Snowed by set­backs, Pres­i­dent tweets his dis­con­tent

The Australian - - WORLD - Cameron Ste­wart is also US con­trib­u­tor for Sky News Aus­tralia CAMERON STE­WART WASH­ING­TON COR­RE­SPON­DENT

A mas­sive snow storm has brought Wash­ing­ton to even more of a stand­still than the gov­ern­ment shut­down, leav­ing a lonely Don­ald Trump in the White House tweet­ing about the win­ter of his dis­con­tent.

“I’m in the White House wait­ing,” the Pres­i­dent wrote. “The Democrats are ev­ery­where but Wash­ing­ton as peo­ple await their pay. They are hav­ing fun and not even talk­ing.”

Over the snow-bound week­end, the Pres­i­dent was be­sieged by bad news as he en­dures one of the most dif­fi­cult pe­ri­ods of his tur­bu­lent pres­i­dency. Democrats left the cap­i­tal with the record-long gov­ern­ment shut­down now at 23 day with no sign of when ne­go­ti­a­tions would re­sume and with no res­o­lu­tion in sight.

Although Mr Trump has said it is the Democrats who feel the most pres­sure over the fund­ing dead­lock about his pro­posed bor­der wall that has shut the gov­ern­ment down, new polls show a ma­jor­ity of Amer­i­cans blame the Pres­i­dent.

Ac­cord­ing to a Wash­ing­ton Post- ABC News poll, 53 per cent say Mr Trump and Repub­li­cans are mostly to blame for the shut­down while 29 per cent blame the Democrats.

It is the Pres­i­dent who there­fore faces the great­est pub­lic pres­sure to find a res­o­lu­tion at a time when he ap­pears to have backed away from his “nu­clear op­tion” of declar­ing a na­tional emer­gency to break the dead­lock.

At the same time, Mr Trump finds him­self fend­ing off fresh al­le­ga­tions over his in­volve­ment with Rus­sia and his con­fused pol­icy to­wards US in­volve­ment in Syria.

The New York Times re­ported that the FBI launched an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into whether the Pres­i­dent was se­cretly act­ing on be­half of the Rus­sians when he fired FBI chief James Comey in 2017. When ques­tioned about this on Fox News, Mr Trump de­clared it to be “the most in­sult­ing thing I have ever been asked”.

This was fol­lowed by a Wash­ing­ton Post re­port that Mr Trump went out of his way to hide records of his con­ver­sa­tions with Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin from se­nior mem­bers of his ad­min­is­tra­tion.

On top of this, the White House is be­ing at­tacked in the me­dia for send­ing mixed sig­nals over its pol­icy in Syria and more broadly in the Mid­dle East.

The Pen­tagon says it is pro­gress­ing with the with­drawal of 2000 US troops from Syria de­spite claims last week by Na­tional Se­cu­rity Ad­viser John Bolton that the with­drawal was con­di­tional and could take months or even years.

Last month, Mr Trump was crit­i­cised by Repub­li­cans, Democrats and US al­lies when he uni­lat­er­ally an­nounced the with­drawal of all US troops from Syria within 30 days. The de­ci­sion trig­gered the res­ig­na­tion of de­fence sec­re­tary Jim Mat­tis and Brett McGurk, the US spe­cial en­voy to the coali­tion against Is­lamic State. They had ar­gued that a too-rapid US with­drawal from Syria could al­lows ISIS to re­gen­er­ate and would cre­ate a vac­uum of power that would be filled by Rus­sia and Iran.

What’s more, they said the with­drawal would be an aban­don­ment of the US-backed Kur­dish forces who had helped de­feat ISIS on the bat­tle­field.

So US al­lies, in­clud­ing Aus­tralia, were re­lieved to hear that Mr Bolton ap­peared to be sug­gest­ing a more con­sid­ered and staggered US with­drawal than the one Mr Trump had orig­i­nally pro­posed.

But Pen­tagon of­fi­cials say they do not take orders from Mr Bolton and in the ab­sence of con­trary orders from the Pres­i­dent, they have be­gun the process of with­draw­ing US equip­ment to be fol­lowed by troops.

So no one in Wash­ing­ton ap­pears to know pre­cisely what is hap­pen­ing to US troops in Syria, with the Pres­i­dent seem­ingly at odds with his na­tional se­cu­rity ad­viser and the Pen­tagon mov­ing for­ward re­gard­less. All up, it was a grim week­end for the Pres­i­dent who, ac­cord­ing to aides, wants noth­ing more than to take a break in his Florida re­sort of Mar a Lago, far away from a chilly Wash­ing­ton and all the trou­bles it rep­re­sents.

AFP

‘They are hav­ing fun and not even talk­ing’: young­sters sled down the west side of the US Capi­tol yes­ter­day

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