US Senate challenges Trump’s plans to withdraw from Syria

Donald Trump’s announcement and follow up statements about withdrawing US troops from Syria and Afghanistan were typically controversial, vague and contradictory. He surprised and alarmed people in the US, to the extent that his Defence Secretary James Mattis resigned immediately over Trump’s withdrawal proclamation last month.

The criticism continues.

Time: Trump’s Own Intelligence Chief Contradicted Him Several Times

The nation’s intelligence chief contradicted President Trump’s statements on North Korea, Syria and Russia while addressing the Senate on Tuesday, arguing that ISIS continues to pose a threat to the United States despite the Administration’s claims that it has been defeated.

Director of U.S. National Intelligence Dan Coats released the results of the Worldwide Threat Assessment, which describes the biggest international dangers facing the United States, and told lawmakers during the Senate hearing that the U.S. must “keep our eyes on” ISIS.

“While ISIS is nearing territorial defeat in Iraq and Syria, the group has returned to its guerrilla warfare roots while continuing to plot attacks and direct its supporters worldwide. ISIS is intent on resurging and still commands thousands of fighters in Iraq and Syria,” Coats said.

As usual Trump thinks he knows best.

Does Trump know that Iran is closely linked to Syria? A US withdrawal from Syria would help Iranian interests there.

These tweets have been criticised – Bloomberg:  Trump Blasts U.S. Spy Agencies as Passive, ‘Weak’ on Iran Threat

Responding to Trump’s criticism, Democratic Representative Adam Schiff, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said in a tweet that “it is a credit to our intelligence agencies that they continue to provide rigorous and realistic analyses of the threats we face. It’s deeply dangerous that the White House isn’t listening.”

Senator Mark Warner, the top Democrat on Senate Intelligence, said in a tweet that “the President has a dangerous habit of undermining the intelligence community to fit his alternate reality. People risk their lives for the intelligence he just tosses aside on Twitter.”

Now the US Senate, led by a Republican majority, are pushing back against Trump’s plans (if you can call them plans, they are more like random proclamations).

CNN:  In rebuke to Trump, Mitch McConnell unveils proposal urging troops stay in Syria, Afghanistan

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is pushing an amendment to a Middle East policy bill that would acknowledge “al Qaeda, ISIS and their affiliates in Syria and Afghanistan continue to pose a serious threat to us here at home,” a move seen as a sharp rebuke to President Donald Trump’s push to withdraw US troops from Syria.

“It would recognize the dangers of a precipitous withdrawal from either conflict and highlight the need for diplomatic engagement and political solutions to the underlying conflicts in Syria and Afghanistan,” McConnell said Tuesday from the Senate floor, announcing the amendment to the bill, which is currently being debated.

McConnell added that, “while it is tempting to retreat to the comfort and security of our own shores, there is still a great deal of work to be done…..we’re not the world’s policemen, but we are the leaders of the free world.”

The leader of ‘the leaders of the free world’ (that’s increasingly debatable under Trump’s isolationism) might have to do a lot more firing to get his Intelligence agencies onside with his way of thinking, but one president can’t vote out 100 senators.

The US risks becoming the joke of the free world, but given the international situations the lead joker is thrashing around in it is not really a laughing matter.

US tax package

President Trump is claiming a major victory after the Republican tax package he championed pass through all it’s stages of US government. It is a major victory for him and for the GOP, for now at least. Time will tell whether all of the US benefits, or if it is too slanted to the big corporations and to rich Americans or not.

New York Post: Trump celebrates passing of GOP tax bill at White House

President Trump took a victory lap on the South Lawn of the White House on Wednesday, hailing passage of the first comprehensive overhaul of the US tax system in three decades.

Trump lauded GOP lawmakers for delivering on the promise he made to voters to slash taxes — and said the cuts would kickstart the economy.

“Many companies have come forward saying they are so happy. We are seeing something very special, bringing the entrepreneur back into this country and you’ll see what happens,” the president said, appearing with dozens of House and Senate Republicans at the South Lawn of the White House.

“And ultimately what does it mean? It means jobs. Jobs, jobs, jobs . . . We are in a special period of time. And it’s going to be even more so,” he added.

Eleven months into the Republican president’s first year in office, the GOP-controlled Congress finally gave him his first major legislative victory — and Trump clearly savored the moment.

“This will indeed be a very big day when people look back at our country. It’s a whole different attitude, a whole different way. We are making America great again,” he said.

Perhaps this will make America (or at least the US part of America) greater, but it could also dig a financial hole.

Analysts say the bill will add $1 trillion to $1.5 trillion to America’s already deep deficit.

Democrats blasted the bill as a boon only to the rich — and to businesses like Trump’s.

“There are only two places where America is popping Champagne: the White House and the corporate boardrooms, including Trump Tower. Otherwise, Americans have a lot to regret,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said.

But Republicans are savouring a major victory under Trump’s presidency:

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said the bill’s passage capped a year of “extraordinary accomplishment” for Trump.

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) praised Trump’s “exquisite presidential leadership.”

The leaders of the key tax committees also had high praise. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, called Trump “one heck of a leader.”

Kevin Brady (R-Texas), chairman of the House tax-writing Ways and Means Committee, said the “historic day” could not have been achieved without Trump’s leadership.

RCP links: