Last week, President Donald Trump appeared before a joint session of the Congress – the Senate and the House of Representatives, and delivered his first speech. It was an exceptional speech delivered by a man who is known more for his nasty and vitriolic remarks or comments than anything good or decent. Beset by the lowest approval ratings of any new commander-in-chief of modern times, Trump made a profound effort to court voters who didn’t support him with an offer to lay down the battles of the past and to unite to tackle the difficult problems facing the USA today.
“From now on, America will be empowered by our aspirations, not burdened by our fears, inspired by the future, not bound by failures of the past, and guided by a vision, not blinded by our doubts,” Trump said, from the Speaker’s rostrum in the House of Representatives. “I am asking all citizens to embrace this renewal of the American spirit. I am asking all members of Congress to join me in dreaming big, and bold, and daring things for our country,” Trump said. “I am asking everyone watching tonight to seize this moment. Believe in yourselves. Believe in your future. And believe, once more, in America.”
Trump also spoke about repealing and replacing Obamacare, a big tax overhaul, and a $1 trillion infrastructure program. However, he did not provide anything substantial as to how to yield “a new chapter of American greatness.”
“My job is not to represent the world. My job is to represent the United States of America,” said Trump. “But we know that America is better off when there is less conflict, not more. We must learn from the mistakes of the past. We have seen the war and the destruction that have ravaged and raged throughout the world.”
Trump’s speech was well received by the audience. “Donald Trump did indeed become presidential tonight, and I think we’ll see that reflected in a higher approval rating,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, said on CNN after the speech.
However, the official Democratic response by former Kentucky Gov. Steven Beshear accused the President of deserting the working people who voted for him by picking a cabinet of millionaires and billionaires. “That’s not being our champion. That’s being Wall Street’s champion,” Beshear said.
“Real leaders don’t spread derision and division. Real leaders strengthen, they unify, they partner, and they offer real solutions instead of ultimatums and blame,” said Beshear, accusing Trump of waging war on refugees and immigrants and endangering US security by reaching out to Russia.
Among those who viewed Trump’s speech on TV, according to the CBS News, his approval rating was 76%, disapproval rating was 24%, a big difference from ratings before the speech. (Note: as is typical for a presidential speech, viewers tended to come more from the president’s own party; in this case more Republicans tuned in.)
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Before all the good-wills could morph into a major paradigm shift for Trump, his administration came under fire with the latest news-break that Attorney General (AG) Sessions had met Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak twice last year but did not mention either meeting during his confirmation hearings when asked about contacts between Trump surrogates and Russians.
According to the CNN, when Sessions was a senator and a top Trump surrogate, he met the ambassador on the sidelines of the Republican National Convention in July and again in September when he was a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee.
Since the reports about Sessions’ meetings with ambassador came to light, several Democrats, including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, have called on Sessions to resign since, as the chief law enforcement person, he lied under oath. Democrats have also said Sessions’ decision to recuse himself from any investigation of reported contacts between the Trump campaign and Russian officials does not go far enough, and they are calling for a special prosecutor to investigate the matter.
Facing pressure from Democrats and some Republicans in Congress to step aside from any investigation of any contacts between Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and officials known to US intelligence, Sessions announced Thursday that he would recuse himself.
On Friday, the Democratic members of the Judiciary Committee, including ranking member Dianne Feinstein, requested Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley to call AG Sessions before the panel, saying a written submission from the attorney general to correct the record would not be sufficient.
“The Attorney General’s responses to our questions during his confirmation process were, at best, incomplete and misleading,” the senators wrote in the letter.
“Unfortunately, he has not explained why he failed to come forward and correct the record before reports of his contacts with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak became public, why there was a delay in recusing himself until those public disclosures, and why he only recused himself with respect to campaign-related investigations and not Russian contacts with the Trump transition team and administration.”
The statement by Grassley’s office said Sessions would not be asked to testify before the committee ahead of “an annual oversight hearing, as is customary.”
Now we are told by CNN that Sessions was not alone in meeting the Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak. Some of the Trump-insiders, including his son-in-law Kushner, had also met.
President Trump issued a statement on Thursday stating that Sessions is an ‘honest man’. “It is a total witch-hunt.”
Irrespective of what may have been discussed between Trump’s surrogates and the Russian Ambassador in the last few months Russia’s meddling in the elections in the USA and some parts of Europe cannot be whitewashed. It is a very disturbing development.
General Sir Adrian Bradshaw, NATO’s Deputy Supreme Allied Commander Europe, has claimed that alleged Russian cyber-attacks could be deemed an act of aggression and trigger the military alliance’s principle of collective defense. General Bradshaw said NATO has “declared cyber as a domain in warfare, alongside air, maritime, special forces and land”.
Trump has defended Russia against his own intelligence agencies’ allegations of involvement in the Democratic National Committee cyber-attacks, and other leaks and “fake news” spread to damage Hillary Clinton. A report released by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence read, “Russia’s goals were to undermine public faith in the US democratic process, denigrate Secretary Clinton and harm her electability and potential presidency.
“We further assess Putin and the Russian Government developed a clear preference for President-elect Trump.”
European intelligence agencies have warned attempts could also be made to influence upcoming votes in France, the Netherlands and Germany.
Lawyers have ordered Donald Trump’s administrations to save any potential evidence of alleged Russian interference in the US election. As part of its investigation into Russia’s possible role in the presidential election, the Senate intelligence committee has also asked more than a dozen groups, agencies and individuals to preserve relevant records.
A spokesperson for the White House called the accusations of nefarious ties between the President and Russia “false and politically motivated attacks”.
Clearly, the White House is in hot water. As part of his distraction tactics, this Saturday morning, Trump accused former President Barack Obama in a series of tweets of having his “wires tapped” in Trump Tower before the 2016 election.
“Terrible! Just found out that Obama had my ‘wires tapped’ in Trump Tower just before the victory. Nothing found. This is McCarthyism!” Trump posted on Twitter.
Trump did not offer evidence for the claim.
In a statement, Kevin Lewis, spokesman for former President Barack Obama, denied accusations by President Donald Trump, and stated: “A cardinal rule of the Obama Administration was that no White House official ever interfered with any independent investigation led by the Department of Justice. As part of that practice, neither President Obama nor any White House official ever ordered surveillance on any U.S. citizen. Any suggestion otherwise is simply false.”
Obviously, Trump has to grow up and behave presidential. Otherwise, he would be taken as a jester or a liar who lies often to entertain his audience. And that would be disastrous for all because of being the Commander in Chief of a country with the most powerful military. Even if he were to later speak the truth on an important matter, people won’t know which Trump was speaking – the lying Don or the truth-teller.