Trump tells AP he won’t accept blame if GOP loses House
By CATHERINE LUCEY, JONATHAN LEMIRE and ZEKE MILLER
Wednesday, October 17
WASHINGTON (AP) — Facing the prospect of bruising electoral defeat in congressional elections, President Donald Trump said Tuesday that he won’t accept the blame if his party loses control of the House in November, arguing his campaigning and endorsements have helped Republican candidates.
In a wide-ranging interview three weeks before Election Day, Trump told The Associated Press he senses voter enthusiasm rivaling 2016 and he expressed cautious optimism that his most loyal supporters will vote even when he is not on the ballot.
The AP asked Trump “if Republicans were to lose control of the House on November 6th — or a couple of days later depending on how long it takes to count the votes — do you believe you bear some responsibility for that?”
“No, I think I’m helping people,” Trump said.
Elaborating, Trump added: “And I will say that we have a very big impact. I don’t believe anybody’s ever had this kind of an impact. They would say that in the old days that if you got the support of a president or if you’ve got the support of somebody it would be nice to have, but it meant nothing, zero. Like literally zero. Some of the people I’ve endorsed have gone up 40 and 50 points just on the endorsement.”
Trump spoke on a range of subjects, defending Saudi Arabia from growing condemnation over the case of a missing journalist, accusing his longtime attorney Michael Cohen of lying under oath and flashing defiance when asked about the insult — “Horseface” — he hurled at Stormy Daniels, the porn actress who accuses him of lying about an affair.
Asked if it was appropriate to insult a woman’s appearance, Trump responded, “You can take it any way you want.”
Throughout much of the nearly 40-minute interview, he sat, arms crossed, in the Oval Office behind the Resolute Desk, flanked by top aides, including White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders and communications director Bill Shine. White House counselor Kellyanne Conway listened from a nearby sofa.
The interview came as Trump’s administration was being urged to pressure Saudi Arabia to account for the disappearance of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Instead, Trump offered a defense for the U.S. ally, warning against a rush to judgment, like with what happened with his Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh, who was accused of sexual assault.
“Well, I think we have to find out what happened first,” Trump said. “Here we go again with, you know, you’re guilty until proven innocent. I don’t like that. We just went through that with Justice Kavanaugh. And he was innocent all the way.”
Weeks away from the midterms, Democrats are hopeful about their chances to recapture the House, while Republicans are increasingly confident they can hold control of the Senate.
Trump has been campaigning aggressively in a blitz of rallies aimed at firing up his base. He said he believes he’s doing his job, but allowed he has heard from some of his supporters who say they may not vote this November.
“I’m not running,” he said. “I mean, there are many people that have said to me … ‘I will never ever go and vote in the midterms because you’re not running and I don’t think you like Congress.’” He added: “Well, I do like Congress.”
If Democrats take the House and pursue impeachment or investigations — including seeking his long-hidden tax returns — Trump said he will “handle it very well.”
The president declared he was unconcerned about other potential threats to his presidency. He accused Cohen of lying when testifying under oath that the president coordinated on a hush-money scheme to buy Daniels’ silence.
Trump on Tuesday declared the allegation “totally false.” But in entering a plea deal with Cohen in August, federal prosecutors signaled that they accepted his recitation of facts and account of what occurred.
Trump said that Washington lawyer Pat Cipollone will serve as his next White House counsel and that he hoped to announce a replacement for U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley in the next week or two. He again repeated his frustration with Attorney General Jeff Sessions over the special counsel investigation, saying he could “fire him whenever I want to fire him, but I haven’t said that I was going to.”
On the ongoing Russia investigation, Trump defended his son Donald Trump Jr. for a Trump Tower meeting with a Kremlin-connected lawyer offering damaging information about Democrat Hillary Clinton. Trump called his son a “good young guy” and said he did what any political aide would have done.
Trump again cast doubt on climate change, suggesting, incorrectly, that the scientific community was evenly split on the existence of climate change and its causes. There are “scientists on both sides of the issue,” Trump said.
“But what I’m not willing to do is sacrifice the economic well-being of our country for something that nobody really knows,” Trump said.
He added: “I have a natural instinct for science, and I will say that you have scientists on both sides of the picture.”
Asked about his wartime leadership, Trump acknowledged that he has not brought U.S. troops home from conflict zones overseas and that there are more Americans serving in harm’s way now than when he took office.
“It’s not a lot more. It’s a little bit more,” he said.
Saying he’s trying to preserve “safety at home,” Trump added that if there are areas where people are threatening the U.S., “I’m going to have troops there for a period of time.”
Trump increased U.S. troop totals in Afghanistan by about 4,000 last year.
The president engaged on several other topics, including:
— He said he has given no consideration to pardoning Paul Manafort, his former campaign chairman who was convicted of numerous financial crimes.
— He suggested that his second summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un would happen after next month’s midterm elections and would likely not be in the United States.
— He broke with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s proposed changes to Social Security to control the deficit.
— And he defended his decision to break from his predecessors and not yet visit a military base in a combat zone, claiming it was not “overly necessary.”
Repeatedly stressing what he saw as the achievements of his first two years, Trump said he’d be seeking another term because there was “always more work to do.”
“The new motto is Keep America Great,” Trump said. “I don’t want somebody to destroy it because I can do a great job, but the wrong person coming in after me sitting right at this desk can destroy it very quickly if they don’t do the right thing. So no, I’m definitely running.”
Associated Press writer Colleen Long contributed to this report.
Read the transcript of the AP interview at: http://apne.ws/qTbznl8
How Turkey and Saudi Arabia became frenemies – and why the Khashoggi case could change that
October 17, 2018
Henry J. Leir Professor of Practice in Economics of the Middle East, Brandeis University
Nader Habibi does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.
The Oct. 2 disappearance of Saudi Arabian journalist Jamal Khashoggi at his country’s consulate in Istanbul has put a spotlight on the deteriorating relations between Turkey and the Persian Gulf kingdom.
Articles based on anonymous accounts from Turkish officials report that Turkey has video and audio proof that Saudi Arabian agents detained, murdered and dismembered Khashoggi, a sharp critic of his government who lived in Washington, D.C. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan raised the stakes even further when he said that a search of the Saudi consulate showed evidence of toxic materials that were painted over.
The affair is just the latest to drive a wedge between the two key Middle Eastern powers – countries that have in the past shared close ties to each other and to the United States.
How did their friendship turn frosty?
I’ve been studying and writing about the region for decades. And like with many other relationships in the Middle East, it’s complicated – and that’s why the current crisis could lead to a surprising twist.
Although diplomatic relations between the Republic of Turkey and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia were established in 1932, neither country showed much interest in the other until the late 1960s.
Turkey’s secular ruling elite was more keen to have strategic and economic ties with the West than to the Arab world. Turkey joined the NATO alliance in 1951 – two years after its formation – and maintained good relations with Israel from the start, much to the disappointment of Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries.
This began to change in the ‘60s and ’70s when Turkey made two moves that led to stronger relations with Saudi Arabia and resulted in increased trade. In 1969, it joined the nascent Organization of Islamic States, based in Saudi Arabia and intended to be a “collective voice of the Muslim world.” And in 1975, Turkey initiated diplomatic relations with the Palestine Liberation Organization, which sought to end the occupation of Palestinian territories in Israel.
Relations continued to improve in the 1980s but deteriorated in the ’90s when the kingdom took Syria’s side in several disputes with neighbor Turkey.
These ups and downs in Saudi-Turkish relations were partly a result of Turkey’s political instability, including several military coups in the ’80s and ’90s. Relations tended to improve when Islamist or civilian parties – which felt close cultural and religious links with Turkey’s Muslim neighbors – were in power but worsened after the military deposed them.
Relations between the two countries found a firmer footing after the Justice and Development Party – commonly known as the AKP – gained power in Turkey in 2002 and continued to improve throughout the decade.
In contrast to the secular governments that had ruled Turkey since 1923, the AKP and its leader Erdogan put a high priority on building stronger relationships with its Arab and Muslim neighbors.
The U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003 and the resulting change in the balance of power in the region brought Turkey and Saudi Arabia even closer together. Both were concerned about Iraq falling into the hands of their common rival, Iran, whose military and political influence increased as a result of the invasion. They also wanted to contain Iran’s influence in Syria and Lebanon.
As a result of these closer ties, in August 2006 the late King Abdullah became the first Saudi leader to visit Turkey since 1966 and made another trip the following year. In return, then-Prime Minister Erdogan visited Saudi Arabia four times from 2009 to 2011.
The high-level diplomatic contacts fostered growing business and investment. Turkish exports of textiles, metals and other products to Saudi Arabia soared from US$397 million in 2000 to $3.6 billion in 2012. And Saudi businessmen who felt unwelcome in the U.S. and Europe after 9/11 saw Turkey as an attractive destination.
A springtime chill in the air
Relations took a sharp turn in the 2011, starting with the Arab spring uprisings that led to the overthrow of governments in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya.
As an advocate of political Islam, Erdogan welcomed the revolutions and the new governments they yielded. The Saudi government, on the other hand, saw the revolts as destabilizing.
This disagreement came to a peak when Mohammad Morsi, who was closely affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood, won that Egypt’s first post-Hosni Mubarak election in 2012. Erdogan supported Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood’s rise to power, which was opposed by Saudi Arabia and other Gulf States like the United Arab Emirates. These countries had a long history of hostility towards Muslim Brotherhood activities throughout the Arab world and were concerned that these victories would energize the movement in their own countries.
