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Westlake Legal Group > Posts tagged "Trump, Donald J" (Page 146)

Hungary’s Orban Gave Trump Harsh Analysis of Ukraine Before Key Meeting

Westlake Legal Group 21dc-prexy1-facebookJumbo Hungary’s Orban Gave Trump Harsh Analysis of Ukraine Before Key Meeting Volker, Kurt D United States Politics and Government United States International Relations Ukraine Trump, Donald J Trump-Ukraine Whistle-Blower Complaint and Impeachment Inquiry Putin, Vladimir V Mulvaney, Mick Hungary Bolton, John R

WASHINGTON — Just 10 days before a key meeting on Ukraine, President Trump met, over the objections of his national security adviser, with one of the former Soviet republic’s most virulent critics, Prime Minister Viktor Orban of Hungary, and heard a sharp assessment that bolstered his hostility toward the country, according to several people informed about the situation.

Mr. Trump’s conversation with Mr. Orban on May 13 exposed him to a harsh indictment of Ukraine at a time when his personal lawyer was pressing the new government in Kiev to provide damaging information about Democrats. Mr. Trump’s suspicious view of Ukraine set the stage for events that led to the impeachment inquiry against him.

The visit by Mr. Orban, who is seen as an autocrat who has rolled back democracy, provoked a sharp dispute within the White House. John R. Bolton, then the president’s national security adviser, and Fiona Hill, then the National Security Council’s senior director for Eurasian and Russian affairs, opposed a White House invitation for the Hungarian leader, according to the people briefed on the matter. But they were outmaneuvered by Mick Mulvaney, the acting White House chief of staff, who supported such a meeting.

As a result, Mr. Trump at a critical moment in the Ukraine saga sat down in the Oval Office with a European leader with a fiercely negative outlook on Ukraine that fortified opinions he had heard from his personal lawyer, Rudolph W. Giuliani, and from President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia repeatedly over the months and years.

Echoing Mr. Putin’s view, Mr. Orban has publicly accused Ukraine of oppressing its Hungarian minority and has cast his eye on a section of Ukraine with a heavy Hungarian population. His government has accused Ukraine of being “semi-fascist” and sought to block important meetings for Ukraine with the European Union and NATO.

Ten days after his meeting with Mr. Orban, Mr. Trump met on May 23 with several of his top advisers returning from the inauguration of Ukraine’s new president, Volodymyr Zelensky. The advisers, including Rick Perry, the energy secretary; Kurt D. Volker, then the special envoy for Ukraine; and Gordon D. Sondland, the ambassador to the European Union, reassured Mr. Trump that Mr. Zelensky was a reformer who deserved American support. But Mr. Trump expressed deep doubt, saying that Ukrainians were “terrible people” who “tried to take me down” during the 2016 presidential election.

Mr. Orban’s visit came up during testimony to House investigators last week by George P. Kent, a deputy assistant secretary of state responsible for Ukraine policy. The meeting with Mr. Orban and a separate May 3 phone call between Mr. Trump and Mr. Putin are of intense interest to House investigators seeking to piece together the back story that led to the president’s pressure on Ukraine to investigate Democrats.

Mr. Kent testified behind closed doors that another government official had held the two episodes up to him as part of an explanation for Mr. Trump’s darkening views of Mr. Zelensky last spring, according to a person familiar with his testimony. A third factor cited to him was Mr. Giuliani’s influence.

Mr. Kent did not have firsthand knowledge of either discussion, and it was not clear if the person who cited them did either. But two other people briefed on the matter said in interviews that Mr. Orban used the opportunity to disparage Ukraine with the president. The Washington Post first reported on the meeting with Mr. Orban and the call with Mr. Putin.

It would not be surprising that Mr. Putin would fill Mr. Trump’s ear with negative impressions of Ukraine or Mr. Zelensky. He has long denied that Ukraine even deserved to be a separate nation, and he sent undercover forces into Crimea in 2014 to set the stage to annex the Ukrainian territory. Mr. Putin’s government has also armed Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine, fomenting a civil war that has dragged on for five years.

But allowing Mr. Orban to add his voice to that chorus set off a fight inside the West Wing. Mr. Bolton and Ms. Hill believed that Mr. Orban did not deserve the honor of an Oval Office visit, which would be seen as a huge political coup for an autocratic leader ostracized by many of his peers in Europe.

Mr. Mulvaney, however, had come to respect Mr. Orban from his time as a member of Congress and his involvement with the International Catholic Legislators Network, according to an administration official close to the acting chief of staff. Mr. Orban has positioned himself as a champion of Christians in the Middle East, a position that earned him Mr. Mulvaney’s admiration, the official said.

Another official pushing for the Orban visit was David B. Cornstein, the United States ambassador to Hungary, who sidestepped the State Department to help set up a White House meeting, according to a person familiar with the matter. An 81-year-old jewelry magnate and longtime friend of Mr. Trump’s, Mr. Cornstein told The Atlantic this year that the president envied Mr. Orban. “I can tell you, knowing the president for a good 25 or 30 years, that he would love to have the situation that Viktor Orban has, but he doesn’t,” Mr. Cornstein said.

The Oval Office meeting with Mr. Trump took place just four days after Mr. Giuliani told The New York Times that he would travel to Ukraine to seek information that would be “very, very helpful to my client” and three days after Mr. Giuliani canceled the trip in response to the resulting criticism.

In moves that have disturbed democracy advocates and many American and European officials, Mr. Orban’s government has targeted nongovernmental organizations, brought most of the news media under control of his allies, undermined the independent judiciary, altered the electoral process to favor his party and sought to drive out of the country an American-chartered university founded by the billionaire George Soros.

Mr. Orban’s government has pressured Ukraine over what it says is discrimination and violence against ethnic Hungarians living in the western part of the country.

Mr. Orban’s efforts to undermine Ukraine in Europe drew enough concern among American officials that Mr. Volker, while the State Department special envoy, visited Budapest and other places to meet with Hungarian officials to encourage them to talk with their counterparts in Kiev to resolve their differences.

Mr. Mulvaney’s role in facilitating Mr. Orban’s visit adds to the picture of the acting chief of staff’s role in the Ukraine situation. It was Mr. Mulvaney who conveyed Mr. Trump’s order suspending $391 million in American assistance to Ukraine at the same time the president was trying to pressure Mr. Zelensky to investigate Democrats, including former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.

At a briefing last week, Mr. Mulvaney denied that the aid was held up to force Ukraine to investigate Mr. Biden but confirmed that one reason it was frozen was to make sure Ukraine investigated any involvement with Democrats in the 2016 presidential campaign. After a resulting furor, Mr. Mulvaney then sought to take back his comments, denying any quid pro quo.

Mr. Bolton and Mr. Mulvaney also clashed when it became clear Mr. Mulvaney was facilitating Mr. Sondland’s role in pressing Ukraine. “I am not part of whatever drug deal Sondland and Mulvaney are cooking up,” Mr. Bolton told Ms. Hill, according to her testimony to House investigators.

Adam Goldman contributed reporting from Washington, and Matt Apuzzo from Brussels.

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Democrats Slow Impeachment Timeline to Sharpen Their Public Case

Westlake Legal Group 21dc-impeach01-facebookJumbo Democrats Slow Impeachment Timeline to Sharpen Their Public Case United States Politics and Government Trump, Donald J Trump-Ukraine Whistle-Blower Complaint and Impeachment Inquiry Romney, Mitt Republican Party impeachment House of Representatives Democratic Party

WASHINGTON — House Democrats have resigned themselves to the likelihood that impeachment proceedings against President Trump will extend into the Christmas season, as they plan a series of public hearings intended to make the simplest and most devastating possible public case in favor of removing Mr. Trump.

Democratic leaders had hoped to move as soon as Thanksgiving to wrap up a narrow inquiry focused around Mr. Trump’s dealings with Ukraine, buoyed by polling data that shows that the public supports the investigation, even if voters are not yet sold on impeaching the president.

But after a complicated web of damaging revelations about the president has emerged from private depositions unfolding behind closed doors, Democratic leaders have now begun plotting a full-scale — and probably more time-consuming — effort to lay out their case in a set of high-profile public hearings on Capitol Hill.

Their goal is to convince the public — and if they can, more Republicans — that the president committed an impeachable offense when he demanded that Ukraine investigate his political rivals.

“Just the facts baby,” said Representative Hakeem Jeffries of New York, the chairman of the House Democratic Caucus. “If we tell that story with simplicity and repetition, the American people will understand why the president must be held accountable. If we don’t, then there is great uncertainty, and in that vacuum Donald Trump may find himself escaping accountability again.”

Mr. Trump, increasingly embittered by the impeachment inquiry, complained on Monday that Republicans were not defending him aggressively enough.

“Republicans have to get tougher and fight,” Mr. Trump said during a rambling, hourlong question-and-answer session with reporters at a cabinet meeting. “We have some that are great fighters, but they have to get tougher and fight, because the Democrats are trying to hurt the Republican Party for the election, which is coming up, where we’re doing very well.”

