Syria withdrawal: Republican opposition to Trump's plan grows – as it happened

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9.03pm GMT

That’s it for today – and for 2018, as this will be our last politics live blog of the year. We’ll be back with you early in the new year.

8.53pm GMT

White House officials in a phone briefing with reporters could not give a timeline for the withdrawal of US troops from Syria.

The White House referred questions to the Pentagon, per a Newsday reporter. And the Pentagon referred the same questions to the White House.

WH just wrapped up a phone briefing with reporters, officials did not respond to questions about a timeline for withdrawal from Syria. 30 days? 90 days? WH referred questions to Pentagon. Pentagon refers questions to WH… https://t.co/0zrS1IyH1U via @Newsday

8.47pm GMT

Two prominent Senate Democrats wrote to the chamber’s leaders opposing a proposal to ban US companies from boycotting Israel.

Some lawmakers have tried to include the bill – which would prohibit American companies from participating in boycotts organized by international organizations like the United Nations – in year-end spending measures.

8.36pm GMT

Some conservative lawmakers are not happy with a developing deal to avoid a government shutdown and continue government funding until February – without money for Donald Trump’s border wall.

Punting to Feb. 8 on a CR not only gives Democrats a Christmas present, it offers them a Valentine’s Day gift. Democrats will win, the wall will not be built, and Congress will once again have punted when we should’ve been taking a stand. The time to fight is now. Zero excuse.

Congressional leadership introduces CR until Feb. 8th WITHOUT $5 Billion for the Wall.

Let me get this straight… our chances of getting the Wall will be better in February when Nancy Pelosi is Speaker than now when we have the majority?

Give me a break. #DoWhatWeSaid

8.20pm GMT

The number of people signing up for health insurance plans under Obamacare is higher than expected, although down since last year.

About 8.5 million people have enrolled, the Associated Press reports. That’s a 4% decline compared to this time last year. Earlier projections had predicted a 10% decline.

8.16pm GMT

Donald Trump claims the US has defeated ISIS in Syria, but has it?

The Guardian’s Martin Chulov takes a look at that question:

The long fight against Islamic State looks good on a map, but it is yet to be decisive on the battlefield.

The terror group has lost more than 95% of the territory it claimed in 2014 and the juggernaut that threatened to shred the region’s borders has been battered back to where it all began for the group’s earliest incarnation – a sliver of land along the Euphrates River, bordering Iraq and Syria.

7.55pm GMT

After voting to raise interest rates despite criticism from Donald Trump, Federal Reserve chair Jerome Powell says “nothing will deter” the board from doing what he thinks is right.

Asked about Trump’s criticism of the Fed, Powell says, “Nothing will deter us from doing what we think is the right thing do do.”

Powell on Trump pressuring the Fed not to raise rates: “Political considerations play no role whatsoever in our discussions or decisions about monetary policy.” Touts Fed’s “independence” and says “nothing will deter us from doing what we think is the right thing to do.”

7.23pm GMT

More Republican opposition to Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw troops from Syria: Senator Marco Rubio calls it a “major blunder” that will haunt the US for years.

The decision to pull out of Syria was made despite overwhelming military advice against it.

It is a major blunder. It it isn’t reversed it will haunt this administration & America for years to come.

7.13pm GMT

Donald Trump will sign a temporary bill to continue federal funding at current levels and avoid a government shutdown, a Republican senator told CNN after meeting with Vice President Mike Pence.

Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn emerged from a lunch with GOP senators and with Vice President Mike Pence and told me that President Trump will sign a stop-gap to keep government open.
“He will sign a clean CR,” he said

7.07pm GMT

The Federal Reserve has voted to raise interest rates. Rates will raise a quarter of a percentage point, to a range of 2.25% to 2.5%.

The move becomes despite frequent exhortations from Donald Trump not to raise rates.

7.03pm GMT

More from House Speaker Paul Ryan’s farewell speech, via Bloomberg – he calls overhauling programs like Medicare and Social Security, long a pet issue but one that made no progress under his tenure, his great unfinished business.

Paul Ryan in farewell speech: “I acknowledge plainly that my ambitions for entitlement reform have outpaced the political reality and I consider this our greatest unfinished business.”

He calls programs Social Security and Medicare “deeply out of balance and unsustainable.”

7.00pm GMT

Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer will not agree to approve a customary year-end package of judicial nominees, a Senate Democratic aide tells the Hill.

Schumer has been under pressure from progressive groups not to sign off on the judges.

6.53pm GMT

In a farewell speech, House Speaker Paul Ryan called for immigration reform that would protect young immigrants brought to the country as children as well as other undocumented immigrants.

There should be a solution that “includes the Dreamers, those who came here through no fault of their own, and ultimately the undocumented population,” he said, according to CNN.

6.39pm GMT

Attorneys for the family of a 7-year-old Guatemalan girl who died in border patrol custody called for an independent investigation into the death Wednesday.

“The investigation should not be the exclusive purview of the agencies whose actions and policies are being questioned. The investigator should not be the same entity as the investigated,” lawyer Enrique Moreno said at an El Paso press conference, NBC News reported.

6.26pm GMT

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau will not be changing its name after all.

Kathy Kraninger, the bureau’s new director, decided to reverse course and keep the name the same, Politico reported. Her predecessor Mick Mulvaney, now acting White House chief of staff, wanted to change it to Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection.

6.20pm GMT

South Carolina may skip holding a 2020 presidential primary and put its support behind Donald Trump without a vote.

“We have complete autonomy and flexibility in either direction,” South Carolina Republican chairman Drew McKissick told the Washington Examiner. “Considering the fact that the entire party supports the president, we’ll end up doing what’s in the president’s best interest.”

6.16pm GMT

Former vice president Joe Biden has the highest favorability rating among potential 2020 Democratic presidential candidates, with 53% of voters viewing him favorably and 33% unfavorably, according to a new poll.

Among the ratings for other contenders in the Quinnipiac University poll:

6.11pm GMT

The Washington, D.C. attorney general filed a lawsuit against Facebook over the scandal involving political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica’s use of data from the social media site.

“Facebook failed to protect the privacy of its users and deceived them about who had access to their data and how it was used,” Attorney General Karl Racine in a statement, according to Reuters. “Facebook put users at risk of manipulation by allowing companies like Cambridge Analytica and other third-party applications to collect personal data without users’ permission.”

6.06pm GMT

Donald Trump’s decision to pull US forces out of Syria follows a phone call with Turkish president Tayyip Erdogan on Friday where he agreed to do so, Reuters reported.

“Everything that has followed is implementing the agreement that was made in that call,” a US official told the news agency.

6.01pm GMT

House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi says her caucus will support a continuing resolution to fund the government into the new year and avert a partial government shutdown.

.@NancyPelosi officially backs the CR to Feb. 8: pic.twitter.com/btdUpMSVlz

5.41pm GMT

Rep.-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez tore into a Politico article she did not like, criticizing it on the basis that it used unnamed sources.

Now her comments are providing fuel for Donald Trump Jr., who sees some similarities with his father’s grievances against the press.

Welcome to our world… You think that’s bad? Imagine what it’s like when they actually hate you. https://t.co/YQ99UU5pHB

5.03pm GMT

All US State Department staff will be withdrawn from Syria in the next 24 hours, per Reuters.

The move comes as the Trump administration is planning to withdraw US troops from the country.

MORE: All U.S. State Department personnel are being evacuated from Syria within 24 hours – official pic.twitter.com/XOnbuEzarZ

4.48pm GMT

Senators Jeff Flake, Cory Booker and Chris Coons will attempt to force a vote this afternoon on a bill to protect the job of special counsel Robert Mueller, per NBC.

INBOX: TODAY, APPROX. 2:50PM: Sens. Flake, Coons, Booker to force a vote on bill to protect the Special Counsel

4.44pm GMT

In addition to shutting down, Donald Trump’s charitable foundation will have to sell off its property under a deal with the New York Attorney General.

That property consists of exactly three objects, per the Washington Post’s David Fartenhold. One of them is a Denver Broncos helmet signed by ex-quarterback Tim Tebow, which Trump bought using foundation money. The other two are large portraits of Trump, which he also purchased with foundation money.