The rift between Turkey and Saudi Arabia intensified after a military coup ousted Morsi in 2013. Erdogan strongly condemned it and gave the Muslim Brotherhood refuge in Turkey, while Saudi Arabia offered billions in financial aid to cement Egypt’s new military rulers.
Relations took another hit in 2014 when Saudi Arabia actively undermined Turkey’s bid to become a nonpermanent member of the United Nations’ Security Council.
More recently, Saudi Arabia and Turkey found themselves on opposite sides over the Qatar crisis in June 2017. Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the UAE and Egypt severed all ties with Qatar – and tried to enforce an economic blockade – over the latter’s support for the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamist groups. They were also upset with Qatar’s refusal to terminate its ties with Iran.
Turkey reacted by expanding its engagement with Qatar, offering economic aid and sending more troops to its small military base in that country. Indeed, Turkish food shipments to Qatar played a crucial role in its ability to withstand the blockade.
Interpreting Turkey’s response to Khashoggi
So what does this all mean for the current crisis?
Western media have mostly portrayed Turkey’s handling of the latest incident involving Khashoggi’s disappearance as an indication of deteriorating Saudi-Turkey relations.
That might not, however, be the case. The Turkish government is trying to balance multiple conflicting goals in the way it handles this crisis.
On the one hand, it is trying to show a full commitment to discovering what happened and has put enormous pressure on Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman by leaking details of his government’s involvement. But I believe it is also mindful of preventing a further escalation of tensions with Saudi Arabia, which remains a major investor in Turkey.
Meanwhile, Turkey is struggling with a severe financial and external debt crisis at the moment and is desperately trying to attract foreign capital. A withdrawal of Saudi investment or tourists could worsen the crisis.
Erdogan’s initial hesitation in pointing the finger – leaving it to “anonymous officials” – and his call for a joint investigation gave Saudi leadership time to come up with a response strategy, which appears to be blaming “rogue killers.”
In this he seems to share President Donald Trump’s interest in giving Saudi Arabia a face-saving way out of the crisis. The U.S. and the Trump administration also have a lot on the line in their relationship with the Saudi government.
Interestingly, one result of this ordeal, which has plunged Saudi Arabia’s relationship with the West into chaos, may be more cooperation and better ties between the U.S. and Turkey, which now have a great deal of leverage over the kingdom.
Keep Halloween from Turning Deadly
AAA offers tricks to keep trick-or-treaters, motorists and partygoers safe
COLUMBUS, Ohio (October 24, 2018) – As more than 40 million children between the ages of 5 and 14 get ready to trick-or-treat this Halloween, AAA urges Ohioans to take steps to prevent Halloween horrors from ruining the fun.
Obey all traffic signs and signals.
Slow down! A pedestrian is nearly twice as likely to be killed if they’re hit by a car going 30 mph compared to if they’re hit at 25 mph, according to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. Just 5 mph can be the difference between life and death.
Plan ahead. Check Beggars’ Night dates for municipalities you drive through each day.
Watch for trick-or-treaters. Be aware that they may not be paying attention to traffic and may cross mid-block or between parked cars. Scan the road ahead.
Parents & Trick-or-Treaters
Parents should accompany young trick-or-treaters at least until the age of 12.
Plan and discuss the route trick-or-treaters will follow.
Cross streets only at the corner. Never cross between parked cars or mid-block.
Select highly visible costumes. Add reflective tape to costumes and treat buckets and bags to increase visibility. Also, carry a flashlight with fresh batteries.
Avoid facemasks, which obstruct vision. Instead, use nontoxic face paint.
Ensure costumes fit well. Watch the length of billowy costumes to help avoid tripping.
Partygoers & Hosts
Nearly half (45 percent) of Halloween crash fatalities involve alcohol-impaired drivers, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. That includes about a quarter (23 percent) of Halloween pedestrian fatalities. When celebrating this Halloween, AAA recommends:
Make plans to get home safely. Designate a sober driver, call a cab or ride sharing service, or stay overnight.
Host responsibly. Ohio’s host liability law holds those who serve alcohol liable for injury or death that occurs due to their drunken guests. When hosting a party, offer alternatives to alcohol.
Pledge to Drive Sober: Motorists and passengers can visit PreventDUI.AAA.com to sign and share an online pledge to drive drug and alcohol free.
As North America’s largest motoring and leisure travel organization, AAA provides more than 58 million members with travel-, financial-, insurance-, and automotive-related services. Since its founding in 1902, the not-for-profit, fully tax-paying AAA has been a leader and advocate for the safety and security of all travelers. AAA clubs can be visited online at AAA.com.