The president belittled Senator Mitt Romney, Republican of Utah, one of the only members of his party who has signaled he may be open to impeaching Mr. Trump, underscoring how anxious the senator’s defection has made him about possible cracks in support from his own party.

Launching into a series of attacks on Democrats, Mr. Trump said approvingly that they were “vicious and they stick together. They don’t have Mitt Romney in their midst — they don’t have people like that.”

“They stick together,” Mr. Trump added. “You never see them break off.”

It was the second time in as many days that he has complained about a lack of support from Republicans.

“When do the Do Nothing Democrats pay a price for what they are doing to our Country, & when do the Republicans finally fight back?” Mr. Trump tweeted late Sunday night.

The president’s allies on Capitol Hill tried Monday to ramp up their defense of the president by forcing a vote in the House to censure Representative Adam B. Schiff, the California Democrat who is leading the impeachment inquiry as the chairman of the Intelligence Committee. The vote, which failed in the Democratic-led chamber, was a display of Republican solidarity for Mr. Trump.

There are risks for Democrats in the longer timeline, which could make it more difficult for lawmakers in politically competitive districts, who fear a backlash from constituents if they appear to be preoccupied with targeting Mr. Trump instead of addressing major issues such as gun safety or health care.

And Democrats are all too aware that Mr. Trump has succeeded in the past in steering the subject away from allegations of misconduct on his part, as he did with the investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election conducted by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III.

This time, Democratic leaders hope to deny him the opportunity.

They have issued subpoenas to a growing cast of characters, including Rudolph W. Giuliani, Mr. Trump’s private lawyer who is at the center of the Ukraine pressure campaign, and have demanded documents from Vice President Mike Pence. They have invited or compelled Trump administration officials past and present to appear at the Capitol before rolling television cameras, and cloistered them behind closed doors to extract a daily drip of testimony that backs up their case.

That effort continues Tuesday when William B. Taylor Jr., the top American diplomat in Ukraine, is scheduled to testify behind closed doors about text messages in which he wrote to other officials that it was “crazy to withhold security assistance for help with a political campaign.” On Wednesday, investigators will question Laura Cooper, a Pentagon official, about decisions to hold up Ukraine’s military aid.

Several other depositions of administration officials have been delayed until next week because of events honoring Representative Elijah E. Cummings, the Maryland Democrat who died last week, Democratic officials said.

To keep Republicans on the defensive in the interim, Speaker Nancy Pelosi held a House vote last week on Mr. Trump’s decision to pull back American troops from Syria — which was widely panned by lawmakers in both parties — and will force a vote this week on measures to combat foreign election interference.

On Monday, Ms. Pelosi offered the latest bit of what has become a daily, sometimes hourly, stream of information to shape the Democrats’ argument, circulating a fact sheet for reporters entitled “Truth Exposed: The Shakedown, the Pressure Campaign and the Cover-up” to sum up what has been learned about the Ukraine affair so far, along with a 90-second video laying out the case for impeaching Mr. Trump.

Ms. Pelosi’s aides have advised lawmakers to avoid talking at length about bit players or subplots in the drama they are unspooling, emphasizing the need to return again and again to Mr. Trump’s own words from a July phone call with President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine. “Do Us a Favor,” a quote from a reconstructed transcript of that call, was the title of their video.

Democratic leaders have pushed lawmakers with backgrounds in law enforcement or national security to make television appearances to discuss the inquiry, including Representative Elissa Slotkin of Michigan, a former C.I.A. analyst; Representative Val Demings of Florida, a former police chief; and Representative Tom Malinowski of New Jersey, a former State Department official.

“If we get mired in esoteric process concerns, we will lose the ability to tell a powerful story to the American people about the abuse of power that is connected to the Trump-Ukraine scandal,” Mr. Jeffries said.

Some Republicans, already uneasy about the allegations at the heart of the Ukraine inquiry, have grown increasingly uncomfortable with Mr. Trump’s behavior, and unwilling to defend him on a range of topics, including the Syria decision and his plan — abruptly abandoned in the face of a bipartisan outcry — to hold the Group of 7 summit of world leaders at one of his resorts in Florida.

The admission — later recanted — by Mick Mulvaney, the acting White House chief of staff, of a quid pro quo linking foreign aid to Mr. Trump’s effort to pressure Ukraine to investigate his political rivals, was a worrying piece of evidence for nervous Republicans that the president and his team are woefully unprepared to confront the impeachment onslaught.

Mr. Romney, a frequent Trump critic, has called the president’s attempts to solicit dirt on a political rival “wrong and appalling.”

While there is no evidence that other Republicans are taking their cues from Mr. Romney, he is not the only member of the party to publicly express concern. Senator Lisa Murkowski, Republican of Alaska, said last week that a president should never “hold up foreign aid that we had previously appropriated for a political initiative. Period.” Representative Francis Rooney, Republican of Florida who announced that he will not run for re-election, declined to rule out supporting impeachment. John Kasich, the former Republican governor of Ohio, said impeachment should move forward.

During his remarks at the White House, the president blasted House Democrats for pursuing impeachment, calling the effort to oust him “very bad for our country” and suggesting that dealing with the inquiry was getting in the way of more important issues.

“I have to fight off these lowlifes at the same time I’m negotiating these very important things,” Mr. Trump said.

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For Trump the Dealmaker, Troop Pullouts Without Much in Return

Westlake Legal Group merlin_161567295_14c45ea0-0b76-4e8f-bb7b-1a6b2bc86d93-facebookJumbo For Trump the Dealmaker, Troop Pullouts Without Much in Return United States International Relations United States Defense and Military Forces Turkey Trump, Donald J Syria South Korea North Korea Kurds Afghanistan War (2001- ) Afghanistan

WASHINGTON — The Taliban have wanted the United States to pull troops out of Afghanistan, Turkey has wanted the Americans out of northern Syria and North Korea has wanted them to at least stop military exercises with South Korea.

President Trump has now to some extent at least obliged all three — but without getting much of anything in return. The self-styled dealmaker has given up the leverage of the United States’ military presence in multiple places around the world without negotiating concessions from those cheering for American forces to leave.

For a president who has repeatedly promised to end the “endless wars,” the decisions reflect a broader conviction that bringing troops home — or at least moving them out of hot spots — is more important than haggling for advantage. In his view, decades of overseas military adventurism has only cost the country enormous blood and treasure, and waiting for deals would prolong a national disaster.

But veteran diplomats, foreign policy experts and key lawmakers fear that Mr. Trump is squandering American power and influence in the world with little to show for it. By pulling troops out unilaterally, they argue, Mr. Trump has emboldened America’s enemies and distressed its allies. Friends like Israel, they note, worry about American staying power. Foes like North Korea and the Taliban learn that they can achieve their goals without having to pay a price.

“It’s hard for me to divine any real strategic logic to the president’s moves,” said John P. Hannah, a senior counselor at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and a former national security adviser to Vice President Dick Cheney. “The only real connective tissue I see is the almost preternatural isolationist impulse that he invariably seems to revert to when left to his own devices internationally — even to the point that it overrides his supposed deal making instincts.”

Reuben E. Brigety II, a former Navy officer and ambassador to the African Union under President Barack Obama who now serves as dean of the Elliott School for International Affairs at George Washington University, said just as worrisome as the decisions themselves was the seemingly capricious way they were made.

Mr. Trump, he said, often seems more interested in pleasing autocrats like Kim Jong-un of North Korea and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey than in organizing any kind of coherent policymaking process to consider the pros and cons.

“When he canceled the South Korea military exercises, the only person he consulted was Kim Jong-un,” Mr. Brigety said. “The decision to abandon the Kurds came after a brief phone call with Erdogan. So they weren’t taken because he had personally reflected on the strategic disposition of American forces around the world. They were taken after he took the counsel of strongmen over that of his own advisers.”

All the complaints from the career national security establishment, however, carry little weight with Mr. Trump, who dismisses his critics as the same ones who got the country into a catastrophic war in Iraq. While that may not be true in all cases, Mr. Trump makes the case that 18 years after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, it is time to pull out even without extracting trade-offs in return.

“When I watch these pundits that always are trying to take a shot, I say — they say, ‘What are we getting out of it?’” Mr. Trump told reporters on Monday as he hosted a cabinet meeting. “You know what we’re getting out of it? We’re bringing our soldiers back home. That’s a big thing. And it’s going to probably work. But if it doesn’t work, you’re going to have people fighting like they’ve been fighting for 300 years. It’s very simple. It’s really very simple.”

The United States has about 200,000 troops stationed around the world, roughly half of them in relatively less dangerous posts in Europe or Asia where American forces have maintained a presence since the end of World War II. Tens of thousands of others are deployed in the Middle East, although only a fraction of them are in the active war zones of Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria.

