Amash first Republican legislator to call for Trump’s impeachment

In a series of tweets, legislator Justin Amash says the US president has engaged in ‘impeachable conduct’.

Amash first Republican legislator to call for Trump's impeachment
Amash sent a series of tweets, faulting Trump and Attorney General William Barr over Mueller’s report 

Republican legislator Justin Amash has said he believes Donald Trump has engaged in “impeachable conduct”, becoming the first politician from his party to call for removing the US president.

The Michigan representative on Saturday also accused Attorney General William Barr of “deliberately” misleading the public over the actual content and tenor of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report on Russian interference aimed at tipping the election to Trump.

WATCH

The Mueller report: Can Trump be impeached?

In a series of tweets, Amash – a member of the ultra-conservative Freedom Caucus – said “few members of Congress even read Mueller’s report,” which identified “multiple examples of conduct satisfying all the elements of obstruction of justice”.

“Undoubtedly any person who is not the president of the United States would be indicted based on such evidence,” he posted.

“Contrary to Barr’s portrayal, Mueller’s report reveals that President Trump engaged in specific actions and a pattern of behaviour that met the threshold for impeachment.”

Justin Amash

@justinamash

Here are my principal conclusions:
1. Attorney General Barr has deliberately misrepresented Mueller’s report.
2. President Trump has engaged in impeachable conduct.
3. Partisanship has eroded our system of checks and balances.
4. Few members of Congress have read the report.

Amash’s comments went even further than those by most Democratic leaders in Congress.

Fellow Michigan legislator Rashida Tlaib, a Democrat, urged Amash to co-sponsor her impeachment resolution.

“@justinamash come find me in 1628 Longworth. I’ve got an impeachment investigation resolution you’re going to want to cosponsor,” she wrote in response to Amash’s thread.

Trump has proclaimed he was fully exonerated by Mueller’s report.

But some Democrats, including Senator Elizabeth Warren, a 2020 presidential candidate who has called for impeachment proceedings, argue that the document lays out multiple occasions in which the president may have obstructed justice.

What is US impeachment? Six things to know

Other senior Democrats including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi have cautioned against such a move, stressing it could deeply divide the nation of about 325 million people.

These Democrats warn it could backfire politically in the run-up to the 2020 election, especially with the Republican-controlled Senate likely to acquit the president in the event of impeachment by the House of Representatives.

Putin tells Pompeo he wants to ‘fully restore’ US-Russian ties

US secretary of state met Russian president and foreign minister to discuss Iran, Ukraine, Venezuela and Syria.

The Russian President Putin told Pompeo his country had not interfered in US elections [Pavel Golovkin/Pool via Reuters]
The Russian President Putin told Pompeo his country had not interfered in US elections

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said he would like to “fully restore” relations with the United States and believes that his US counterpart Donald Trump wants to do the same.

Putin on Tuesday told US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo he came to that conclusion after a phone call with Trump a few days ago.

The Russian president, speaking ahead of  a meeting with Pompeo, also said that his country had not interfered in US elections.

Earlier, Pompeo met Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in the Russian Black Sea resort of Sochi in hopes of finding common grounds in strategic issues over Iran, Syria, Ukraine and Venezuela.

At a joint news conference following the meeting, Pompeo urged Russia to end support for President Nicolas Maduro, but his call was flatly rejected by Moscow.

“The time has come for Nicolas Maduro to go, he has brought nothing but misery to the Venezuelan people, and we hope that Russian support for Maduro will end,” Pompeo said. The US along with about 50 other countries, backs the opposition movement led by Juan Guaido, who declared himself interim president in January.

For his part, Lavrov said Maduro’s future should be decided by the Venezuelan people and called US pressure on him undemocratic.

‘Many differences’ on Iran

Speaking on Iran, Russia’s ally, Lavrov said that Russia and the US “have many differences” and criticized the US decision to unilaterally withdraw from Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) agreement meant to rein in the country’s nuclear programme.

US air carrier in the Gulf a target not a threat: Iran commander

Pompeo said that the US will respond appropriately to any Iranian attacks on US interests, in an apparent reference to the Iranian military’s threat to shut the strategic strait of Hormuz in the Gulf. The US secretary, however, added that his country did not “seek war with Iran”.

