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Democrats argue over ISIS, Trump

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Washington: As Democratic presidential contenders sparred at their last debate of the year, frontrunner Hillary Clinton suggested that her Republican rival Donald Trump’s rhetoric against Muslims was becoming a potent and powerful tool for ISIS.

“He is becoming ISIS’s best recruiter. They are going to people showing videos of Donald Trump insulting Islam and Muslims in order to recruit more radical jihadists,” she said during Saturday’s Democratic debate, hosted by ABC News.

When asked about her emphasis on gun control in the wake of the San Bernardino terror attacks by a Pakistani-origin couple, Clinton again hit out at Trump saying the real estate mogul is pushing the wrong narrative in the fight against the ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria), a militant group.

“I worry greatly that the rhetoric coming from the Republicans, particularly Donald Trump, is sending a message to Muslims here in the United States and literally around the world,” she said.

That message seemed to be “that there is a clash of civilizations, that there is some kind of western plot or even war against Islam, which then I believe fans the flames of radicalization”, said Clinton.

Clinton’s closest rival, self-styled democratic socialist Bernie Sanders too attacked Trump, but for supporting low wages. “He thinks low wages are a good idea,” he said.

Former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley, whose campaign has not gained much traction, said the US “must never surrender our American values to racists, must never surrender them to the fascist pleas of billionaires with big mouths”.

The three candidates also clashed over gun rights with Clinton saying more citizens purchasing firearms wouldn’t help matters and Sanders focusing on a search for “consensus” on gun regulations.

“Guns in and of themselves, in my opinion, will not make Americans safer. We lose 33,000 a year already to gun violence. Arming more people — to do what(?) — is not the appropriate response to terrorism,” Clinton said.

Sanders disagreed saying that “it’s a divided country on guns. But there is a broad consensus on gun safety regulation”.

He called for background checks for potential gun owners and the closure of loopholes that allow easier purchases at gun shows.

O’Malley attacked both, saying: “Secretary Clinton changes her position on this every election year, it seems. What we need on this issue is not more polls. We need more principle.”

Clashing over the future of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Sanders said Clinton is “too much into regime change and too aggressive without knowing what the consequences may be”.

Clinton hit back saying that Sanders had voted for regime change in Libya. She also warned against any policy that would allow Iran to increase its role in Syria, equating such a move to “asking the arsonist to come and pour more gas on the fire”.

But Sanders stated that “we have got to get our foreign policy and our priorities right. It is not Assad who is attacking the United States — it is ISIS”.(Arun Kumar, IANS)

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Attorney General Jeff Sessions Steps Down As Asked By Donald Trump

It remains to be seen whether Trump will tap Whitaker for the job permanently and send his name to the Senate for confirmation.

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U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions attends a news conference on the arrest of a suspect in the sending of at least a dozen parcel bombs to Democratic politicians and high-profile critics of President Trump. VOA

U.S. President Donald Trump forced his controversial Attorney General Jeff Sessions to resign Wednesday, setting up a possible showdown with newly energized congressional Democrats over the investigation of Russia’s involvement in the 2016 presidential election.

Sessions, in a resignation letter to Trump, wrote that he was stepping down at “your request,” accepting a fait accompli he’d long sought to avert despite Trump’s repeated public humiliations of the attorney general over his recusal from oversight of the Russia probe.

The forced departure of Sessions, a former Republican senator and early supporter of Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign, capped a turbulent tenure that hit a rough patch in early 2017 when he stepped aside from the Russia investigation shortly after taking office.

Trump blamed Sessions’ recusal for the speedy appointment of Special Counsel Robert Mueller and, over the course of the attorney general’s 20-month tenure, repeatedly castigated Sessions for failing to rein in what he called a “witch hunt” being led by Mueller and “17 Angry Democrats.”

While undertaking a wholesale repeal of Obama-era policies and implementing Trump’s tough-on-crime and immigration agenda, Sessions was increasingly shunned by the president, to the point that Trump told an interviewer earlier this year, “I don’t have an attorney general.”

In a pair of tweets Wednesday afternoon announcing Sessions’ resignation, Trump thanked the attorney general for his service and said Matt Whitaker, Sessions’ chief of staff and a former U.S. attorney under former President George W. Bush, would take over as acting attorney general. A permanent replacement would be announced later, Trump said.

Though long expected, Sessions’ departure fueled Democratic fears that Trump may be maneuvering to assert control over the Mueller investigation through a trusted appointee or possibly shut down it all together.

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U.S. President Donald Trump acknowledges supporters as he arrives for a campaign rally at the Allen County War Memorial Coliseum in Fort Wayne, Indiana. VOA

Congressional probe urged

Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland, the top Democrat on the House oversight committee and a frequent Trump critic, urged Congress to investigate “the real reason” for the attorney general’s “termination.”

At a testy White House news conference earlier Wednesday, Trump said he could end the Mueller investigation “right now,” but “I stay away from it … I let it just go on.”

Other Democratic congressional leaders, including House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, and Senate Intelligence Committee Ranking Member Mark Warner issued nearly identical tweets urging Whitaker to recuse himself from the Russia investigation, citing his vocal criticism of the probe.

 

“Given his previous comments advocating defunding and imposing limitations on the Mueller investigation, Mr. Whitaker should recuse himself from its oversight for the duration of his time as acting attorney general,” Schumer tweeted.

 

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Then-Iowa Republican senatorial candidate and former U.S. Attorney Matt Whitaker is pictured before a televised debate in Johnston, Iowa. VOA

 

Whitaker served as U.S. attorney for the southern district of Iowa from 2004 to 2009. According to his LinkedIn profile, he headed Foundations for Accountability and Civic Trust (FACT), a self-described ethics watchdog, until September 2017, shortly before joining the Justice Department.

In an opinion piece for CNN.com in July 2017, two months after Mueller’s appointment, Whitaker wrote that he agreed with Trump that investigating the president’s finances fell outside Mueller’s mandate, and he urged Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to limit the special counsel’s authority.

‘In charge of all matters’

Asked whether Whitaker would take control of the Russia probe, Justice Department spokeswoman Sarah Isgur Flores said, “The acting attorney general is in charge of all matters under the purview of the Department of Justice.”

Flores did not directly answer questions about whether Whitaker had consulted or planned to consult Justice Department ethics experts on whether he should recuse himself from the Russia probe.

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Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., departs Capitol Hill, Oct. 6, 2018, in Washington. VOA

“We’re following regular order here,” she wrote via email.

John Malcolm, a former federal prosecutor now with the Heritage Foundation, a conservative research group, said he saw no reason for Whitaker to step aside.

“He is the acting attorney general. He has no reason to recuse himself,” Malcolm told VOA.

Malcolm said Sessions did “a solid job of implementing the president’s law enforcement priorities,” and he praised the attorney general for “protecting the integrity of the department and trying to keep it above politics.”

It remains to be seen whether Trump will tap Whitaker for the job permanently and send his name to the Senate for confirmation.

Also Read: U.S. Midterm Elections See Muslim American Women Making History

Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, a Republican member of the Senate Judiciary Committee and close Trump ally, tweeted that he looked “forward to working with President Trump to find a confirmable, worthy successor. (VOA)