herald

Wednesday 14 November 2018

Trump sacks Sessions and vows war with rivals after election

US President Donald Trump at the fiery press conference
US President Donald Trump at the fiery press conference

Donald Trump yesterday forced out Attorney General Jeff Sessions a day after congressional elections and vowed to fight if the House of Representatives' new Democratic majority launches probes into his administration.

Sessions, who ran afoul of the president by recusing himself from an investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 White House campaign, said in a letter to Trump that he had submitted his resignation "at your request".

The 71-year-old former senator was told yesterday morning by White House Chief of Staff John Kelly in a phone call that it was time to go.

In an eventful day, Trump threatened to go to war with Democrats if they tried to use their new majority to probe his administration and personal business affairs.

Combative

The president let rip during a combative news conference hours after the Republicans lost control of the House in the midterm elections.

A record number of Americans voted in a ballot widely seen as a referendum on Trump's two years in office - and the rhetoric he ramped up on the campaign trail.

However, despite Repub- lican gains in the Senate, it was the Democrats who were left celebrating seizing power in the House for the first time in eight years.

The outcome means Democrats will now head House committees that can stifle Trump's agenda for the remaining two years of his presidential term.

Top of the agenda will be a probe into the president's tax returns, which he has refused to turn over, possible business conflicts of interest and any links between his 2016 election campaign and Russia, a matter under investigation by US Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

A majority vote in the House would be enough to impeach Trump if evidence surfaced of collusion by his campaign, or of obstruction by the president of the federal investigation.

However, Congress could not remove him from office without a conviction by a two-thirds majority in the Senate, an unlikely scenario. More likely is the prospect of Democrats blocking Trump's flagship immigration policy to build a wall along America's southern border with Mexico and blocking manifesto immigration policies as the country is gripped in political gridlock.

Trump, though, was typically defiant over the results, hailing them as a victory for Republicans and vowing to adopt a "war-like posture" and jettison any attempt to forge bipartisan links in Washington.

"They can play that game, but we can play it better," he said of the possibility of Democratic investigations.

"All you're going to do is end up in back and forth and back and forth, and two years is going to go up and we won't have done a thing."

US stocks surged on the back of the results as investors, who often favour Washington gridlock as it preserves the status quo and reduces uncertainty, bought back into a market that had its worst month in seven years in October.

Alliances

Trump held out an olive branch to his political enemies by suggesting bipartisan alliances on key issues. These include a package to improve infrastructure, protections against prescription drug price increases and the push to rebalance trade with China.

"It could be a beautiful bipartisan situation," said Trump, who also shot down suggestions he would fire Mueller amid reports that the Russian probe is nearing a critical point.

Democratic veteran Nancy Pelosi is tipped to be Speaker of the House, a position she held between 2007-2011.

She said: "Today is more than about Democrats and Republicans, it's about restoring the Constitution's checks and balances to the Trump administration."

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