The US recently tightened restrictions on Iran’s nuclear programme by revoking key sanctions waivers, a move staunchly opposed by Moscow, over a year after Washington withdrew from a landmark deal that curbed Iran’s nuclear programme. It also imposed new sanctions on the country’s metal sector.

On the Ukrainian crisis, an issue the sides are also loggerheads, the Pompeo said the US would not recognize Moscow’s 2014 annexation of Crimea and would keep in place economic sanctions imposed on Russia over that move.

Mike Pompeo met Sergey Lavrov in Sochi to discuss a range of issues including Iran, Venezuela and Ukraine [Pavel Golovkin, Pool/AP]

Pompeo said he asked Moscow to free a group of Ukrainian sailors, seized by Russia last November, and to work with Ukraine‘s new president to bring peace to eastern Ukraine.

Meanwhile, Lavrov said that the Kremlin would welcome an official request by Washington for a meeting between the US and Russian presidents at a G20 summit scheduled for June.

US warning on 2020 polls

Pompeo also said he had made it clear to Lavrov that there could be no repeat of election interference of the kind Washington accuses Moscow of undertaking in the 2016 United States presidential election.

If Russia interferes in the 2020 presidential election, “it would put our relationship in an even worse place,” Pompeo said.

Ties between the two countries have been damaged by allegations that Russia tried to influence the results of the election in favour of Trump, a claim denied by Moscow.

Putin tells Pompeo he wants to ‘fully restore’ US-Russian ties

“It’s clear that such insinuations are absolute fiction,” Lavrov said at the joint press conference.

Pompeo’s visit represents the first high-level contact between Moscow and Washington since US Special Counsel Robert Mueller submitted a report examining the nature of Russia’s role in the 2016 election.

His inquiry had cast a pall over US-Russian relations, and Russian officials had expressed hope that Washington would have more scope to build friendlier relations with Moscow once it was out of the way.

Before his meeting with Pompeo, Putin praised the report.

“Despite the exotic nature of Mr Mueller’s commission, on the whole he conducted quite an objective investigation and confirmed the absence of any collusion between the US administration and Russia.”

The Mueller report called Russia’s efforts to influence the election “the most recent expression of Moscow’s longstanding desire to undermine the US-led liberal democratic order, but these activities demonstrated a significant escalation in directness, level of activity, and scope of effort compared to previous operations”.

What is US impeachment? Six things to know

How does it work? Which presidents have been impeached? What do Americans think? A guide to the US impeachment process.
President Donald Trump arrives to speak at a rally at Aaron Bessant Amphitheater [Evan Vucci/AP Photo]
President Donald Trump arrives to speak at a rally at Aaron Bessant Amphitheater

As the confrontation between US President Donald Trump and Democrats over Special Counsel Robert Mueller‘s Russia report intensifies, talk of impeachment has continued to swirl around Congress.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat, has so far resisted calls to begin impeachment proceedings. Instead, House committees are aggressively investigating Trump, a Republican, through subpoenas of witnesses and documents.

In an April 22 letter to fellow Democratic politicians, Pelosi urged restraint and patience, insisting that it is “important to know that the facts regarding holding the president accountable can be gained outside of impeachment hearings”.

She repeated that sentiment on Thursday, saying Democrats will take a step-by-step approach. “We won’t go any faster than the facts take us or any slower,” she said.

But she did say that as Trump continues to stonewall congressional investigations, he is “becoming self-impeachable”.

Trump and his supporters argue the Mueller investigation into the president and Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election is “case-closed”.

Despite the top Democrats’ effort to tamp down impeachment talk, several Democrats, including some 2020 presidential contenders, want the House to start impeachment proceedings.

Here’s what you need to know about the US impeachment:

1. What is impeachment in the US political system?

The founders of the United States included impeachment in the US Constitution as an option for removal of presidents by Congress.

Top House Democrat agrees US faces ‘constitutional crisis’

Impeachment, a concept in English common law, was one of the more hotly debated points during the constitutional convention of 1787 in Philadelphia. Delegates agreed that presidents could be removed if found guilty by Congress of “treason, bribery or other high crimes and misdemeanors”.

Sole authority under the Constitution to bring articles of impeachment is vested in the House of Representatives where proceedings can begin in the Judiciary Committee. If the House approves articles of impeachment, or “impeaches” a president, he or she would then be subject to trial in the US Senate.

