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‘Fucking Idiot’: Murdoch mocked Trump after phone call on immigration, book claims

Author Michael Wolff describes alleged foul-mouthed comment by media mogul after discussing visas with the then president-elect

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Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “‘Idiot’: Murdoch mocked Trump after phone call on immigration, book claims” was written by David Smith in Washington, for The Guardian on Wednesday 3rd January 2018 18.04 UTC

Rupert Murdoch described Donald Trump as “a fucking idiot” over his contradictory views on immigration policy, a new book reveals.

The remark is contained in a fly-on-the-wall account of internecine warfare in the White House written by Michael Wolff, a Murdoch biographer, a copy of which has been seen by the Guardian.

Wolff describes a Trump Tower meeting on 14 December 2016 – during the presidential transition – involving Trump and executives from Silicon Valley companies including Alphabet (parent of Google), Apple, Facebook and Microsoft. Among the issues at stake was a potential crackdown by the incoming president on H-1B visas, the main visa used to hire foreign talent to tech companies.

Later that afternoon, Wolff writes, Trump called Murdoch, who asked how the meeting had gone.

“Oh, great, just great,” the president-elect said, according to Wolff’s account. “Really, really good. These guys really need my help. Obama was not very favourable to them, too much regulation. This is really an opportunity for me to help them.”

The book records Murdoch’s reply: “Donald, for eight years these guys had Obama in their pocket. They practically ran the administration. They don’t need your help.”

Trump is quoted as saying the companies “really need these H-1B visas”.

Wolff writes that Murdoch suggested a more liberal stance on H-1B visas would sit oddly with Trump’s hardline stance on immigration, to which the president-elect replied: “We’ll figure it out.”

Wolff writes that Murdoch shrugged as he got off the phone, and said: “What a fucking idiot.”

H-1B visas admit 65,000 workers plus 20,000 graduate student workers each year. Most are awarded to outsourcing firms, which critics say exploit loopholes to fill lower-level IT jobs with foreign workers, often at lower pay.

Promising to “Buy American, Hire American”, Trump offered varying positions on the issue several times during the election campaign. Last month his administration proposed eliminating a regulation that allows spouses of H-1B visa holders to work.

Murdoch’s remark is a rare, revealing moment of discord in his lockstep alliance with the president. According to New York Times reports last year, the two men speak “on the phone every week” or “almost every day”. Murdoch’s conservative Fox News has been a powerful cheerleader for Trump, who has frequently returned the compliment, urging his supporters to watch it.

The White House confirmed last month that Trump had spoken with Murdoch, 86, to congratulate him on the proposed sale of a significant chunk of 21st Century Fox to Disney for .4bn. According to Vanity Fair magazine, Trump spoke with Murdoch before the deal “to make sure Murdoch wasn’t selling Fox News”.

Trump has opposed AT&T’s attempted takeover of Time Warner, which owns CNN, the network often branded “fake news” by the president. The justice department has filed a lawsuit to block the bn deal.

Wolff, a media columnist, is the author of the Murdoch biography The Man Who Owns the News. His new book, Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House, published next week, offers an insight into the close ties between the Trump and Murdoch empires.

Wolff also describes a dinner where John Bolton, a favourite of the then Fox News chief executive, Roger Ailes, was touted for the job of national security adviser. Ailes is quoted as saying: “He’s a bomb thrower. And a strange little fucker. But you need him. Who else is good on Israel? [The eventual appointee Michael] Flynn is a little nutty on Iran. [The eventual secretary of state Rex] Tillerson just knows oil.”

Steve Bannon, head of Trump’s election campaign and about to become his chief strategist, reportedly provided a bizarre objection based on facial hair: “Bolton’s mustache is a problem. Trump doesn’t think he looks the part. You know Bolton is an acquired taste.”

Ailes died last May, aged 77. The book suggests there was anger that Trump failed to call Ailes’s widow, Beth. Sean Hannity, a pro-Trump host on Fox News, is quoted as asking: “What the fuck is wrong with him?”

Earlier on Wednesday the Guardian, which obtained Fire and Fury from a bookseller in New England, reported that Bannon told Wolff Donald Trump Jr’s June 2016 meeting with a group of Russians at Trump Tower was “treasonous” and “unpatriotic”. Bannon also reportedly predicted of the Russia investigation: “They’re going to crack Don Junior like an egg on national TV.”

The book describes a poisonous atmosphere at the White House, with bitter infighting between factions. Wolff, who previously conducted interviews with Trump in June 2016 and Steve Bannon in November 2016 that were published in the Hollywood Reporter, gained unique access to the West Wing.

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7.3 Earthquake hits New Britain island in Papua New Guinea

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7.3 Earthquake hits New Britain island in Papua New Guinea.

Preliminary reports warn tsunami waves could hit areas within 300km of the earthquake’s epicentre.

The quake hit off the coast New Britain region of Papua New Guinea earlier today. (Daily Star)

This is a breaking story and will be updated shortly

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NY Man Planned to Blow Himself Up at Washington Mall

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Police and FBI agents searched a Hudson Valley home Wednesday after learning about a man who was allegedly building a bomb in order to blow himself up in Washington D.C., two law enforcement officials told News 4 New York.

Investigators said they were concerned the man, identified as Paul Rosenfeld, at the home on Slocum Avenue in Orangetown was in the process of acquiring bomb parts.

Officials tell News 4 Rosenfeld had no criminal history but had told a reporter in Pennsylvania he planned to blow himself up on the Washington Mall around Election Day because he was angry about the country’s direction. 

He had no plans to hurt anyone else, officials said. He is believed to be a lone actor not affiliated with any international terror group or ideology. 

