to fight and win in a showdown, it says.

Schell said there was growing consensus among US academics, politicians and even businesspeople that since the 2008 financial crisis an emboldened China had been insufficiently challenged over protectionist trade practices, increasingly aggressive foreign policy moves and egregious human rights abuses. However, following Trumps unexpected victory the reports raison dtre changed.

We had assumed the US government was in a steady, solid state and needed to adjust a little. And suddenly along comes Trump and threatens to rip up the playbook and, weirdly, China began to look a little bit as if it were more in the steady state, Schell said.

Rather than simply a set of policy recommendations, then, the report became a direct appeal to Trumps administration not to allow relations with Beijing to spiral out of control.

Lord, who was part of a secret 1971 mission to China with Henry Kissinger that paved the way for the reestablishment of diplomatic relations, said he was alarmed at how in just a few days Trump had taken a sledgehammer to longstanding US policy on Asia.

He described the presidents decision to abandon the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) as a geopolitical and economic disaster for the United States that would damage Washingtons credibility in the region and boost Chinas clout.

Trumps truly baffling and stupid phone call with the Australian prime minister, Malcolm Turnbull, was also a blow. Australia is one of our most faithful allies through history, and now in Asia, and if you are worried about the South China Sea this is not the way to start, Lord said.

Evan Medeiros, Obamas top adviser on Asia and another of the reports authors, said he felt somewhere between uncertain and very worried about Trumps plans for US-China ties.

He cautioned the Republican against trying to challenge Beijing on such a wide range of issues. You cant do everything simultaneously. You cant pick a fight with China on Taiwan, on trade, on North Korea and the South China Sea at the same time. It simply wont work. Youll just end up in a big fight with China that doesnt produce anything for the United States.

Crew
Crew members of Chinas South Sea Fleet taking part in a drill in the Xisha Islands, or the Paracel Islands in the South China Sea. Photograph: STR/AFP/Getty Images

The reports authors identified some glimmers of hope. While several virulently anti-China figures had found their way into Trumps administration, other more moderate voices were also appearing.

Schell said the secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, had made some reasonably reasonable remarks about China, and he was also encouraged that Matt Pottinger, a former Marine and Wall Street Journal Beijing correspondent, was expected to become the White Houses chief adviser on Asia.

Theres some interesting people that have been picked and will be picked there are also some real wackjobs, he said.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/feb/07/donald-trump-and-china-military-confrontation-dangerous-collision-course-experts

On refugees, Trump and Turnbull compete in a race to the bottom | Oliver Laughland

As the former Australian immigration minister said about Trumps border plans: Really, the rest of the world is catching up to Australia

The fallout between President Donald Trump and the Australian prime minister, Malcolm Turnbull, on the resettlement of refugees is not only an extraordinary break from diplomatic norms. It is a collective race to the bottom between two of the worlds wealthiest nations on failing to offer sanctuary to the worlds most vulnerable people.

The US president rode a wave of racially charged anger and anti-migrant rhetoric throughout his campaign and formalised it last week with executive orders imposing a travel ban targeted at seven Muslim-majority countries, the suspension of the US refugee resettlement program, and a directive to start work on a 1,200-mile wall across the southern border.

Meanwhile, the Coalition government in Australia has already implemented a hardline crackdown after years of bipartisan support for tough measures on immigration against asylum seekers who make the precarious maritime crossing from Indonesia.

Australia has had its own version of a border wall since 2013: its name is Operation Sovereign Borders. That military-led effort has seen boats carrying migrants turned back to Indonesian shores and the mandatory offshore detention and resettlement of asylum seekers who have made it to Australian territory.

These 1,25o men, women and children, who languish on the tiny island state of Nauru and in Papua New Guinea are the end result of that aggressive policy, stuck in limbo while Australia has struggled for years to find a viable resettlement plan.

President Trump now brands these people illegal immigrants and the next Boston bombers. The aspersions are breathtaking and at odds with reality. Not only would the roughly 1,250 individuals that could be resettled in America be vetted refugees, they come from a host of religious groupings and countries, including Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, as well as Iran, Iraq, Syria and Somalia.

But Trumps blunt assessment, which may or may nor result in the cancellation of the deal altogether, is partly how Australia sees these refugees as well. By adamantly refusing to resettle them in Australia and initially branding them illegal maritime arrivals, the Australian government too has otherized and marginalized them.

They represent a tiny fraction of the worlds refugee crisis, which has left more than 65 million people forcibly displaced across the world. They once again find themselves tossed around at the behest of powerful leaders seeking cheap political victories while lacking the moral fortitude to act in the interests of the most vulnerable.