2. On what grounds can a president be impeached? How does impeachment work?

Under the Constitution, the president, vice president and “all civil officers of the United States” can be removed from office for “treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors”.

To begin impeachment proceedings, a House member can introduce an impeachment resolution, or the entire House can vote to initiate an investigation into whether there are grounds for impeachment. The House Judiciary Committee or a special committee will then investigate. The panel votes on whether to bring a vote to the full House. Impeachment in the 435-member House must be approved with a simple majority.

Post-Mueller: Can Trump block witnesses, access to documents?

If the House votes to impeach, the matter moves to the Senate, where a trial is held. The chief justice of the US Supreme Court presides over the trial.

A two-thirds majority vote is required in the 100-member Senate to convict and remove a president from office.

The Senate is made up of 53 Republicans, 45 Democrats and two independents who caucus with the Democrats. At least 20 Republicans would have to vote with all Democrats and the two independents to remove the president.

3. Which presidents have been impeached?

Only two US presidents have ever been successfully impeached and in neither instance was the president removed from office. Andrew Johnson was impeached in 1868 in the tumultuous aftermath of the American Civil War; and Bill Clinton in 1998 for issues including his relationship with White House intern Monica Lewinsky. Both times, the House approved formal charges and impeached the president, only to have the Senate fail to convict and remove him.

The House Judiciary Committee in 1974 voted to recommend impeachment accusing another president, Richard Nixon, of planning to obstruct an investigation in the Watergate scandal. Before the full House could vote on impeachment, Nixon became the only US president ever to resign.

4. Who would become president if Trump was impeached and removed? What would happen to Trump?

A Senate conviction that removed Trump from office would automatically elevate Vice President Mike Pence to become president, completing Trump’s term, which ends on January 20, 2021.

Top House Democrat agrees US faces ‘constitutional crisis’

Criminal charges cannot be brought against a sitting president, however, the Constitution does allow for separate criminal charges once a president is removed.

5. What do the Democrats say about impeachment? What does Trump’s team say?

The Democratic leadership has so far tried to tamp down impeachment talk, instead advocating a “methodological” approach.

On Wednesday, the House Judiciary Committee voted to hold Attorney General William Barr in contempt for his failure to hand over the full, unredacted Mueller report.

Pelosi said, however, that she isn’t going to rush the full House vote on the contempt resolution.

“This is very methodical, it’s very Constitution-based,” the top Democrat told reporters on Thursday. “We won’t go any faster than the facts take us, or any slower than the facts take us.”

Democrats want to see Mueller’s full Russia-Trump investigation report, as well as some of the underlying evidence.

Barr last month released a 448-page redacted version of Mueller’s report on his 22-month investigation into Russian election meddling in the 2016 presidential election.

US: White House orders ex-counsel McGahn to defy House subpoena

The redacted Mueller report details extensive contacts between Trump’s 2016 campaign and Moscow, as well as the campaign’s expectation of benefiting from Russia’s actions.

It did not establish that the Trump campaign conspired with Russian operatives.

The investigation did, however, examine “multiple acts by the president that were capable of exerting undue influence over law enforcement investigations”. Mueller did not conclude that Trump committed obstruction of justice, but did not exonerate him either. Barr and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein subsequently concluded that Trump did not break the law.

The Department of Justice has accused Democrats of engaging in “inappropriate political theatrics” – an accusation Democrats dismissed.

Hours before the House Judiciary Committee voted to hold Barr in contempt, Trump asserted executive privilege to block the release of the Mueller report.

The Trump administration has also blocked staffers and former aides from attending interviews or hearings, as well as having refused to disclose his subpoenaed tax returns.

Top Republicans have declared the Mueller investigation “case closed”.

“This investigation went on for two years,” McConnell said from the Senate floor. “It’s finally over.”

Can the Supreme Court help Trump?

On the question of impeachment, Trump’s personal lawyer said in a recent New York Daily News interview that impeachment would give Trump a boost in advance of the 2020 presidential election.

Democrats “can do it if they want to,” Rudy Giuliani said. “Would it politically be the best thing that could happen to the president? Absolutely.”

US: What does the redacted Mueller report say?

But he has somewhat backtracked on those comments, telling the New York Times, “Nobody wants to be impeached. I think Clinton would say, even though it worked out to his favour, he would have rather not been impeached.”