It took only a few dozen Special Forces operators near the border in northern Syria to deter Turkey from assaulting America’s Kurdish allies there, but soon after Mr. Trump talked with Mr. Erdogan on Oct. 6, the president announced on a Sunday night that they would be pulled back. Turkey then launched a ferocious attack on the Kurds, and by the time a convoy of American troops moved away over the weekend, they were shown in a widely circulated video being pelted by angry Kurds throwing potatoes to express their sense of betrayal.

Mr. Trump did not ask Mr. Erdogan for anything in exchange. Instead, the diplomacy came only after the Turkish incursion began when he sent Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to Ankara to broker a cease-fire to give the Kurds time to evacuate a new safe zone to be controlled by Turkey along the Syrian border. Mr. Erdogan essentially got what he wanted.

In Afghanistan, Mr. Trump’s special envoy spent months negotiating a peace agreement with the Taliban militia that would provide guarantees that the country would not be used as a base for terrorist attacks against the United States if it reduced its troop presence to around 8,600. The talks fell apart, but Mr. Trump is drawing down American forces anyway, pulling out 2,000 troops in the last year, leaving 12,000 to 13,000. Plans are to keep shrinking the force to around 8,600 anyway.

In Asia, Mr. Trump voluntarily canceled traditional large-scale joint military exercises with South Korea at the behest of Mr. Kim even though the two have yet to reach any kind of concrete agreement in which North Korea would give up its nuclear weapons. The decision frustrated not only allies like South Korea and Japan but senior American diplomats and military officers, who privately questioned why North Korea should be given one of its key demands without having to surrender anything itself.

“Trump is a win-lose negotiator,” said Wendy R. Sherman, a former under secretary of state under Mr. Obama who helped broker the 2015 nuclear agreement with Iran that Mr. Trump abandoned last year. “That’s what he did as a real estate developer. He doesn’t see the larger landscape, the interconnections, the larger costs, the loss of greater benefits.”

When he has sat down at the negotiating table, Mr. Trump’s record on the world stage has been mixed or incomplete. He has sealed an accord to update to the North American Free Trade Agreement with Mexico and Canada, revised a free-trade agreement with South Korea and reached a limited trade pact with Japan.

But in addition to the collapse of the Afghan talks, he has gotten nowhere in nuclear negotiations with North Korea, made no progress in a long, drawn-out Israeli-Palestinian peace initiative, has yet to even reach the table with Iran despite his stated desire and remains locked in a high-stakes, big-dollar negotiation with China over tariffs.

For Mr. Trump, though, the desire to “end the endless wars,” as he puts it, may override his instinct for deal-making. He talks repeatedly about the misery of families whose loved ones have been killed in the Middle East or elsewhere, and he seems to put decisions about deployments in a different category than trade deals or other negotiations. Getting them out of harm’s way is an end to itself.

“We’re going to bring our soldiers back home,” Mr. Trump said on Monday. “So far, there hasn’t been one drop of blood shed during this whole period by an American soldier. Nobody was killed. Nobody cut their finger. There’s been nothing. And they’re leaving rather, I think, not expeditiously — rather intelligently.”

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Despite Vow to End ‘Endless Wars,’ Here’s Where About 200,000 Troops Remain

Westlake Legal Group 21dc-military-facebookJumbo Despite Vow to End ‘Endless Wars,’ Here’s Where About 200,000 Troops Remain United States Defense and Military Forces Trump, Donald J Syrian Democratic Forces Syria South Korea North Atlantic Treaty Organization Miller, Austin Scott (1961- ) Middle East Japan Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) Iraq Europe Africa Afghanistan

President Trump has repeatedly promised to end what he calls America’s “endless wars,” fulfilling a promise he made during the campaign.

No wars have ended, though, and more troops have deployed to the Middle East in recent months than have come home. Mr. Trump is not so much ending wars, as he is moving troops from one conflict to another.

Tens of thousands of American troops remain deployed all over the world, some in war zones such as Somalia, Afghanistan, Iraq and — even still — Syria. And the United States maintains even more troops overseas in large legacy missions far from the wars following the Sept. 11 attacks, in such allied lands as Germany, South Korea and Japan.

Although deployment numbers fluctuate daily, based on the needs of commanders, shifting missions and the military’s ability to shift large numbers of personnel by transport planes and warships, a rough estimate is that 200,000 troops are deployed overseas today.

At the height of the war, in 2010 and 2011, there were more than 100,000 troops in Afghanistan. When Mr. Trump took office, that number was hovering around 10,000. A new strategy, announced in August 2017, added thousands more.

Mr. Trump has long bemoaned the length of the 18-year conflict, with Pentagon officials worried that, at a moment’s notice, one tweet could end the mission.

The current commander, Gen. Austin S. Miller, has slowly dropped troop numbers to between 12,000 and 13,000 over the past year.

American and Afghan officials, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss details of the plan, said the eventual American force size could drop to 8,600 — roughly the initial reduction envisioned in a draft agreement with the Taliban before Mr. Trump halted peace talks last month. Rather than a formal withdrawal order, they are reducing the force through a gradual process of not replacing troops as they cycle out.

What started as 50 Special Operations soldiers in late 2015 ballooned to more than 2,000 in 2017 when American troops and Kurdish and Arabic local fighters, known as the Syrian Democratic Forces, were battling the Islamic State in Raqqa, its de facto capital.

In December 2018, before the Islamic State’s self-proclaimed caliphate collapsed, Mr. Trump issued his first of several orders to pull all American troops from the country. In turn, the Pentagon tried to shore up a plan to withdraw roughly 1,000 troops while keeping the rest spread out across the country’s northeastern corner.

In recent weeks, Mr. Trump ordered those remaining troops out, leaving a small detachment of around 200 in southern Syria — at a small outpost on the Jordanian border. Mr. Trump is also said to be in favor of leaving about 200 Special Operation forces in eastern Syria to help combat Islamic State guerrilla fighters and to block Syrian government forces and their Russian advisers from seizing several coveted oil fields in the east.

The other troops who left northern Syria in the past several days did not return to the United States, as Mr. Trump said they would. They are now based in western Iraq.

The war that began as Operation Iraqi Freedom and lasted from 2003 to 2011 peaked at about 150,000 troops. Only a small detachment remained when American troops left altogether in 2011. In 2014, the Islamic State poured over the Syria-Iraq border and routed the Iraqi Army from Mosul, once the country’s second-largest city, and pressed south to the outskirts of Baghdad, the capital, before being repelled.

With ISIS fighters closing on Erbil, President Barack Obama started his campaign against the terrorist group, which would come to be known as Operation Inherent Resolve. The small contingent of ground troops, helping hunt terrorist targets and advise the morale-stricken Iraqi Army, grew to around 5,000 in 2016.

That number has only increased, to roughly 6,000, as American troops move from northern Syria to western Iraq.

In response to Iranian attacks and provocations since May, the Pentagon has deployed about 14,000 additional troops to the Persian Gulf region, including roughly 3,500 to Saudi Arabia in recent weeks. Those forces include airborne early warning aircraft, maritime patrol planes, Patriot air and missile defense batteries, B-52 bombers, a carrier strike group, armed Reaper drones and other engineering and support personnel.

But, at any given time, between 45,000 and 65,000 American troops are in the region, spread out between Jordan and Oman, assigned to operate airfields, run key headquarters, sail warships and fly warplanes, and stage for deployments to places such as Iraq and Afghanistan. The numbers change substantially depending on the presence of an aircraft carrier strike group or two in the region, and whether a large group of Marines is afloat in those waters.

There are between 6,000 and 7,000 American troops spread across Africa, with the largest numbers concentrated in the Sahel and the Horn of Africa. In Somalia, there are about 500 Special Operations troops, fighting the Qaeda-linked terrorist group, the Shabab, from small outposts alongside local troops.

In the Sahel, in countries like Niger, Chad and Mali, there are several hundred. The Air Force recently built a large drone base, known as Air Base 201, near the city of Agadez, Niger. Last year, Jim Mattis, the defense secretary at the time, ordered the military command that oversees troops on the continent, known as Africom, to shrink its forces by several hundred Special Operations troops as part of the Pentagon’s strategy to focus more on threats from Russian and China around the world.

The current commander of Africom, Gen. Stephen J. Townsend, is completing a sweeping review that will probably mean the reduction of more troops.

Since the end of World War II and the Korean War, the United States has maintained a large military presence in Asia. More than 28,000 United States troops are stationed in South Korea, many living with their families. The United States and South Korea have suspended major training exercises over the past year as a concession to North Korea, but the two militaries continue to carry out smaller drills.

In Japan, the Pentagon maintains about 50,000 troops at roughly two dozen bases across the country. About 25,000 of those troops are stationed on Okinawa. Violence committed by American service members or related personnel on the island has long caused friction between Washington and Tokyo.

The Cold War put as many as 300,000 American troops across Europe to defend against the Soviet Union. That presence eventually plummeted to about 30,000 soldiers after the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe.