Before moving to America, I spent a year and a half investigating the conditions of immigration detention in offshore sites and was often confronted by the deliberate strategy of harshness.

I wrote about the Iranian man Reza Berati, murdered by private security contractors at the offshore detention centre on Manus Island; about unaccompanied minors kept in solitary confinement for months as they self-harmed, of other children sexually assaulted by detention centre staff on Nauru, and those who died after receiving lacklustre medical attention. This was coupled with the creeping discrimination imposed by a code of conduct that asylum seekers on the Australian mainland were forced to sign.

Covering the Trump campaign trail, I was reminded of this discriminatory rhetoric and seeming affection for institutionalised cruelty. Trumps vows to build a wall and expedite deportations sounded all too familiar.

Once in power, he wasted no time issuing executive orders imposing mandatory detention of those apprehended while crossing the southern border, rapidly expanding the private detention network and drastically lowering Americas refugee intake.

As Scott Morrison, the former Australian immigration minister, said earlier in the week about Trumps border plans: Really, the rest of the world is catching up to Australia.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/feb/02/refugees-trump-turnbull-compete-race-bottom

UN envoy Nikki Haley criticises Russian aggression in Ukraine

New ambassador uses maiden speech to the security council to deliver the Trump administrations first rebuke to Moscow

The Trump administration has severely criticised Russia for the first time with its newly appointed ambassador to the United Nations lambasting Moscow for its military intervention in Ukraine.

Making her maiden address to a session of the UN security council on Thursday, Nikki Haley said: Eastern Ukraine of course is not the only part of the country suffering because of Russias aggressive actions. The United States continues to condemn and call for an immediate end to the Russian occupation of Crimea.

Crimea is a part of Ukraine. Our Crimea related sanctions will remain in place until Russia returns control of the peninsula to Ukraine, said Haley, who was formerly governor of South Carolina.

Haleys remarks at the UN echoed the tough position she took on Russia at her Senate confirmation hearings but were in strong contrast to the tone taken by the White House which has been silent on Russian actions in Ukraine. Donald Trump has consistently praised Vladimir Putin and held an hour-long phone conversation with the Russian leader on Saturday, which was characterised by the Kremlin as friendly and focused on future joint action on counter-terrorism. The new upsurge of fighting in eastern Ukraine began soon after the Trump-Putin call.

In her speech at the security council, Haley appeared to acknowledge the White Houses desire to forge better ties with Moscow, but said Russian actions in Ukraine made it impossible to lift sanctions.

I consider it unfortunate on the occasion of my first appearance here I must condemn the aggressive actions of Russia, she said. It shouldnt happen, or be that way. We do want to better our relations with Russia. However, the dire situation in eastern Ukraine is one that demands clear and strong condemnation of Russian actions.

The United States and other western powers imposed sanctions on Russia in 2014 over its annexation of the Crimea peninsula from Ukraine and its support for pro-Russia separatists in eastern Ukraine.

The new secretaries of state and defence, Rex Tillerson and James Mattis, also took more anti-Russian and pro-Nato positions than Trump in their confirmation hearings, leaving many in western capitals and Moscow to wonder what the new administrations new policy would be.

In his report to the security council, the UN humanitarian chief, Stephen OBrien, warned that the escalation in the conflict around Avdiivka, a frontline town in government-held territory, and Donetsk, was not just killing civilians directly but could lead to large numbers of casualties by destroying infrastructure like urban heating systems and triggering the release of dangerous chemicals.

Today temperatures are -10C, but -20C is not unheard of at this time of the year. Adequate shelter, heating and access to water are therefore essential to peoples survival, OBrien warned. If hostilities continue, we may also be faced with a serious environmental crisis. Damage to the Phenol plant near Novgorodske village means that waste chemicals, including deadly sulphuric acid and formaldehyde, are now at critical levels. Leakage into the surrounding land and the Seversky Donets river would have disastrous humanitarian consequences in a highly industrialised part of Europe.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/feb/03/un-envoy-nikki-haley-criticises-russian-aggression-in-ukraine

Justin Trudeau’s tweets wont make Canada a refugee havenbut popular pressure can | Martin Lukacs

The Prime Ministers refugee-friendly branding has veiled Canadas fortress policies that are in urgent need of overhaul

It was a tweet heard around the world: Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeaus rejoinder to Donald Trumps repugnant Muslim travel ban that has sparked outrage around the world. To those fleeing persecution, terror & war, Canadians will welcome you, regardless of your faith, Trudeau tweeted on Saturday. Diversity is our strength. #WelcometoCanada.