Trump himself has falsely said he could turn the Supreme Court if the House moved to impeach him.

“I DID NOTHING WRONG,” Trump tweeted last month. “If the partisan Dems ever tried to Impeach, I would first head to the U.S. Supreme Court.”

But the Supreme Court has previously ruled that impeachment authority resides solely with Congress.

Pelosi said she recognised what the Trump administration is trying to do.

“Trump is goading us to impeach him,” she recently said at a Cornell University event.

US: What does the redacted Mueller report say?

“That’s what he’s doing,” she said. “Every single day, he’s just like taunting, taunting, taunting because he knows that would be very divisive in the country, but he doesn’t really care. He just wants to solidify his base.”

Who’s calling for impeachment?

As Democratic leadership continue to tiptoe around impeachment, a number of more progressive members of Congress have said it’s time for proceedings to begin.

“I believe impeachment is the solution to a constitutional crisis,” Representative Al Green told US media.

US Representative Rashida Tlaib speaks during a press conference [Saul Loeb/AFP]

Similar calls have also come from Rashida Tlaib, as well as Elizabeth Warren, a 2020 Democratic presidential candidate.

“If any other human being in this country had done what’s documented in the Mueller report, they would be arrested and put in jail,” Warren said during a CNN town hall.

“He serves the whole thing up to the United States Congress and says, in effect, if there’s going to be any accountability, that accountability has to come from the Congress,” Warren said. “And the tool that we are given for that accountability is the impeachment process. This is not about politics; this is about principle.”

6. What do Americans say about impeachment?

The number of Americans who said Trump should be impeached rose five percentage points to 45 percent since mid-April, while more than half said multiple congressional probes of Trump interfered with important government business, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll released on Thursday.

The opinion poll, conducted on Monday, did not make clear whether investigation-fatigued Americans wanted House of Representatives Democrats to pull back on their probes or press forward aggressively and just get impeachment over with.

WATCH

Debating Mueller, Trump and the lies told

In addition to the 45 percent pro-impeachment figure, the Monday poll found that 42 percent of Americans said Trump should not be impeached. The rest said they had no opinion.

In comparison, an April 18-19 survey found that 40 percent of all Americans wanted to impeach Trump.

An NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll from April 24-29 put the overall support of impeachment at 39 percent.

The latest Reuters/Ipsos poll showed stronger support for impeachment among Democrats and independents.

It also showed that 57 percent of adults polled agreed that continued investigations into Trump would interfere with important government business. That included about half of all Democrats and three-quarters of all Republicans.

The poll also found that 32 percent agreed that Congress treated the Mueller report fairly, while 47 percent disagreed.

Trump’s popularity was unchanged from a similar poll that ran last week – 39 percent of adults said they approved of Trump, while 55 percent said they disapproved.

The Reuters/Ipsos poll was conducted online in English, throughout the US. It gathered responses from 1,006 adults and had a credibility interval, a measure of precision, of about four percentage points.

Al Jazeera: “Why the ‘one percent’ in the US is worried,” by David A Love

The wealthy elite increasingly recognises that the socioeconomic status quo in the US is unsustainable.

The US also has the highest rate of income inequality in the West [File: AP/Mark Lennihan]
The US also has the highest rate of income inequality in the West 

Inequality in the United States has reached such levels lately that even members of the “one percent” have started worrying.

  • Ray Dalio, founder of Bridgewater Associates hedge fund who is ranked 57th wealthiest person in the world by Forbes magazine, quipped in a recent interview that capitalism is denying “equal opportunity for the American dream”. He said that he was “a byproduct of capitalism when it also gave equal opportunity”, adding “I was very lucky to live the American dream by having the proper care and the proper public school education … A number of things have changed.”
  • Former Starbucks CEO and prospective presidential candidate Howard Schultz, who prefers to be called a “person of means” rather than a billionaire (ranked 617th by Forbes), recently observed that “the vast majority of Americans are living paycheck to paycheck” and declared that the next US president must urgently address inequality.
  • CEO of JP Morgan Chase Jamie Dimon (ranked 1,717th) also noted earlier this year that: “A big chunk of [Americans] have been left behind […] Forty percent of Americans make less than $15 an hour. Forty percent can’t afford a $400 bill, whether it’s medical or fixing their car. Fifteen percent of Americans make minimum wages, 70,000 die from opioids.”