Full Article at https://nts24.co.uk/2A2oWjM 

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Trump ‘demanding’ answers from Saudis about missing writer

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WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump said Wednesday the U.S. is “demanding” answers from Saudi Arabia about the disappearance of a well-known Saudi writer and government critic Turkish authorities say was slain inside his country’s diplomatic mission in Istanbul.

Trump said he plans to invite to the White House the fiancée of Jamal Khashoggi, a writer for The Washington Post who has not been seen since he entered the Saudi consulate on Oct. 2 to get paperwork for his marriage.

FILE PHOTO: FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Donald Trump listens to a question during an interview with Reuters in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, U.S. August 20, 2018. REUTERS/Leah Millis/File Photo

Members of Congress have grown increasingly insistent that the administration find out what happened to Khashoggi. The Saudi government has become a closer ally under Trump and some lawmakers warn that relations could be jeopardized if it turns out the kingdom was involved in his disappearance.

Trump told reporters in the Oval Office that he has a call in to the fiancée, Hatice Cengiz, who had been waiting outside the consulate when Khashoggi went inside and has appealed to the president and first lady Melania Trump for help.

Trump said nobody knows exactly what happened and expressed hope that Khashoggi is not dead. He also said he had spoken with the Saudis about what he called a “bad situation,” but he did not disclose details of his conversations.

Saudi Arabia denies involvement in the disappearance of Khashoggi, a former insider in Saudi government circles who has been living in self-imposed exile in the U.S. for the past year after fleeing a crackdown on intellectuals and activists in the country.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said White House national security adviser John Bolton and White House senior adviser Jared Kushner spoke on Tuesday to Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman about Khashoggi. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo then had a follow-up call with the crown prince to reiterate the U.S. request for information.

While angry members of Congress likely won’t cause the administration to turn away from Prince Mohammed and end decades of close security ties with Saudi Arabia, they could throw a wrench into arms sales that require their approval and demand the U.S. scale back support for the Saudi military campaign against Iran-backed rebels in Yemen.

Republican Sen. Bob Corker, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said “there will definitely be consequences” if it turns out the Saudis were involved in Khashoggi disappearance. Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said it would be “devastating” to the U.S.-Saudi relationship.

Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn, said if Saudi Arabia had lured a U.S. resident into a consulate and killed him, “it’s time for the United States to rethink our military, political and economic relationship with Saudi Arabia.” But he said it was unclear whether the Trump administration was willing to “go beyond words.”

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., a longtime critic of the Saudi government, said he’ll try to force a vote in the Senate this week blocking U.S. arms sales to Saudi Arabia. He told local radio in his home state Tuesday that he wants to end the arms shipments if there’s “any indication” the Saudis are “implicated in killing this journalist that was critical of them.”

Trump’s comments Wednesday were the toughest yet from his administration on the Khashoggi case. Officials have expressed concern but refused even to entertain questions about what the consequences would be if Turkish allegations turn out to be true. Pompeo has called on the Saudi government to conduct a thorough investigation and to be transparent about its results.

The reaction from European governments has also been cautious. British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt told his Saudi counterpart that if media reports about Khashoggi were correct, it “would be extremely concerning and the U.K. will treat the incident very seriously,” according to the Foreign Office.

The Saudi ambassador to Washington, Prince Khalid bin Salman bin Abdulaziz, has described the allegations as “malicious leaks and grim rumors” and said the kingdom is “gravely concerned” about Khashoggi. Saudi officials maintain he left the consulate shortly after entering, although it has failed to provide evidence.

Washington Post CEO and publisher Fred Ryan said reports suggested the journalist was victim of “state-sponsored, cold-blooded murder.” He demanded answers in a statement Tuesday, saying “Silence, denials and delays are not acceptable.”

Analysts said there were reasons for skepticism about the Turkish account. Ties between Ankara and Riyadh are at a low point over Turkey’s support for Qatar in that country’s yearlong dispute with Saudi Arabia and other Gulf nations. Saudi Arabia, a Sunni Muslim power, is also annoyed by Ankara’s rapprochement with the kingdom’s Shiite archrival, Iran.

Saudi authorities’ failure to provide video footage of Khashoggi’s movements at the consulate to rebut the Turkish allegations have only deepened suspicions.

The Trump administration, from the president on down, is heavily invested in the Saudi relationship. That’s unlikely to change, said Robin Wright, a scholar at the Wilson Center think tank and close friend of the missing writer. The administration’s Middle East agenda heavily depends on the Saudis, including efforts to counter Iranian influence in the region, fight extremism and build support for an expected plan for peace between Israel and the Palestinians.

Indication of those stakes came within four months of Trump taking office, when Saudi Arabia became his first destination on a presidential trip and he announced $110 billion in proposed arms sales.

Prince Mohammed has introduced some economic and social reforms, allowing women to drive and opening movie theaters in the deeply conservative Muslim nation. The flip side, however, is that he’s also squelched dissent and imprisoned activists. He has championed the three-year military campaign against Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen that has pushed that nation toward famine and caused many civilian deaths.

Still, the Trump administration last month stood behind its support for that campaign with weapons, logistics and intelligence, certifying that the Saudis were taken adequate steps to prevent civilian despite mounting evidence to the contrary.

Karen Elliott House, a veteran writer on Saudi affairs and chair of the board of trustees at RAND Corp., said U.S. support for the Yemen war is likely to be the focus of congressional criticism but won’t endanger a relationship that has endured for decades, underpinned by shared strategic interests. Even under the Obama administration, which had difficult relations with Riyadh compared with Trump, there were some $65 billion in completed arms sales.

“The U.S.-Saudi relationship is certainly not about shared moral values,” House said. “It’s about shared security interests.”

___

Associated Press writers Susannah George, Matthew Lee and Deb Riechmann and video journalist Padmananda Rama contributed to this report.

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