While Trump has immediately stoked reactionary chaos, Trudeau has always struck the progressive posture. With fuzzy memes and messaging and photo-ops of him hugging refugees and his predictably popular latest tweet Canadas Liberal party has painted themselves as a welcoming government in a sea of rising intolerance. Praise from the international political and media class has flowed.

Trumps attack on refugees, and yesterdays murderous assault on a Quebec city mosque by a racist white nationalist, should indeed focus Trudeaus mind. But before we continue the bout of self-congratulation, lets get a few things straight. Start with the fact that, despite the horror unfolding south of the border, his government refused yesterday to commit to raising the countrys refugee intake: asked to clarify Trudeaus twitter-diplomacy, the Immigration Minister stated that they were already doing our part.

What exactly is our part? Just last month, the government quietly capped applications for private sponsorship of refugees from war-torn Syria and Iraqafter families and community groups brought in nearly 14,000 last year. The number now accepted? A mere one thousand. In other words, many desperate and endangered people will not be able to come to Canada, despite there being groups ready to welcome and host them. Sparkling in his symbolism, Trudeau has been desultory in his deeds.

Despite the optics, Canada has hardly been a leader in openness among countries. The number of refugees it accepted last year totalled 38,000ranking us a laggardly 20th, judged per capita, among industrialized countries. And of those refugees, nearly half were privately sponsored by citizens, not the government itself. Trudeau has outsourced his responsibility to ordinary people, but has not been shy to claim the benefits to his image.

As Trumps administration now unleashes a racist anti-immigrant agenda that will involve not just travel bans by massive surveillance and deportations, there is another crucial way that Canada could open the doors to endangered peoplebut is currently, under Trudeau, barring many of them. If an asylum seeker now in the United States showed up at the Canadian border tomorrow, they would not be welcomed: they might be turned away. Hard to square with Trudeaus tweet, isnt it?

Thats because Canadaunder a so-called Safe Third Country agreement established by a previous Liberal government in 2004doesnt accept asylum seekers who come to Canada via the US. If someone fleeing war or persecution lands first in the United States deemed a safe country, a notion now dramatically unapt they are barred from seeking refuge in Canada.

There were already instances of people risking their lives to cross the border to Canada. And now life for poor, racialized and Muslim people in the United States has gotten a whole lot more dangerous. But Trudeau has not shown any inclination to repeal this agreement and allow people to find safety in Canada: a petition with growing numbers demands he now urgently do so.

Trudeau appears to be very good at saying exactly the right thing, at the opportune media momentthen doing very little to accompany it with meaningful action. If only virality could induce reality.

Those many desperate people who have had their hopes raised by media coverage of Trudeaus proclamations should be warned: dont expect an embrace at the airport. Expect detention or deportation. And beyond the border, not stuffed animals but stuffed suits from Canadas security or spy agencies.

Far from being a genuine haven for refugees, Canada under Trudeau has continued policies dating back to the odious Conservative government of Stephen Harper or well before that make life for refugees fleeing to this country exceedingly difficult and dangerous.

Anyone deemed an irregular arrival to the country as desperate people are bound to be are immediately jailed. Several thousand people every year in Canada including hundreds of children wallow in indefinite detention in facilities or maximum security provincial prisons. As if fleeing persecution were a crime.

Hunger strikes to protest conditions have been a regular occurrence: but instead of acceding to demands, the government has deported key strike organizers. These policies have been condemned by the United Nationsnot the kind of international attention that Trudeau is used to.

And far out of the sight of ordinary Canadians, a bureaucratic machine operated by security officials has ripped apart families and deported, often to lethal situations, a staggering number of attempted refugees: 100,000 people in the last ten years.

These policies are presided over by Trudeau with none of Trumps venom, but the result is still exclusion, suffering and heartbreak. This is not the violence of overt hate. It is the violence of empty gestures.

We must demand so much more. For so long, the right-wing has been doing exactly that. Demagogic politicians in Canada have stoked anti-Muslim and anti-refugee sentiments with extreme proposals for a barbaric cultural practices hotline or screenings for anti-Canadian values. This sowed the seeds for a gunmens rampage on a mosque. It also meant that even when the right-wing lost particular policy goals – as Trump already appears to be on aspects of his Muslim ban they still won another way: they dragged the political climate further to the right, transforming what is considered acceptable and possible.

It is time for progressive movements to match right-wing assertiveness, but in the service of compassion and solidarity. Pretty words will not suffice: we must demand significant policy changes and a firm rejection of anti-Muslim ideologyincluding Trudeau outright condemning Trumps policies. Undocumented residents in Canada should be granted permanent status and live without fear of mass detention and deportation; and borders should be opened to those refused asylum in the United States and others living in danger elsewhere.