Indeed, the growing impoverishment and despair that are plaguing our country are hard to miss. The US also has the highest rate of income inequality among Western nations, with the top one percent claiming 40 percent of US wealth in 2016, in contrast to a 25 to 30 percent share in the 1980s. According to the rather conservative estimates of the US Census Bureau, around 14 percent of the population or 45 million live in poverty. According to the UN, 8.5 million of them face extreme poverty and 5.3 million suffer in “Third World conditions of absolute poverty”.

But in reality, many more Americans struggle to secure a dignified life for themselves and their families. A damning report published by the UN in 2018 found that: “High child and youth poverty rates perpetuate the intergenerational transmission of poverty very effectively, and ensure that the American dream is rapidly becoming the American illusion. The equality of opportunity, which is so prized in theory, is in practice a myth, especially for minorities and women, but also for many middle-class White workers.”

Perhaps parts of the American “one percent” are finally ready to admit that socioeconomic inequality has reached unprecedented levels and that the current status quo is unsustainable because just like South African billionaire Johann Rupert, the prospect of the poor masses rebelling is keeping them “awake at night“. They are now saying that capitalism “needs work” and are proposing various “fixes” – mainly “trickle-down philanthropy”. Some have gone as far as suggesting that social provision should be enhanced and that the wealthy should be taxed.

Yet all of them are quick to outright reject “socialist policies”. In a recent interview for NBC, Melinda Gates, cochair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and wife of the second richest man in the world, echoed the thoughts of many of the super-rich, saying that: “What I know to be true is I would far rather live in a capitalistic society than a socialist society.”

But Gates is wrong. The current system in place in the US is not capitalism, but rather“socialism for the rich” which favours the “one percent” by granting it ever-increasing subsidies, exorbitant tax breaks, deregulation and executive bonuses. The rest of the population lives in an unfair system of inequality and segregation, struggling to make ends meet under severe austerity and erosion of labour rights. It is a system of “survival of the fittest”, which privileges some over the others based on race and gender.

Economic growth now only “uplifts” the rich, who are able to control the distribution of wealth by influencing the government and making sure it serves their interests and maintain their power. Through the US system of legalised corruption, the wealthy funnel billions of dollars in donations to election campaigns.

Unsurprisingly, the stop-gap fixes that people like Gates, Dimon, Schultz and Dalio are proposing are unlikely to work because they are designed to maintain the current system in place so they can continue to accumulate wealth unrestrained. The only viable solution that would prevent a major socioeconomic disaster in the US and subsequent social upheaval would be to overhaul the system.

Solutions to economic inequality and the excesses of American capitalism are necessary to save capitalism from itself, or better yet, to save people from capitalism.

There is an increasing number of dramatic proposals for economic justice that look promising. These include Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Green New Deal, which envisions a national mobilisation to eliminate carbon emissions and transform the US economy, boosting economic growth and job creation, while seeking economic and racial justice for vulnerable communities. Ocasio-Cortez has also called for a 70 percent marginal tax rate on earnings above $10m.

Congresswoman Elizabeth Warren has a plan to wipe out $1.5 trillion in student loan debt by levying a surtax on the ultra-rich, while Congressman Bernie Sanders has put forward a proposal for universal healthcare. The idea of reparations for slavery, which could help alleviate some of the racial inequality in the country, is also gaining ground.

Although conservatives attack proposals promoting economic justice and equity as dangerous because they could lead to a totalitarian socialist system, such policies have long been a part of the US system. After all, the Green New Deal is named after the New Deal, which was introduced during the Great Depression to protect the poor, strengthen labour rights and impose strict regulation on the financial system.

At the same time, Americans are increasingly in favour of a major overhaul of the system, due to the problematic and corruptive nature of the current one. Existing and proposed government programmes of economic redistribution and equity are popular. Socialism is also gaining popularity, even surpassing capitalism among Democrats, particularly millennials. Such policies, which translate into more democratic ownership and control over the government and greater public accountability, most certainly frighten the wealthy for their effectiveness and political popularity.

If members of the “one percent” truly care about the widening wealth gap, they should not resist the implementation of these policies. An overhaul of the system might make them less wealthy, but ultimately will not be to their detriment. A profit can still be made if workers are paid dignified salaries, provided proper healthcare, and granted social and labour rights.