Over the past year, the United States and its allies in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization completed positioning about 4,500 additional soldiers in the three Baltic States and Poland, and they have stationed several thousand other armored troops mostly in Eastern Europe as a deterrent to Russian aggression.

Despite recent tensions with Turkey over its offensive into northern Syria, the United States flies combat and support aircraft from Incirlik Air Base in Turkey. The Pentagon also stores about 50 tactical nuclear weapons at Incirlik.

The Pentagon has deployed troops to other locations around the world. There are about 250 troops, mostly Special Forces, in the Philippines in part to help with counterterrorism operations. In the past six years, about 2,000 Marines have regularly deployed to northern Australia to act as a response force for the Pacific region.

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ISIS Reaps Gains of U.S. Pullout From Syria

Westlake Legal Group 20isis5-sub-facebookJumbo ISIS Reaps Gains of U.S. Pullout From Syria United States International Relations United States Defense and Military Forces Trump, Donald J Terrorism Syrian Democratic Forces Syria Politics and Government Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) Iraq Defense and Military Forces

American forces and their Kurdish-led partners in Syria had been conducting as many as a dozen counterterrorism missions a day against Islamic State militants, officials said. That has stopped.

Those same partners, the Syrian Democratic Forces, had also been quietly releasing some Islamic State prisoners and incorporating them into their ranks, in part as a way to keep them under watch. That, too, is now in jeopardy.

And across Syria’s porous border with Iraq, Islamic State fighters are conducting a campaign of assassination against local village headmen, in part to intimidate government informants.

When President Trump announced this month that he would pull American troops out of northern Syria and make way for a Turkish attack on the Kurds, Washington’s onetime allies, many warned that he was removing the spearhead of the campaign to defeat the Islamic State, also known as ISIS.

Now, analysts say that Mr. Trump’s pullout has handed the Islamic State its biggest win in more than four years and greatly improved its prospects. With American forces rushing for the exits, in fact, American officials said last week that they were already losing their ability to collect critical intelligence about the group’s operations on the ground.

“There is no question that ISIS is one of the big winners in what is happening in Syria,” said Lina Khatib, director of the Middle East and North Africa Program at Chatham House, a research center in London.

Cutting support for the Syrian Democratic Forces has crippled the ability of the United States and its former partners to hunt down the group’s remnants.

News of the American withdrawal set off jubilation among Islamic State supporters on social media and encrypted chat networks. It has lifted the morale of fighters in affiliates as far away as Libya and Nigeria.

And, by removing a critical counterforce, the pullout has eased the re-emergence of the Islamic State’s core as a terrorist network or a more conventional, and potentially long-lasting, insurgency based in Syria and Iraq.

Although Mr. Trump has repeatedly declared victory over the Islamic State — even boasting to congressional leaders last week that he had personally “captured ISIS” — it remains a threat. After the loss in March of the last patch of the territory it once held across Syria and Iraq, the Islamic State dispersed its supporters and fighters to blend in with the larger population or to hide out in remote deserts and mountains.

The group retains as many as 18,000 “members” in Iraq and Syria, including up to 3,000 foreigners, according to estimates cited in a recent Pentagon report. Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the Islamic State’s self-proclaimed caliph, is still at large.

“Our battle today is one of attrition and stretching the enemy,” Mr. al-Baghdadi declared in a video message released in April. Looking comfortable and well fed, he sat on the floor of a bare room, surrounded by fighters, with an assault rifle by his side.

“Jihad is ongoing until the day of judgment,” he told his supporters, according to a transcript provided by SITE Intelligence Group.

Against the benchmark of the Islamic State’s former grip on a broad swath of geography, any possibility of a comeback to that extent remains highly remote.

Changes in the political context in Syria and Iraq have diminished the Islamic State’s ability to whip up sectarian animosity out of the frustrations of Sunni Muslims over the Shiite or Shiite-linked authorities in Syria and Iraq — the militants’ trademark.

The government in Baghdad has broadened its support among Sunni Iraqis. President Bashar al-Assad of Syria, by crushing the revolt against him, has left Sunni militants less space to mobilize. And many Syrians and Iraqis who lived under the harsh dominion of the Islamic State strongly oppose its return.

But as an underground insurgency, the Islamic State appears to be on the upswing.

Militants have been carrying out “assassinations, suicide attacks, abductions, and arson of crops in both Iraq and Syria,” according to a report this summer by the Pentagon inspector general for operations against the Islamic State. It is establishing “resurgent cells” in Syria, the report said, and “seeking to expand its command and control nodes in Iraq.”

The militants have been burning crops and emptying out whole villages. They have been raising money by carrying out kidnappings for ransom and extorting “taxes” from local officials, often skimming a cut of rebuilding contracts.

Their attacks on village headmen — at least 30 were killed in Iraq in 2018, according to the Pentagon report — are an apparent attempt to scare others out of cooperating with Baghdad.

“The high operational tempo with multiple attacks taking place over a wide area” may be intended to create the appearance that the Islamic State can strike anywhere with “impunity,” the report said.

Mr. Trump first said in December 2018 that he intended to withdraw the last 2,000 American troops from Syria; the Pentagon scaled that back, pulling out about half of those troops.

Military officials, though, say that helping the Syrian Democratic Forces hunt down underground cells and fugitive fighters required more training and intelligence support than an open battle for territory. Even the partial drawdown, the Pentagon inspector general’s report found, could be “detrimental” to the American mission in Iraq and Syria.

Last month, as if to prove its continued vitality, the Islamic State claimed responsibility for a minibus bombing that killed a dozen people near the entrance to a Shiite pilgrimage site in the Iraqi city of Karbala. It was its deadliest attack since the loss of its last territory.

And within hours of Mr. Trump’s announcement almost two weeks ago that American forces were moving away from the Syrian border with Turkey, two ISIS suicide bombers attacked a base of the Syrian Democratic Forces in the Syrian city of Raqqa.

“The crusaders have given up,” Islamic State supporters crowed, according to Laith Alkhouri of the business risk consulting company Flashpoint Global Partners, who monitors the group’s online messages.

Other messages “urged ISIS ‘soldiers’ everywhere to double their efforts,” Mr. Alkhouri said.

The missions against the Islamic State conducted by the Syrian Democratic Forces — sometimes as many as two dozen a day — had included both counterterrorism patrols and raids on militant cells. Some were carried out jointly with American soldiers, others alone, according to United States officials.

But the Kurds, an ethnic minority sometimes disparaged by Arab Syrians, faced resentment among the Arab residents of northeastern Syria.

In part to try to win support from those communities, the Kurdish-led forces pardoned and released hundreds of detained ISIS fighters or supporters in so-called reconciliation deals, relying on informal relationships with community leaders to handle their reintegration.

The Kurdish-led militia even incorporated some of the released Islamic State detainees into its own forces, said Dareen Khalifa, a researcher with the International Crisis Group who has traveled to the region extensively and documented the “reconciliation” pardons in a report last summer.

The Kurdish militia leaders said: “What do you want us to do, kill them all? Imprison them all? The best way forward is to keep a close eye on them by keeping them within the S.D.F.,” Ms. Khalifa said in an interview. She said that those enlisted had not been Islamic State leaders and that so far there had been no recidivism.

But now the American withdrawal and the Turkish incursion are threatening the informal supervision of those former prisoners, Ms. Khalifa said, creating a risk that some might gravitate back to fighting for the Islamic State.

Turkey, which has battled Kurdish separatist militants at home for decades, launched the invasion primarily to push back the Kurdish-led forces in Syria. Without American protection, the Kurdish leaders are now switching sides to ally with Mr. al-Assad.

In Iraq, too, some say opportunities may be emerging for the Islamic State to revive its appeals to Sunni resentments in the areas it once controlled. Promises of postwar reconstruction have gone unfilled. And Shiite militias that rose up to defeat the Islamic State remain in place, sometimes seeking to profit off the local populations.

“People in the liberated areas say: ‘Why are all these armed groups still around? Why do they still call us all ISIS, and why are they taxing us or extorting us and taking all of our money?’,” said Renad Mansour, the director of the Iraq Initiative at Chatham House.

The campaign against the Islamic State, he said, “was a military solution to what is a social and political problem.”

Mr. Trump, for his part, has insisted repeatedly that Turkey should take over the fight against the Islamic State in Syria. “It’s going to be your responsibility,” Mr. Trump said he told the country’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

But current and former United States officials say the Turkish military has a bleak track record at counterterrorism and little hope of filling the void left by the Americans and the Syrian Democratic Forces.

“That is wishful thinking as far as I can tell,” said Dana Stroul, co-chairwoman of the congressionally sponsored Syria Study Group and a former Pentagon official.