.@realDonaldTrump‘s charity only owns 3 physical objects. Why is one of them a Denver Broncos helmet signed by Tim Tebow? https://t.co/urqUIi4Keo

4.39pm GMT

A federal judge has struck down most of the Trump administration’s policy to make it more difficult for immigrants to claim asylum, per Buzzfeed. The policy, by former Attorney General Jeff Sessions, tightened the standard required to demonstrate “credible fear,” the first hurdle to begin the asylum process.

BREAKING: Judge Emmet Sullivan isn’t done this week, striking down most of AG Sessions’ move to heighten standards for “credible fear” asylum determinations and order the return of those deported under that policy. pic.twitter.com/KuCELoasoV

4.34pm GMT

Congressional Democrats will investigate how the White House handles security clearances when they take control of the House next month.

Rep. Elijah Cummings, the incoming chair of the House Oversight committee, sent a letter to White House Chief of Staff John Kelly asking for documents related to the White House security clearance process. The documents were requested on three previous occasions, but not turned over, he wrote.

4.33pm GMT

Another Republican Congressman is disputing Donald Trump’s claim that ISIS has been defeated in Syria, used to justify his decision to withdraw US troops from the country.

“This is simply not true,” said Rep. Adam Kinzinger, an Illinois Republican and Air Force veteran who served in Iraq and Afghanistan.

This is simply not true. https://t.co/Jvie2NxgWz

4.08pm GMT

A spokeswoman for New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood says she “believes there should be one set of rules for everyone,” after being targeted in attacks by Donald Trump.

The statement comes after Trump unleashed a Twitter rant against Underwood, without naming her, also tearing into her predecessor and successor as attorney general. Trump said he was treated unfairly after he agreed to a deal to dissolve his personal charity, the Trump Foundation, which was accused of a series of legal violations.

My statement on Trump’s twitter rant this morning, which simultaneously tried to blame AG Underwood’s Trump Foundation suit on the prior AG, and accused Barbara Underwood – seriously, Barbara Underwood – of ranting, raving, and politicking. pic.twitter.com/0Qu5RwUOci

3.56pm GMT

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders confirms the US has begun withdrawing troops from Syria, but says they are ready to “re-engage” as necessary.

NEW: Statement from Sarah Sanders on Syria

“These victories over ISIS in Syria do not signal the end of the Global Coalition or its campaign… The United States and our allies stand ready to re-engage at all levels to defend American interests whenever necessary.” pic.twitter.com/CWfDvLKKAu

3.50pm GMT

Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer points out that Mexico is still not paying for Donald Trump’s proposed border wall.

This morning, @realDonaldTrump also tweeted that Mexico could somehow pay for the wall through a new trade deal.

Of course, there have been multiple fact checks that show a new NAFTA could not possibly fund a wall, directly or indirectly. https://t.co/y5hQ1Mpgm1

3.41pm GMT

Senator Rand Paul is welcoming the decision by Donald Trump to withdraw US troops from Syria.

I am happy to see a President who can declare victory and bring our troops out of a war. It’s been a long time since that has happened. https://t.co/fEBb8080fK

3.31pm GMT

The Pentagon is pushing to keep troops in Syria despite Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw them, according to a reporter for the Daily Beast.

Pentagon clearly pushing hard to stay in Syria despite Trump. Col. Rob Manning, a Pentagon spokesman, issues statement: “At this time, we continue to work by, with and through our partners in the region.”

3.29pm GMT

Former Attorney General Loretta Lynch is answering questions behind closed doors Wednesday from House committees probing the FBI and Justice Department’s handling of investigations into Hillary Clinton’s emails and the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia.

She’s likely to be asked about the extent of oversight she had over those probes as attorney general under President Barack Obama, as well as whether an anti-Trump bias affected any investigative decisions, the Washington Post reported.

3.22pm GMT

Senator Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) is condemning the Trump administration’s move to withdraw US troops from Syria.

“Withdrawal of this small American force in Syria would be a huge Obama-like mistake,” Graham said in a tweet.

Withdrawal of this small American force in Syria would be a huge Obama-like mistake. https://t.co/atsjHUyJlB

3.18pm GMT

Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell will introduce a short-term spending bill to keep the government funded through February 8, he announced Wednesday.

McConnell said: “Later this morning, we’ll introduce a continuing resolution that will ensure continuous funding for the federal government. The measure will provide the resources necessary to continue normal operations through February 8th.”