Indeed the choice of the “one percent” is reduced to either living in a more equal and just society or facing the wrath of angry impoverished masses.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial stance. 


Pentagon: US carrier sent to Middle East on credible Iran threat

The acting US defence secretary says carrier, bombers sent to region due to indications of ‘credible threat’ by Iran.
The US Navy aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln departs from Naval Station Norfolk before Hurricane Florence in Norfolk, Virginia, on September 11, 2018 [Handout/Navy/Stacy M Atkins Ricks/Reuters]
The US Navy aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln departs from Naval Station Norfolk before Hurricane Florence in Norfolk, Virginia, on September 11, 2018 

Acting US Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan said on Monday that he had approved sending a carrier strike group and bombers to the Middle Eastbecause of indications of a “credible threat by Iranian regime forces”.

“[It] represents a prudent repositioning of assets in response to indications of a credible threat by Iranian regime forces,” Shanahan said on Twitter.

“We call on the Iranian regime to cease all provocation. We will hold the Iranian regime accountable for any attack on US forces or our interests,” he added.

Shanahan in his tweet provided no details on the threat.

US National Security Adviser John Bolton said on Sunday that the United States was deploying the Abraham Lincoln carrier strike group and a bomber task force to the Middle East to send a message to Iran.

Keyvan Khosravi, spokesman for Iran’s supreme national security council, said on Monday that Bolton’s statement was “a clumsy use of an out-of-date event for psychological warfare”.

Tasnim news agency quoted Khosravi as saying that Iranian armed forces had observed the carrier entering the Mediterranean Sea 21 days ago.

Bolton “lacks military and security understanding and his remarks are mostly meant to draw attention to himself”, Khosravi added.

Three US officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity, told Reuters News Agency on Monday that “multiple, credible threats” picked up by intelligence were primarily against US forces in Iraq by Iran and its proxy forces. They said there was also concern about US forces in Syria and in the waters nearby.

One of the officials said the intelligence was specific enough that it detailed the locations of potential attacks against US forces and the timeframe within which it could occur. The official added that the threat was not only against US forces in Iraq but those coming in and out of the region. There are currently about 5,200 US troops in Iraq and under 2,000 American forces in Syria.

Increased pressure

The US action marked the latest in a series of moves by President Donald Trump‘s administration aimed at ratcheting up pressure on Iran in recent months.

WATCH

How will Trump’s Iran oil gamble affect the global economy?

The Trump administration’s efforts to impose political and economic isolation on Tehran began last year when it unilaterally withdrew from the nuclear deal it and other world powers negotiated with Iran in 2015.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, speaking in Finland where he was attending the Arctic Council meeting, said on Monday the United States has seen activity from Iran that indicated a possible “escalation”, one day after the United States said it would send a carrier strike group to the Middle East to counter a “credible threat by Iranian regime forces.”

Last month, Trump announced the US will no longer exempt any countries from US sanctions if they continue to buy Iranian oil, a decision that primarily affects the five remaining major importers: China and India and US treaty allies Japan, South Korea and Turkey. The US also recently designated Iran’s Revolutionary Guard as a “terrorist group”, the first ever for an entire division of another government.

Iran sanctions explained

In response, Iran said it has mobilised all its resources to sell oil in a “grey market”.

Amir Hossein Zamaninia, Iran’s deputy oil minister, told state media on Sunday that Iran would continue to export oil despite the US sanctions, which he said were neither just nor legitimate.

“We have mobilised all of the country’s resources and are selling oil in the ‘grey market’,” state news agency IRNA quoted Zamaninia as saying.

“We certainly won’t sell 2.5 million barrels per day as under the [nuclear deal],” he said. “We will need to make serious decisions about our financial and economic management, and the government is working on that.”

Meanwhile, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani called for the country to “resist and unite” against US pressure in what he called a “war on hope” waged against the Islamic Republic.

“America will only let go of this game when it realises it cannot achieve anything. We have no way but to resist and unite,” Rouhani said in a televised speech on Saturday.

“Our war today is the war on hope. They want to break our hope, and we have to break their hope.”