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U.S. Withdrawal From Syria Gathers Speed, Amid Accusations of Betrayal

Westlake Legal Group 21syria-facebookJumbo U.S. Withdrawal From Syria Gathers Speed, Amid Accusations of Betrayal United States Defense and Military Forces Turkey Trump, Donald J Syrian Democratic Forces Syria Kurds Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) Iraq

QAMISHLI, Syria — A long convoy of United States troops crossed into Iraq from Syria early Monday, accelerating a withdrawal of American forces from northern Syria that set the stage for the Turkish invasion of Kurdish-controlled land.

More than 100 American military vehicles left Syrian Kurdish territory in the early hours of the morning, according to a cameraman for the Reuters news agency who was at the border crossing.

President Trump’s withdrawal of most American troops from Syria, which cleared the way for Turkey to attack Kurdish forces, has prompted Republicans and Democrats alike to accuse him of abandoning a United States ally. A coalition of Syrian Kurdish fighters, Americans and other foreign troops had fought the Islamic State there since 2014.

Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper confirmed on Monday that the United States was considering keeping a small force in northeastern Syria, alongside the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces, to prevent oil fields there from falling into the hands of the Islamic State. The Times reported that Mr. Trump was leaning in favor of leaving perhaps 200 troops there.

The withdrawal, which began Oct. 6, has drastically reduced American clout in Syria, ceding more control and influence to the Syrian government, Russia and Iran. It has also raised fears of a revival of ISIS, the extremist group that once controlled an area in Iraq and Syria that was the size of Britain.

Around 1,000 American troops are being withdrawn. Though Mr. Trump has characterized the move as bringing troops home, Mr. Esper said on Sunday that most forces would be redeployed to western Iraq, where they would continue operations against the Islamic State.

In an earlier phase of the withdrawal, coalition forces bombed their own base and arms cache in northern Syria to prevent enemies from using it.

Small groups of residents in northeastern Syria protested the American withdrawal, footage broadcast by Syrian television networks showed. One group stoned an American armored vehicle as it passed through Qamishli, a major city in Kurdish-held territory, while another tried to block the convoy’s progress by standing in its path and holding placards of protest.

“The Americans are running away like rats,” one man could be heard shouting.

Some Syrian Kurds see the withdrawal as a form of betrayal, since it has enabled Turkish-led forces to invade the area and potentially force Kurds from their ancestral homes.

“There will be ethnic cleansing of the Kurdish people from Syria, and the American administration will be responsible for it,” Mazlum Kobani, whose Kurdish-led force fought the Islamic State in Syria, said on Sunday in an interview with The Times.

Turkish officials say their campaign is targeting only Mr. Kobani’s militia, rather than Syrian Kurds at large. Over 200 Syrian civilians have died since the invasion began, while at least 20 have died in Kurdish counterattacks in southern Turkey. More than 170,000 people have been displaced, according to estimates by the International Committee of the Red Cross.

Until this month, northeastern Syria had largely been under the control of the Syrian Democratic Forces, a Kurdish-led militia that had used the chaos of the eight-year civil war to establish an autonomous region that operated independently of both the central government in Damascus and Syrian Arab rebel fighters.

The American-led campaign against the Islamic State, a militant group also known as ISIS, allowed the Kurdish force to expand its territory and take over the governance of land seized from the extremists.

But the creation of an American-backed and Kurdish-held canton along the Turkish-Syrian border became a source of great anxiety for the Turkish government, which considers the Kurdish militia a threat to national security. The militia is an offshoot of a guerrilla movement that has waged a decades-long insurgency against the Turkish state.

The American withdrawal has allowed Turkish troops and its Syrian Arab proxies to seize control of more than 900 square miles of territory once held by Kurds, according to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey.

After a stuttering start to an American-mediated cease-fire, Turkish and Kurdish fighters are largely now adhering to a five-day truce that is to last until Tuesday evening. Sporadic skirmishes continue, but Kurdish fighters have been able to withdraw from a strategic town on the Syrian border.

Mr. Erdogan has said that all Kurdish fighters must retreat from a central pocket of former Kurdish-held territory by Tuesday night, and he has threatened to expand the Turkish invasion if any Kurdish fighters remain.

Mr. Erdogan wants to use the land to create a sphere of Turkish influence in northern Syria in which Syrian refugees who currently live in Turkey can be resettled.

Ben Hubbard reported from Qamishli, and Patrick Kingsley from Istanbul. Hwaida Saad contributed reporting from Beirut, Lebanon.

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‘Get Over It’? Why Political Influence in Foreign Policy Matters

Westlake Legal Group 00dc-interference1-facebookJumbo ‘Get Over It’? Why Political Influence in Foreign Policy Matters Zelensky, Volodymyr United States International Relations Trump, Donald J Russian Interference in 2016 US Elections and Ties to Trump Associates Mulvaney, Mick Biden, Joseph R Jr Biden, Hunter

WASHINGTON — A July 25 call between President Trump and the president of Ukraine is the basis for an impeachment inquiry into whether Mr. Trump withheld American military aid until Ukrainian officials investigated former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and his son, Hunter.

Last week the acting White House chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, effectively acknowledged the quid pro quo, although he said the aid was in part contingent on Ukraine’s investigating Mr. Trump’s widely debunked theory that Ukraine, not Russia, was responsible for hacking Democratic Party emails in 2016. The theory is politically helpful to Mr. Trump because it would show he was elected president without that Russian help.

Mr. Mulvaney was unapologetic in his remarks. “I have news for everybody: Get over it,” Mr. Mulvaney told reporters at the White House. “There’s going to be political influence in foreign policy.” (He later reversed himself and has said his comments were misconstrued.)

Readers have asked The New York Times to explain why, exactly, another nation’s interference in the democratic process is such a serious issue.

Here are some answers.

Other countries have their own interests, and those interests don’t always match ours, said Trevor Potter, the founder of the Campaign Legal Center, a nonpartisan group that works to ensure fair elections.

“Many countries are rivals of ours and of our democratic system,” Mr. Potter said. He listed as two chief examples China and Russia, countries that Mr. Trump has publicly suggested could help him achieve his political aims. “In some cases, they’re going to want policies that help them and therefore hurt us. In other cases, though, they just want us to fail.”

Trump administration officials — but not the president himself — have publicly and repeatedly warned foreign governments not to meddle in American elections.

Yes. The ability of a foreign nation to gain access and influence over America’s democratic process has been a concern since the early days of the republic.

During the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia in the summer of 1787, delegates debated what kind of behavior should merit a president’s removal from office. George Mason suggested the standard of “high crimes and misdemeanors,” which holds to this day. One of the high crimes the framers had in mind was accepting money from a foreign power, or what Alexander Hamilton said was giving in to “the desire in foreign powers to gain an improper ascendant in our councils.”

In short, the authors of the Constitution saw few bigger threats than a president corruptly tied to forces from overseas.

Mr. Trump has denied any explicit quid pro quo — a favor or advantage granted or expected in return for something — in his call with the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelensky. He has repeatedly referred to it as a “perfect” conversation.

But several elements of the call could conceivably have been used as bargaining chips by Mr. Trump.

One was the American military aid, which came to nearly $400 million for security assistance to help Ukraine fight Russian aggression on its eastern border. The other was a proposed Oval Office meeting between Mr. Zelensky and Mr. Trump, highly desired by Mr. Zelensky as a powerful show of American support at a time when Ukraine is under threat from Russia.

According to a summary of the call released by the White House, Mr. Trump raised two matters after Mr. Zelensky spoke of his need for American help. “I would like you to do us a favor, though,” Mr. Trump said, shifting the conversation to ask Mr. Zelensky to investigate the Bidens as well as the conspiracy theory.

Mr. Zelensky responded that his prosecutor general would look into those issues, and asked Mr. Trump to provide any additional information that could aid in the investigation.

At its most basic level, asking another government for help — whether a quid pro quo existed or not — means that Mr. Trump would find himself indebted to another country.

Doing this in private is especially alarming, Mr. Potter said, because the Trump administration’s decision to even temporarily withhold military aid for a country that needs to arm itself against Russia goes directly against American national security interests.

“If the president of Ukraine has agreed to do this, he has something to hold over the head of the president of the United States,” Mr. Potter said. “It indeed opens the president up to political blackmail.”

Asking a foreigner for aid in an American political campaign is illegal, which Ellen L. Weintraub, the head of the Federal Election Commission, has made clear.

“If a foreign government is investing resources in producing something that will be a value to a campaign here in the United States, that’s a problem,” Ms. Weintraub said in an interview with ABC News.

No. Both Republican and Democratic presidential administrations have resisted the idea of enlisting help from foreign powers for political advantage.

In 1992, when President George Bush was behind in the polls in his re-election campaign against Bill Clinton, a group of Republican lawmakers suggested to White House officials that they ask the British and Russian governments to dig up unflattering information on Mr. Clinton’s actions protesting the Vietnam War during his time in London, and to look into a visit he made to Moscow.

“They wanted us to contact the Russians or the British to seek information on Bill Clinton’s trip to Moscow,” James A. Baker III, Mr. Bush’s chief of staff, wrote in a memo at the time. “I said we absolutely could not do that.”