Inspiring rallies at airports across the United States over the weekend were followed today by protests in Canada surrounding US consulates and embassies in Ottawa, Montreal and Toronto. People are flooding their MPs with messages, and demands are growing louder. Canada can become a refuge to the persecutedbut what were seeing right now is still window-dressing.

Twitter: @Martin_Lukacs

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/true-north/2017/jan/30/justin-trudeaus-tweets-wont-make-canada-a-refugee-havenbut-popular-pressure-can

George Soros: Theresa May won’t last and Donald Trump is ‘would-be dictator’

Billionaire investor delivers bleak Brexit forecast at World Economic Forum and says Donald Trump is gearing up for trade war but will fail

Theresa May will not remain in power long as Brexit cripples her government, while Donald Trump is a would-be dictator who is going to fail, the billionaire investor George Soros has told the Davos world economic forum.

On the eve of Trumps inauguration as president, Soros delivered a scathing assessment, saying the impostor and con-man was gearing up for a trade war which would have a very far-reaching effect in Europe and other parts of the world.

The would-be-dictator didnt expect to win, he was surprised, Soros told an audience of business leaders and journalists in Davos where the World Economic Forum is being held.

I personally have confidence that hes going to fail because his ideas that guide him are inherently self-contradictory, added Soros, who was a supporter of Trumps Democratic rival Hillary Clinton during the 2016 US presidential election campaign.

Soros said he expected financial markets to not do very well because of the uncertainty generated by the Trump administration.

On Theresa May and Brexit, Soros predicted economic upheaval in Britain and substantial difficulties in bringing about a clean break with the European Union and the prospect of the UK quickly joining again or entering a successor arrangement once the referendum mandate of leaving the EU was fulfilled.

In my opinion is is unlikely that prime minister May is actually going to remain in power. Already she has a very divided cabinet, a very small majority in parliament. And I think she will not last, he said.

At the moment the people in the UK are in denial. The current economic situation is not as bad as was predicted and they live in hope. But as the currency depreciates, and inflation will be the driving force, this will lead to declining living standards.

This is going to take some time, but when it does happen theyll realise that they are earning less than before because wages wont rise as fast as the cost of living.

The divorce is going to take a very long time. Its much harder to divorce than to get married, so I think the desire for rapprochement will develop, and in theory or maybe even in practice you could have a situation in 2019 or 2020 when Britain will leave the EU, because it does have to take place, but they could leave on a Friday but join over the weekend and have the new arrangement in place in Monday morning.

Soros said he hoped both sides would realise they must find some common ground and find common ground to avoid a bitter divorce.

The future for Europe looked bleak, Soros said, after a disastrous 2016. Europe had become too complicated, leaving people alienated and anti-European parties gathering force.

May, speaking earlier at the forum, said Britain had voted with determination and quiet resolve to leave the EU but it was overwhelmingly in Britains interests for Europe to succeed.

Britain must face up to a period of momentous change. It means we must go through a tough negotiation and forge a new role for ourselves in the world. It means accepting that the road ahead will be uncertain at times, but believing that it leads towards a brighter future for our countrys children, and grandchildren too.

We are going to be a confident country that is in control of its destiny once again.

With the Associated Press and Agence France-Presse

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/business/2017/jan/20/george-soros-theresa-may-wont-last-and-donald-trump-is-would-be-dictator

Senate grills attorney general nominee Sessions on KKK, bigotry and ‘lock her up’

Trumps nominee for attorney general discussed allegations of bigotry throughout his career and distanced himself from Trumps most extreme promises

Donald Trumps nominee for US attorney general denied being a racist on Tuesday and promised to act as a restraint on the president-elect, as protesters began disrupting the transition of power in Washington.

Jeff Sessions described allegations of bigotry that have dogged his career as damnably false charges during a confirmation hearing that was repeatedly interrupted by furious demonstrators chanting: No Trump, no KKK, no fascist USA.

I abhor the Klan and what it represents, and its hateful ideology, Sessions told the Senate judiciary committee. He pledged as Americas top law enforcement official to protect our African American brothers and sisters as well as the rights of LGBT people and women.

Sessions, a veteran senator from Alabama, distanced himself from several of Trumps most extreme campaign promises, declaring that waterboarding the torture technique by US forces was illegal, and that there should be no ban on all Muslims entering the US.

Senator Dianne Feinstein, the committees most senior Democrat, told Sessions that there were deep concerns and anxieties among some Americans about Trumps agenda, which includes a crackdown on illegal immigration and return to tough on crime policing.