3.15pm GMT

Donald Trump lashed out Wednesday after agreeing to shut down his personal charity, the Trump Foundation, in a deal with the New York attorney general.

Attorney General Barbara Underwood alleged “a shocking pattern of illegality,” at the foundation, including illicit coordination with Trump’s presidential campaign and the use of charity funds to pay off legal settlements by Trump’s business.

The Trump Foundation has done great work and given away lots of money, both mine and others, to great charities over the years – with me taking NO fees, rent, salaries etc. Now, as usual, I am getting slammed by Cuomo and the Dems in a long running civil lawsuit started by…..

…sleazebag AG Eric Schneiderman, who has since resigned over horrific women abuse, when I wanted to close the Foundation so as not to be in conflict with politics. Shady Eric was head of New Yorkers for Clinton, and refused to even look at the corrupt Clinton Foundation……

….In any event, it goes on and on & the new AG, who is now being replaced by yet another AG (who openly campaigned on a GET TRUMP agenda), does little else but rant, rave & politic against me. Will never be treated fairly by these people – a total double standard of “justice.”

FYI the NY Attorney General who sued the Trump Foundation is named Barbara Underwood. https://t.co/niRgucyQAi

2.59pm GMT

Donald Trump is insisting that the military will build his proposed border wall if he doesn’t get money from Congress, as he appears prepared to back down from his demand that wall funding be included in an upcoming budget bill.

Mexico is paying (indirectly) for the Wall through the new USMCA, the replacement for NAFTA! Far more money coming to the U.S.,” Trump said in a tweet. “Because of the tremendous dangers at the Border, including large scale criminal and drug inflow, the United States Military will build the Wall!”

2.52pm GMT

The White House may be ready to accept a short term bill to extend government funding and avoid a government shutdown.

White House counselor Kellyanne Conway said Wednesday that Trump would “certainly” consider a short-term extension, the Washington Post reported.

2.48pm GMT

The United States is preparing for a “full” and “rapid” withdrawal of troops from Syria, CNN reports.

Withdrawal is favored by Donald Trump, who has called for the US to stay out of Syria.

We have defeated ISIS in Syria, my only reason for being there during the Trump Presidency.

2.10pm GMT

Former First Lady Michelle Obama explained what was going through her mind as she departed Donald Trump’s inauguration last year: “Bye, Felicia.”

Obama, appearing on “The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon,” was asked about her thoughts in a photo where she and her husband Barack Obama boarded a jet to leave Washington.

Today, the whole world is Michelle Obama’s facial expression. We can’t even. #Inauguration pic.twitter.com/WvSb2RDgrp

the only good moment of this inauguration is michelle jim-facing the camera like “why did she give me this box” pic.twitter.com/WoGAWfKS0l

1.31pm GMT

Donald Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani said that the president signed a “bullshit” letter of intent to build a Trump Tower in Moscow during the 2016 presidential campaign.

Giuliani made the comments to the New York Daily News – just days after saying on CNN that Trump did not sign the letter.

1.31pm GMT

Outgoing House Speaker Paul Ryan is set to deliver a farewell speech Wednesday at the Library of Congress.

Ryan, a Wisconsin Republican, announced earlier this year that he would not run for re-election. Democrats are set to take control of the House next month.

1.31pm GMT

A day after the White House indicated that it may back down on demands for $5bn for a border wall in order to avoid a government shutdown, Donald Trump is vowing to win on the issue – someday.

“In our Country, so much money has been poured down the drain, for so many years, but when it comes to Border Security and the Military, the Democrats fight to the death,” Trump said Wednesday in a tweet. “We won on the Military, which is being completely rebuilt. One way or the other, we will win on the Wall!”

In our Country, so much money has been poured down the drain, for so many years, but when it comes to Border Security and the Military, the Democrats fight to the death. We won on the Military, which is being completely rebuilt. One way or the other, we will win on the Wall!

….It will be beautiful and, at the same time, give our Country the security that our citizens deserve. It will go up fast and save us BILLIONS of dollars a month once completed!

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Source: syria
Link : Syria withdrawal: Republican opposition to Trump’s plan grows – as it happened

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