Ten former chiefs of staff for five former presidents — Ronald Reagan, both Bushes, Mr. Clinton and Barack Obama — have all said they would have considered such a prospect unacceptable.

But that doesn’t mean the Russians haven’t tried. The Soviet Union offered to help Adlai Stevenson make a third presidential run in 1960, a proposal he turned down. The Soviet ambassador likewise offered to help finance Hubert Humphrey’s campaign in 1968, drawing another rejection. And Leonid Brezhnev told Gerald R. Ford that he would “do everything we can” to help him win in 1976, a comment Mr. Ford brushed off without taking seriously.

Yes.

The Central Intelligence Agency helped overthrow elected leaders in Iran and Guatemala in the 1950s and backed violent coups in several other countries in the 1960s. It plotted assassinations and supported brutal anti-Communist governments in Latin America, Africa and Asia. The C.I.A. has planted misinformation and, at times, used cash as a way to achieve foreign policy aims.

But experts have argued that modern American efforts are not morally equivalent to those in Russia. In recent decades, American efforts have been geared toward promoting candidates who challenge authoritarian leaders. Russian efforts, on the other hand, are meant to sow discord.

“We often consider ourselves and hold ourselves out as an example of how other countries should conduct themselves,” Mr. Potter said. “When we have internal battles or things have gone wrong here, it is much harder to do that.”

He added, “Countries can exploit that and say, ‘We may be bad, but the United States is no better.’”

Sort of.

The only impeachment involving foreign policy came in the case of a senator, William Blount, who was accused in 1797 of scheming to transfer parts of Florida and the Louisiana Territory to Britain. The House impeached Blount, but he fled Washington. The Senate opted to expel him rather than convict him at trial.

Peter Baker contributed reporting.

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Why Trump Dropped His Idea to Hold the G7 at His Own Hotel

Westlake Legal Group 20dc-doral1-facebookJumbo Why Trump Dropped His Idea to Hold the G7 at His Own Hotel United States Politics and Government Trump, Donald J Trump National Doral Miami (Doral, Fla) Mulvaney, Mick impeachment Hotels and Travel Lodgings Doral (Fla) Conflicts of Interest Christie, Christopher J

He knew he was inviting criticism by choosing his own luxury golf club in Miami for the site of a gathering of world leaders at the Group of 7 summit in June, President Trump told his aides opposed to the choice, and he was prepared for the inevitable attack from Democrats.

But what Mr. Trump was not prepared for was the reaction of fellow Republicans who said his choice of the club, the Trump National Doral, had crossed a line, and they couldn’t defend it.

So Mr. Trump did something that might not have been a surprise for a president facing impeachment but that was unusual for him: He reversed himself Saturday night, abruptly ending the uproar touched off two days earlier by the announcement of his decision by Mick Mulvaney, his acting chief of staff.

“He had no choice,” Chris Christie, the former New Jersey governor and longtime friend of the president’s, said Sunday on ABC’s “This Week.” “It shouldn’t have been done in the first place. And it’s a good move to get out of it and get that out of the papers and off the news.”

The president first heard the criticism of his choice of the Doral watching TV, where even some Fox News personalities were disapproving. By Saturday afternoon, his concerns had deepened when he put in a call to Camp David, where Mr. Mulvaney was hosting moderate congressional Republicans for a discussion of issues facing them, including impeachment, and was told the consensus was he should reverse himself. Those moderates are among the votes Mr. Trump would need to stick with him during an impeachment.

“I didn’t see it being a big negative, but it certainly wasn’t a positive,” said Representative Peter T. King of New York, one of those at Camp David. He said the group told Mr. Trump’s aides that sticking with the decision “would be a distraction.”

With many members already unhappy with the consequences of the president’s move to withdraw troops from Syria, and Democrats pressing their impeachment inquiry, Republicans on Capitol Hill were not eager to have to defend the appropriateness of the president’s decision to host the Group of 7 meeting at one of his own properties.

“I think there was a lot of concern,” said Representative Tom Cole of Oklahoma, a member of the Republicans’ leadership team. “I’m not sure people questioned the legality of it, but it clearly was an unforced political error.”

Mr. Cole said he did not speak to the president directly about it, but expressed relief that Mr. Trump had changed his mind, and was certain that other Republicans felt the same way. “We just didn’t need this,” he said.

By late Saturday afternoon, Mr. Trump had made his decision, but he waited to announce the reversal until that night in two tweets that were separated by a break he took to watch the opening of Jeanine Pirro’s Fox News program.

“I thought I was doing something very good for our country by using Trump National Doral, in Miami, for hosting the G-7 leaders,” Mr. Trump wrote on Twitter before again promoting the resort’s amenities. “But, as usual, the Hostile Media & their Democrat Partners went CRAZY!”

Mr. Trump added, “Therefore, based on both Media & Democrat Crazed and Irrational Hostility, we will no longer consider Trump National Doral, Miami, as the Host Site for the G-7 in 2020.”

Mr. Trump suggested as a possibility Camp David, the rustic, official presidential retreat that Mr. Mulvaney had denigrated as an option when he announced the choice of Doral. But Mr. Mulvaney said the president was candid in his disappointment.

The president’s reaction “out in the tweet was real,” Mr. Mulvaney said on “Fox News Sunday.” “The president isn’t one for holding back his feelings and his emotions about something. He was honestly surprised at the level of pushback.”

Mr. Trump’s unhappiness may also extend to Mr. Mulvaney, who at his Thursday news conference — whose intended subject was the summit hotel choice — essentially acknowledged that the president had a quid pro quo in mind in discussions with Ukrainian officials.

But advisers to Mr. Trump were gobsmacked. The president has frequently expressed unhappiness with Mr. Mulvaney to others, and he recently reached out to Nick Ayers, a former aide to Vice President Mike Pence, to see if he had interest in returning, according to two people close to the president. Mr. Ayers is unlikely to return to Washington, but the conversation speaks to Mr. Trump’s mindset at a time when he is being urged by some advisers to make a change, and several people close to the president said Mr. Mulvaney did not help himself in the past week.

Mr. Mulvaney conceded on Fox News that this was all avoidable. “It’s not lost on me that if we made the decision on Thursday” not to proceed with the Doral, “we wouldn’t have had the news conference on Thursday regarding everything else, but that’s fine,” Mr. Mulvaney said. At another point, he acknowledged his press briefing was not “perfect.”

Many aides have said Mr. Trump — a real estate developer for whom the presidency at times seems like his second job instead of his primary one — had an understandable motivation for choosing Doral: He wanted to show off his property to a global audience.

“At the end of the day,” Mr. Mulvaney said Sunday, “he still considers himself to be in the hospitality business, and he saw an opportunity to take the biggest leaders from around the world, and he wanted to put the absolute best show, the best visit that he possibly could.”

In a statement, an official at the Trump Organization, the president’s private company, reiterated Mr. Trump’s disappointment and his contention that American taxpayers had lost a good deal.

“Trump Doral would have made an incredible location and venue,” the spokesman said. “This is a perfect example of no good deed goes unpunished. It will likely end up costing the U.S. government 10 times the amount elsewhere, as we would have either done it at cost or contributed it to the United States for free if legally allowed.”

But legal experts said the statement itself showed how fundamentally Mr. Trump and his family misunderstood the ethical issues raised by his choice.

At a minimum, the president’s role in steering business to his own resort clashed with his promise, made 10 days before he was sworn in, that he would recuse himself from anything to do with his properties.

“My two sons, who are right here, Don and Eric, are going to be running the company,” Mr. Trump said at the time, referring to Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump. “They are going to be running it in a very professional manner. They’re not going to discuss it with me.”

And the selection, as the president had anticipated, touched off a wave of censure from Democrats and ethics experts.

But it was also criticized by conservative legal scholars, who were already uncomfortable with a number of recent actions by the White House, including pressuring Ukrainian officials to investigate former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., and his son Hunter Biden.

“It is really just about him ordering the country to pay him money,” said Paul Rosenzweig, a Department of Homeland Security official in the George W. Bush administration who is now associated with the Heritage Foundation. “It is just indefensible.”

Pushing the Doral site also threatened to hurt the United States’ standing globally, legal experts said, in light of its decades’ worth of efforts to combat corruption by other foreign governments, according to Jessica Tillipman, a lawyer who specializes in an American law known as the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.

“This is no different than any other corrupt leader of an oil-rich African country who is taking money from the government and taxpayers,” she said.

In the past, presidents and their top advisers have played a lead role in selecting Group of 7 sites, former State Department officials said, citing Ronald Reagan’s role in picking Williamsburg, Va., in 1983 and the first George Bush’s choice of Houston in 1990.

But the White House has typically just picked the host city, not the hotels. That has traditionally been left to the State Department, said Peter A. Selfridge, the department’s chief of protocol during the Obama administration.