Communities across this country are concerned about whether they will be able to rely on the Department of Justice to protect their rights and freedoms, said Feinstein. Protesters were forcibly removed from the hearing at several points.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/jan/10/jeff-sessions-confirmation-hearing-attorney-general

Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner: new role as DC power couple raises alarm

Ethics experts renew concerns over nepotism and conflicts of interest inherent in Trumps son-in-law as senior adviser and Ivankas role in the family business

Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner are poised to become one of the most powerful couples in the US.

Donald Trumps eldest daughter and her husband, who played crucial roles in directing Trumps campaign, now sit at the helm of his transition team, along with Trumps sons, and, on Monday, Trump named Kushner a senior adviser to the president, an appointment that has raised questions about potential conflicts of interests and drawn accusations of nepotism.

Trump described his son-in-law, a New York real estate executive and publisher of the weekly New York Observer, as a tremendous asset and trusted adviser throughout the campaign and transition and praised him as incredibly successful, in both business and now politics. Ivanka, who serves as executive vice-president of development and acquisitions of the Trump Organization and has her own fashion line, is not expected to have a formal role in the administration.

As the couple prepare to move their family from New York to Washington, his appointment and her continued involvement in the family business open the administration up to new claims of conflicts of interest when it has far from resolved its approach to those of Donald Trump himself.

Ethics lawyers have also raised concerns that Kushners appointment will run afoul of federal anti-nepotism law, which prohibits any public official from hiring family members to an agency or office which he or she leads.

WilmerHale, a law firm contracted by Kushner, has said in a statement that he is committed to complying with federal ethics laws and has coordinated with the Office of Government Ethics. In a statement, Trumps transition team said Kushner has chosen to forego his salary while serving in the administration.

Further complicating their roles, Kushner and Ivanka Trump are centrally involved in their families businesses.

Kushners lawyers said that he intended to divest many of his assets, including foreign investments, before starting in his White House role. Some ethics lawyers have already said that that would not go far enough to head off potential conflicts because his plans include selling to his brother, a venture capitalist, or to a family trust controlled by his mother.

Similarly, ethics experts have warned that if Trump puts his children, who currently serve as advisers on his presidential committee, in control of his business operations, as he has suggested, they would have to be entirely removed from government operations and would not be able to attend meetings with foreign leaders like the one Ivanka Trump attended with the prime minister of Japan.

Kushner is the oldest son of Charles Kushner, a New Jersey real estate developer and prominent Democratic donor, who was convicted and sentenced to two years in prison for tax evasion and retaliation against a federal witness his brother-in-law. Charles Kushner hired a prostitute to entrap his brother-in-law, captured the encounter on camera, and sent the footage to his sister, the mans wife.

Ivanka Trump and Kushner met in 2007 at a business lunch organized by mutual friends who intended it as a networking opportunity.

They very innocently set us up thinking that our only interest in one another would be transactional, Ivanka told Vogue in 2015. Whenever we see them were like, the best deal we ever made!

Almost immediately, the young couple became the source of are-they or arent-they gossip column speculation. The New York press branded them with the couple name J-Vanka, and their true relationship status was revealed when paparazzi photos spotted the pair making out while bowling.

After dating for two years, they married in October 2009, at a lavish wedding attended by 500 guests at her fathers private golf course in Bedminster, New Jersey. Before their marriage, Ivanka converted to Judaism. Her husband comes from a devout Orthodox Jewish family, and they are raising their children in the Jewish faith.

In some ways, Kushner, the grandson of Holocaust survivors and the son of a once-prominent Democratic donor, and Ivanka, a businesswoman who calls herself a feminist and runs in a decidedly liberal social circle, seem an unlikely pair to prop up a political campaign and soon, a presidency that has been assailed as nationalistic, misogynistic, racist and antisemitic.

They both come from wealthy and controversial east coast real estate families. They attended elite schools he went to Harvard (and was accepted after his father reportedly donated $2.5m) and New York University; she went to Georgetown and Wharton.

The seeming contrast invited some friends and acquaintances to muse that perhaps they are going along with Donald Trumps political project out of a sense of familial duty and despite their personal views. But those questions faded as Kushners role in the campaign became clearer and more influential and after Ivanka introduced her father at the Republican national convention as color-blind and gender neutral.

Theyre believers, Reed Cordish, a friend of the couple, told the New Yorker in August. They are all in. They have been all in from the get-go, without hesitation.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/jan/10/ivanka-trump-jared-kushner-nepotism-conflicts-of-interest