‘I lost my son’: Guatemala mum mourns boy who died in US custody

Transito Gutierrez last saw her son at the beginning of April
Transito Gutierrez last saw her son at the beginning of April [Jeff Abbott/Al Jazeera]
by Jeff Abbott/Al Jazeera

Tizamarte, Guatemala – Transito Gutierrez did not want her 16-year-old son, Juan de Leon Gutierrez, to migrate to the United States from their small town in southern Guatemala, near the border with Honduras. But Juan assured her he would make it.

“He told me, ‘Mommy, I am going to cross over the border and I will send you money. It may not be every day, but I will when I can.'” Gutierrez, 46, told Al Jazeera.

Juan was one of Gutierrez’s six children. He was hoping to join his older brother who migrated to the US in 2011.

The teen left the small village of Tizamarte in the arid, rain-starved mountains over the town of Camotan, Chiquimula on April 4 with a friend from a nearby village. They travelled with a migrant guide, commonly known as a coyote.

He was detained by US authorities as he tried to cross the US-Mexico border a little over two weeks later. He was eventually sent to a migrant youth shelter, and on April 30 he died following surgery to relieve pressure in his head caused by an infection, according to local media.

16-year-old migrant boy dies in US government custody in Texas

Juan is the third minor from Guatemala to die in US custody along the southern border since the beginning of December. His death has left the family devastated.

“I’ve lost my son, but his soul is still with us,” Gutierrez said, as she held back tears.

The family is waiting for the return of Juan’s body to Guatemala. This is especially important for his mother, who laments that she does not have a photo of her son.

‘He was healthy’

Juan was detained on April 19 as he attempted to cross into the US near El Paso, Texas by US Customs and Border Protection. According to US media, he was transferred a day later to Southwest Key Casa Padre, an Office of Refugee Resettlement facility in Brownsville, Texas built in an old shopping centre.

In an emailed statement to Al Jazeera, Evelyn Stauffer, spokesperson for the Administration for Children and Families of the US Department of Health and Human Services said “no health concerns were observed” prior to the teen being transferred.

7-year-old Guatemalan girl who died in US custody is laid to rest

On April 21, Juan woke up with chills, a fever, and a headache. According to Stauffer, he was taken to the hospital, where he was treated and released. His condition did not improve.

On April 22, he was taken to the emergency room and placed in intensive care. He died eight days later. The exact cause of death is currently under review, Stauffer said.

According to Gutierrez, Juan’s pain began to develop while he was en route to the US border, but he was taking medicine to limit the pain.

“When it use to rain here, he would go work in the field and return saying that his head hurt,” Gutierrez said. “But he was healthy.”

Gutierrez didn’t want her son to travel to the US [Jeff Abbott/Al Jazeera]

While Juan was sick, his mother was informed of developments in his condition by US officials. At times they came in Spanish, other times they came in English, which she didn’t understand.

Juan’s older brother, who was already in the US, also kept his mother informed of the teen’s condition, Gutierrez said.

At one point, officials from the Guatemalan Ministry of Foreign Affairs called to ask her if she would be interested in travelling to the US, but this only brought her more concern.

“I don’t have the money to travel or to pay for a passport,” she said.

Poverty and climate change

Juan was one of many migrating from the southern regions of Guatemala, an area known as the dry corridor.

The situation has grown worse in the last two years. According to Gloria Amador, a 41-year-old nurse who has worked in the village of Tizamarte and the surrounding region for nine years, people began to migrate to the US in July 2018.

“Many people are migrating due to necessity,” Amador told Al Jazeera. “There is little work, there are families with few resources, and there is a severe drought.”

The region where Juan is from is experienced a drought and severe poverty [Jeff Abbott/Al Jazeera]

The drought has heavily affected the region, Amador said, adding that farmers in the area lost 80 to 90 percent of their crops last year due to drought.

The dwinding capacity to work the land also drove Juan to seek opportunities in the US.

“Now that it doesn’t rain, we cannot produce anything,” Gutierrez said.

“[Juan] told me that the coffee plants were dying. He said he was desperate,” she added. “He said he could earn more there in the United States than here. He could earn more than the $4 a day working in the field.”

Sixteen-year-old Juan de Leon Gutierrez travelled to the US to join his older brother and send money home to his family.