The event draws as many as 7,000 people, including security personnel, news media, diplomats, heads of state and support staff, meaning an overall price tag that can run into the hundreds of millions of dollars, once security is included.

The host government typically covers the cost of 20 hotel rooms per country — but that is the start of what each nation needs, according to a second former State Department official.

Scholars who have studied the history of Group of 7 gatherings — dating to their start in the 1970s — said they could cite no other time when a president effectively tried to force global political leaders to pay his or her family money at a resort owned by the head of state.

“This was unprecedented,” said John Kirton, a professor of political science at the University of Toronto and the director of the G7 Research Group, which studies these gatherings. “This was astounding and embarrassing to the United States.”

Mr. Selfridge said perhaps the most confounding piece of Mr. Trump’s now-aborted choice of the resort outside Miami was the idea of welcoming global leaders to a destination that is hot, muggy — and not particularly popular in June.

“It would be like picking northern Minnesota in the middle of the winter,” he said. “You would not want to be there then.”

Maggie Haberman reported from New York, and Eric Lipton and Katie Rogers from Washington. Sheryl Gay Stolberg contributed reporting from Washington.

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Why Trump Dropped His Idea to Hold the G7 at His Own Hotel

Westlake Legal Group 20dc-doral1-facebookJumbo Why Trump Dropped His Idea to Hold the G7 at His Own Hotel United States Politics and Government Trump, Donald J Trump National Doral Miami (Doral, Fla) Mulvaney, Mick impeachment Hotels and Travel Lodgings Doral (Fla) Conflicts of Interest Christie, Christopher J

He knew he was inviting criticism by choosing his own luxury golf club in Miami for the site of a gathering of world leaders at the Group of 7 summit in June, President Trump told his aides opposed to the choice, and he was prepared for the inevitable attack from Democrats.

But what Mr. Trump was not prepared for was the reaction of fellow Republicans who said his choice of the club, the Trump National Doral, had crossed a line, and they couldn’t defend it.

So Mr. Trump did something that might not have been a surprise for a president facing impeachment but that was unusual for him: He reversed himself Saturday night, abruptly ending the uproar touched off two days earlier by the announcement of his decision by Mick Mulvaney, his acting chief of staff.

“He had no choice,” Chris Christie, the former New Jersey governor and longtime friend of the president’s, said Sunday on ABC’s “This Week.” “It shouldn’t have been done in the first place. And it’s a good move to get out of it and get that out of the papers and off the news.”

The president first heard the criticism of his choice of the Doral watching TV, where even some Fox News personalities were disapproving. By Saturday afternoon, his concerns had deepened when he put in a call to Camp David, where Mr. Mulvaney was hosting moderate congressional Republicans for a discussion of issues facing them, including impeachment, and was told the consensus was he should reverse himself. Those moderates are among the votes Mr. Trump would need to stick with him during an impeachment.

“I didn’t see it being a big negative, but it certainly wasn’t a positive,” said Representative Peter T. King of New York, one of those at Camp David. He said the group told Mr. Trump’s aides that sticking with the decision “would be a distraction.”

With many members already unhappy with the consequences of the president’s move to withdraw troops from Syria, and Democrats pressing their impeachment inquiry, Republicans on Capitol Hill were not eager to have to defend the appropriateness of the president’s decision to host the Group of 7 meeting at one of his own properties.

“I think there was a lot of concern,” said Representative Tom Cole of Oklahoma, a member of the Republicans’ leadership team. “I’m not sure people questioned the legality of it, but it clearly was an unforced political error.”

Mr. Cole said he did not speak to the president directly about it, but expressed relief that Mr. Trump had changed his mind, and was certain that other Republicans felt the same way. “We just didn’t need this,” he said.

By late Saturday afternoon, Mr. Trump had made his decision, but he waited to announce the reversal until that night in two tweets that were separated by a break he took to watch the opening of Jeanine Pirro’s Fox News program.

“I thought I was doing something very good for our country by using Trump National Doral, in Miami, for hosting the G-7 leaders,” Mr. Trump wrote on Twitter before again promoting the resort’s amenities. “But, as usual, the Hostile Media & their Democrat Partners went CRAZY!”

Mr. Trump added, “Therefore, based on both Media & Democrat Crazed and Irrational Hostility, we will no longer consider Trump National Doral, Miami, as the Host Site for the G-7 in 2020.”

Mr. Trump suggested as a possibility Camp David, the rustic, official presidential retreat that Mr. Mulvaney had denigrated as an option when he announced the choice of Doral. But Mr. Mulvaney said the president was candid in his disappointment.

The president’s reaction “out in the tweet was real,” Mr. Mulvaney said on “Fox News Sunday.” “The president isn’t one for holding back his feelings and his emotions about something. He was honestly surprised at the level of pushback.”

Mr. Trump’s unhappiness may also extend to Mr. Mulvaney, who at his Thursday news conference — whose intended subject was the summit hotel choice — essentially acknowledged that the president had a quid pro quo in mind in discussions with Ukrainian officials.

But advisers to Mr. Trump were gobsmacked. The president has frequently expressed unhappiness with Mr. Mulvaney to others, and he recently reached out to Nick Ayers, a former aide to Vice President Mike Pence, to see if he had interest in returning, according to two people close to the president. Mr. Ayers is unlikely to return to Washington, but the conversation speaks to Mr. Trump’s mindset at a time when he is being urged by some advisers to make a change, and several people close to the president said Mr. Mulvaney did not help himself in the past week.

Mr. Mulvaney conceded on Fox News that this was all avoidable. “It’s not lost on me that if we made the decision on Thursday” not to proceed with the Doral, “we wouldn’t have had the news conference on Thursday regarding everything else, but that’s fine,” Mr. Mulvaney said. At another point, he acknowledged his press briefing was not “perfect.”

Many aides have said Mr. Trump — a real estate developer for whom the presidency at times seems like his second job instead of his primary one — had an understandable motivation for choosing Doral: He wanted to show off his property to a global audience.

“At the end of the day,” Mr. Mulvaney said Sunday, “he still considers himself to be in the hospitality business, and he saw an opportunity to take the biggest leaders from around the world, and he wanted to put the absolute best show, the best visit that he possibly could.”

In a statement, an official at the Trump Organization, the president’s private company, reiterated Mr. Trump’s disappointment and his contention that American taxpayers had lost a good deal.

“Trump Doral would have made an incredible location and venue,” the spokesman said. “This is a perfect example of no good deed goes unpunished. It will likely end up costing the U.S. government 10 times the amount elsewhere, as we would have either done it at cost or contributed it to the United States for free if legally allowed.”

But legal experts said the statement itself showed how fundamentally Mr. Trump and his family misunderstood the ethical issues raised by his choice.

At a minimum, the president’s role in steering business to his own resort clashed with his promise, made 10 days before he was sworn in, that he would recuse himself from anything to do with his properties.

“My two sons, who are right here, Don and Eric, are going to be running the company,” Mr. Trump said at the time, referring to Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump. “They are going to be running it in a very professional manner. They’re not going to discuss it with me.”

And the selection, as the president had anticipated, touched off a wave of censure from Democrats and ethics experts.

But it was also criticized by conservative legal scholars, who were already uncomfortable with a number of recent actions by the White House, including pressuring Ukrainian officials to investigate former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., and his son Hunter Biden.

“It is really just about him ordering the country to pay him money,” said Paul Rosenzweig, a Department of Homeland Security official in the George W. Bush administration who is now associated with the Heritage Foundation. “It is just indefensible.”

Pushing the Doral site also threatened to hurt the United States’ standing globally, legal experts said, in light of its decades’ worth of efforts to combat corruption by other foreign governments, according to Jessica Tillipman, a lawyer who specializes in an American law known as the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.

“This is no different than any other corrupt leader of an oil-rich African country who is taking money from the government and taxpayers,” she said.

In the past, presidents and their top advisers have played a lead role in selecting Group of 7 sites, former State Department officials said, citing Ronald Reagan’s role in picking Williamsburg, Va., in 1983 and the first George Bush’s choice of Houston in 1990.

But the White House has typically just picked the host city, not the hotels. That has traditionally been left to the State Department, said Peter A. Selfridge, the department’s chief of protocol during the Obama administration.

The event draws as many as 7,000 people, including security personnel, news media, diplomats, heads of state and support staff, meaning an overall price tag that can run into the hundreds of millions of dollars, once security is included.

The host government typically covers the cost of 20 hotel rooms per country — but that is the start of what each nation needs, according to a second former State Department official.

Scholars who have studied the history of Group of 7 gatherings — dating to their start in the 1970s — said they could cite no other time when a president effectively tried to force global political leaders to pay his or her family money at a resort owned by the head of state.

“This was unprecedented,” said John Kirton, a professor of political science at the University of Toronto and the director of the G7 Research Group, which studies these gatherings. “This was astounding and embarrassing to the United States.”

Mr. Selfridge said perhaps the most confounding piece of Mr. Trump’s now-aborted choice of the resort outside Miami was the idea of welcoming global leaders to a destination that is hot, muggy — and not particularly popular in June.

“It would be like picking northern Minnesota in the middle of the winter,” he said. “You would not want to be there then.”

Maggie Haberman reported from New York, and Eric Lipton and Katie Rogers from Washington. Sheryl Gay Stolberg contributed reporting from Washington.

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Erdogan’s Ambitions Go Beyond Syria. He Says He Wants Nuclear Weapons.

Westlake Legal Group 19dc-turkeynukes1-sub-facebookJumbo Erdogan’s Ambitions Go Beyond Syria. He Says He Wants Nuclear Weapons. Turkey Trump, Donald J Syria Putin, Vladimir V Nuclear Weapons Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty North Atlantic Treaty Organization Kurds International Atomic Energy Agency Incirlik Air Base (Turkey) Erdogan, Recep Tayyip

WASHINGTON — Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, wants more than control over a wide swath of Syria along his country’s border. He says he wants the Bomb.

In the weeks leading up to his order to launch the military across the border to clear Kurdish areas, Mr. Erdogan made no secret of his larger ambition. “Some countries have missiles with nuclear warheads,” he told a meeting of his governing party in September. But the West insists “we can’t have them,” he said. “This, I cannot accept.”

With Turkey now in open confrontation with its NATO allies, having gambled and won a bet that it could conduct a military incursion into Syria and get away with it, Mr. Erdogan’s threat takes on new meaning. If the United States could not prevent the Turkish leader from routing its Kurdish allies, how can it stop him from building a nuclear weapon or following Iran in gathering the technology to do so?

It was not the first time Mr. Erdogan has spoken about breaking free of the restrictions on countries that have signed the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, and no one is quite sure of his true intentions. The Turkish autocrat is a master of keeping allies and adversaries off balance, as President Trump discovered in the past two weeks.

“The Turks have said for years that they will follow what Iran does,” said John J. Hamre, a former deputy secretary of defense who now runs the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. “But this time is different. Erdogan has just facilitated America’s retreat from the region.”

“Maybe, like the Iranians, he needs to show that he is on the two-yard line, that he could get a weapon at any moment,” Mr. Hamre said.

If so, he is on his way — with a program more advanced than that of Saudi Arabia, but well short of what Iran has assembled. But experts say it is doubtful that Mr. Erdogan could put a weapon together in secret. And any public move to reach for one would provoke a new crisis: His country would become the first NATO member to break out of the treaty and independently arm itself with the ultimate weapon.

Already Turkey has the makings of a bomb program: uranium deposits and research reactors — and mysterious ties to the nuclear world’s most famous black marketeer, Abdul Qadeer Khan of Pakistan. It is also building its first big power reactor to generate electricity with Russia’s help. That could pose a concern because Mr. Erdogan has not said how he would handle its nuclear waste, which could provide the fuel for a weapon. Russia also built Iran’s Bushehr reactor.

Experts said it would take a number of years for Turkey to get to a weapon, unless Mr. Erdogan bought one. And the risk for Mr. Erdogan would be considerable.

“Erdogan is playing to an anti-American domestic audience with his nuclear rhetoric, but is highly unlikely to pursue nuclear weapons,” said Jessica C. Varnum, an expert on Turkey at Middlebury’s James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies in Monterey, Calif. “There would be huge economic and reputational costs to Turkey, which would hurt the pocketbooks of Erdogan’s voters.”

“For Erdogan,” Ms. Varnum said, “that strikes me as a bridge too far.”

There is another element to this ambiguous atomic mix: The presence of roughly 50 American nuclear weapons, stored on Turkish soil. The United States had never openly acknowledged their existence, until Wednesday, when Mr. Trump did exactly that.

Asked about the safety of those weapons, kept in an American-controlled bunker at Incirlik Air Base, Mr. Trump said, “We’re confident, and we have a great air base there, a very powerful air base.”

But not everyone is so confident, because the air base belongs to the Turkish government. If relations with Turkey deteriorated, the American access to that base is not assured.

Turkey has been a base for American nuclear weapons for more than six decades. Initially, they were intended to deter the Soviet Union, and were famously a negotiating chip in defusing the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, when President John F. Kennedy secretly agreed to remove missiles from Turkey in return for Moscow doing the same in Cuba.

But tactical weapons have remained. Over the years, American officials have often expressed nervousness about the weapons, which have little to no strategic use versus Russia now, but have been part of a NATO strategy to keep regional players in check — and keep Turkey from feeling the need for a bomb of its own.

When Mr. Erdogan put down an attempted military coup in July 2016, the Obama administration quietly drew up an extensive contingency plan for removing the weapons from Incirlik, according to former government officials. But it was never put in action, in part because of fears that removing the American weapons would, at best, undercut the alliance, and perhaps give Mr. Erdogan an excuse to build his own arsenal.

For decades, Turkey has been hedging its bets. Starting in 1979, it began operating a few small research reactors, and since 1986, it has made reactor fuel at a pilot plant in Istanbul. The Istanbul complex also handles spent fuel and its highly radioactive waste.

“They’re building up their nuclear expertise,” Olli Heinonen, the former chief inspector for the International Atomic Energy Agency, said in an interview. “It’s high quality stuff.”

He added that Ankara might “come to the threshold” of the bomb option in four or five years, or sooner, with substantial foreign help. Mr. Heinonen noted that Moscow is now playing an increasingly prominent role in Turkish nuclear projects and long-range planning.

Turkey’s program, like Iran’s, has been characterized as an effort to develop civilian nuclear power.

Russia has agreed to build four nuclear reactors in Turkey, but the effort is seriously behind schedule. The first reactor, originally scheduled to go into operation this year, is now seen as starting up in late 2023.

The big question is what happens to its spent fuel. Nuclear experts agree that the hardest part of bomb acquisition is not coming up with designs or blueprints, but obtaining the fuel. A civilian nuclear power program is often a ruse for making that fuel, and building a clandestine nuclear arsenal.

Turkey has uranium deposits — the obligatory raw material — and over the decades has shown great interest in learning the formidable skills needed to purify uranium as well as to turn it into plutonium, the two main fuels of atom bombs. A 2012 report from the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, “Turkey and the Bomb,” noted that Ankara “has left its nuclear options open.”

Hans Rühle, the head of planning in the German Ministry of Defense from 1982 to 1988, went further. In a 2015 report, he said “the Western intelligence community now largely agrees that Turkey is working both on nuclear weapon systems and on their means of delivery.”

In a 2017 study, the Institute for Science and International Security, a private group in Washington that tracks the bomb’s spread, concluded that Mr. Erdogan’s efforts to consolidate power and raise Turkey’s regional status were increasing “the risk that Turkey will seek nuclear weapons capabilities.”

In response to the German assertion and other similar assessments, Turkey has repeatedly denied a secret nuclear arms effort, with its foreign ministry noting that Turkey is “part of NATO’s collective defense system.”

But Mr. Erdogan’s recent statements were notable for failing to mention NATO, and for expressing his long-running grievance that the country has been prohibited from possessing an arsenal of its own. Turkey has staunchly defended what it calls its right under peaceful global accords to enrich uranium and reprocess spent fuel, the critical steps to a bomb the Trump administration is insisting Iran must surrender.

Turkey’s uranium skills were highlighted in the 2000s when international sleuths found it to be a covert industrial hub for the nuclear black market of Mr. Khan, a builder of Pakistan’s arsenal. The rogue scientist — who masterminded the largest illicit nuclear proliferation ring in history — sold key equipment and designs to Iran, Libya and North Korea.

The most important items were centrifuges. The tall machines spin at supersonic speeds to purify uranium, and governments typically classify their designs as top secret. Their output, depending on the level of enrichment, can fuel reactors or atom bombs.

According to “Nuclear Black Markets,” a report on the Khan network by the International Institute for Strategic Studies, a London think tank, companies in Turkey aided the covert effort by importing materials from Europe, making centrifuge parts and shipping finished products to customers.

A riddle to this day is whether the Khan network had a fourth customer. Dr. Rühle, the former German defense official, said intelligence sources believe Turkey could possess “a considerable number of centrifuges of unknown origin.” The idea that Ankara could be the fourth customer, he added, “does not appear far-fetched.” But there is no public evidence of any such facilities.

What is clear is that in developing its nuclear program, Turkey has found a partner: President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia. In April 2018, Mr. Putin traveled to Turkey to signal the official start of construction of a $20 billion nuclear plant on the country’s Mediterranean coast.

Part of Russia’s motivation is financial. Building nuclear plants is one of the country’s most profitable exports. But it also serves another purpose: Like Mr. Putin’s export of an S-400 air defense system to Ankara — again, over American objections — the construction of the plant puts a NATO member partly in Russia’s camp, dependent on it for technology.

David E. Sanger reported from Washington, and William J. Broad from New York.

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