Trump, Putin discuss nuclear weapons and Venezuela in phone call

US President Donald Trump tweets he ‘had a long and very good’ phone call with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

US President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin arrive for a joint news conference after their meeting in Helsinki, July  2018 [File: Grigory Dukor/Reuters]
US President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin arrive for a joint news conference after their meeting in Helsinki, July 2018

US President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke for more than an hour on Friday, discussing the possibility of a new nuclear accord, North Korean denuclearisation, Ukraine and the political situation in Venezuela, the White House said.

“Had a long and very good conversation with President Putin of Russia,” Trump said in a post on Twitter, noting they had discussed trade, Venezuela, Ukraine, North Korea, nuclear arms and Special Counsel Robert Mueller‘s investigation of Russian meddling in the 2016 US presidential campaign.

White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders told reporters that the call was an “overall positive conversation”.

Mueller report

Sanders said the two men, who last chatted informally at a dinner of world leaders in Buenos Aires on December 1, briefly talked about the report Mueller report that concluded Trump did not collude with Russia during his 2016 presidential campaign.

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The Mueller probe discussion was “essentially in the context of that it’s over and there was no collusion, which I’m pretty sure both leaders were very well aware of long before this call took place,” Sanders said.

The Kremlin confirmed the two leaders talked and highlighted in its statement that the call was initiated by Washington.

It said the two leaders agreed to maintain contacts on different levels and expressed satisfaction with the “businesslike and constructive nature” of the conversation.

Venezuela

With the United States concerned about a Russian military presence in Venezuela at a time when Washington wants Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro to leave power, Trump told Putin “the United States stands with the people of Venezuela” and stressed he wanted to get relief supplies into the country, Sanders said.

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Putin told Trump that any external interference in Venezuela’s internal business undermines the prospects of a political end to the crisis, the Kremlin said.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo by phone on Wednesday that further “aggressive steps” in Venezuela would be fraught with the gravest consequences, the Russian ministry said.

The US State Department said Pompeo urged Russia on the call to stop supporting Maduro. He also “stressed that the intervention by Russia and Cuba is destabilising for Venezuela and for the US-Russia bilateral relationship,” it said.

New START treaty

Sanders told reporters Trump and Putin talked about the possibility of a new multilateral nuclear accord between the US, Russia and China, or an extension of the current US-Russia strategic nuclear treaty.

She did not say which arms control agreement Trump and Putin discussed, but the Russian state news agency Tass reported that they talked about the New START treaty, the last major arms-control treaty remaining between the US and Russia.

The 2011 New START treaty expires in February 2021 but can be extended for five years if both sides agree. Without the agreement, it could be harder to gauge each other’s intentions, arms control advocates say.

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The New START treaty required the US and Russia to cut their deployed strategic nuclear warheads to no more than 1,550, the lowest level in decades, and limit delivery systems – land- and submarine-based missiles and nuclear-capable bombers.

It also includes extensive transparency measures requiring each side to allow the other to carry out 10 inspections of strategic nuclear bases each year; give 48 hours notice before new missiles covered by the treaty leave their factories; and provide notifications before ballistic missile launches.

Trump has called the New START treaty a “bad deal” and “one-sided”.

“They discussed a nuclear agreement, both new and extended, and the possibility of having conversations with China on that as well,” Sanders said.

The Kremlin said the two sides confirmed they intended to “activate dialogue in various spheres, including strategic security”.

Trump earlier pulled the plug on a decades-old nuclear arms treaty with Russia. Trump accused Moscow of violating the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) with “impunity” by deploying missiles banned by the pact. Moscow denies violating it and has accused Washington of being in non-compliance.

Ukraine

Sanders also said the two leaders discussed Ukraine.

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Trump cancelled a summit meeting with Putin late last year after Russia seized three Ukrainian Navy ships on November 25 and arrested 24 sailors. Putin also told Trump that the new leadership in Ukraine should take steps to solve the Ukrainian crisis, the Kremlin said.

North Korea

Trump also raised with Putin the issue of getting North Korea to dismantle its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programmes. Trump has met twice with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un but Kim has yet to agree to a disarmament deal.

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Sanders said Trump mentioned several times “the need and importance of Russia stepping up and continuing to put pressure on North Korea to denuclearize.” The Kremlin said both leaders highlighted the need to pursue denuclearisation of the region.

During an April summit with Kim in Vladivostok, Putin expressed Russian support for a gradual process of trading disarmament for sanctions relief.