Who are the 2020 US Democratic presidential candidates?

The pool of candidates vying for their party’s nomination in 2020 is among the largest and most diverse in US history.
2020 Democratic presidential candidates are seen in a combination of file photos [Files/Reuters/AFP]
2020 Democratic presidential candidates are seen in a combination of file photos

Less than two years out from the 2020 US presidential election, the pool of Democratic candidates vying for their party’s nomination is among the largest and most diverse in United Stateshistory.

With 21 candidates already in the race and a number of individuals yet to announce their campaign, the list is likely to grow as the US primary season gets closer.

Here is a look at who has thrown their name in the race so far:

Michael Bennet, 54

Michael Bennet has served as a US senator from Colorado since 2009. Bennet, a former head of the Denver school district, carved out a profile as a wonky, policy-oriented senator.

He gained internet fame this year for a harsh scolding of Republican Senator Ted Cruz of Texas over the government shutdown.

Bennet was close to launching a presidential campaign after that but had to pause it when he was diagnosed with prostate cancer.

In this file photo taken on April 10, 2019, US Senator Michael Bennet speaks during the North American Building Trades Unions Conference in Washington, DC [Zach Gibson/Getty Images/AFP]

Bennet’s office said last month that the senator was successfully treated. That cleared the way for his May 2 launch.

Joe Biden, 76

Joe Biden served as vice president under former President Barack Obama from 2009 to 2017 after nearly four decades serving as a senator from Delaware.

Biden is the most experienced politician in the race, and the second oldest, after 77-year-old Bernie Sanders. This will be his third presidential run. His first White House bid in 1987 ended after a plagiarism scandal.

In a video announcement of his candidacy posted on Twitter on April 25, Biden focused on the 2017 deadly clash between white supremacists and counterprotesters in Charlottesville, Virginia. Biden noted US President Donald Trump‘s comments that there were some “very fine people” on both sides of the violent encounter, which left one woman dead.

“We are in the battle for the soul of this nation,” Biden said. “If we give Donald Trump eight years in the White House, he will forever and fundamentally alter the character of this nation – who we are. And I cannot stand by and watch that happen.”

Last month, Biden struggled to respond to comments from Lucy Flores, a 2014 lieutenant governor nominee in Nevada, who said he made her uncomfortable by touching her shoulders and kissing the back of her head before a campaign event. Several other women have made similar claims.

In a video, Biden pledged to be “more mindful” of respecting “personal space”, but Flores told Fox News this week that the former senator’s jokes on the matter have been “so incredibly disrespectful”.

The incident is just a glimpse of the harsh vetting from both Democrats and Republicans expected for Biden, who has run for president twice before but never from such a strong political starting position.

Former Vice President Joe Biden speaks at the Biden Courage Awards last month in New York [Frank Franklin II/AP Photo]

In recent weeks, he was repeatedly forced to explain his 1991 decision, as Senate Judiciary Committee chairman, to allow Anita Hill to face questions about her allegations of sexual harassment against Clarence Thomas, then a nominee for the Supreme Court.

Biden has since apologised for his role in the hearing. But in the #MeToo era, it is another example of why critics believe he may struggle to catch on with the Democratic primary voters of 2020.

Cory Booker, 49

Cory Booker has served as a US senator from New Jersey – the first African American in the state’s history to hold the office – since 2013. He was the mayor of Newark from 2006 to 2013.

His entry into the Democratic primary was steeped in history and symbolism, befitting his status as the second black candidate in an historically diverse field. Invoking the legacy of the national movements for civil rights and for women’s suffrage, the New Jersey senator during his candidacy announcement urged a return to a “common sense of purpose”.

Cory Booker speaks to voters during a campaign stop in Manchester, New Hampshire [File: Steven Senne/AP Photo]

Booker could face difficulty winning the hearts of the progressive Democratic base due to his past financial ties to banking and pharmaceutical interests. He said he would stop taking contributions from pharmaceutical companies in 2017.

He announced his presidential bid on February 1.

Pete Buttigieg, 37

Pete Buttigieg has served as mayor of South Bend, Indiana, since 2012.

Before that, Buttigieg was a consultant for McKinsey and company.

He is the first openly gay Democratic candidate to run for president. He announced his presidential bid on January 23, 2019.

There are no policy positions on his website. He has virtually no paid presence in the states that matter most. And his campaign manager is a high-school friend with no experience in presidential politics.

Despite this, he has suddenly become one of the hottest names in the Democrats’ presidential primary season. On the campaign trail, he has frequently spoken about the struggle to legalise same-sex marriage.

Pete Buttigieg speaks during the US Conference of Mayors winter meeting in Washington [File: Jose Luis Magana/AP Photo]

He has also repeatedly criticised Vice President Mike Pence for his view that discredits LGBTQ rights.

“I’m not critical of his faith; I’m critical of bad policies. I don’t have a problem with religion. I’m religious, too. I have a problem with religion being used as a justification to harm people and especially in the LGBTQ community,” the Indiana Democrat said in an interview with NBC’s The Ellen DeGeneres Show this month.

Buttigieg’s moment may pass if he does not take swift action to build a national organisation capable of harnessing the energy, he will need to sustain his surge in the nine months or so before the first votes are cast.

Julian Castro, 44

Julian Castro was elected mayor of San Antonio, Texas in 2009 and served until 2014.

He served as the 16th US secretary of housing and urban development (HUD) under US President Barack Obama from 2014 until 2017.

Castro, the grandson of Mexican immigrants, was raised by a local Latina activist, and after a brief career in law, he was elected mayor of the nation’s seventh-largest city at the age of 34.

Julian Castro listens as he is introduced at a gathering of Tri-City Young Democrats in Somersworth, New Hampshire, US, on January 15, 2019 [Brian Snyder/Reuters]

It was not long after that election that Democrats nationally embraced him as a star in the making, particularly one from Texas, where a booming Hispanic population is rapidly changing the state’s demographics and improving the party’s fortunes.

He announced his presidential run on January 12, 2019.

John Delaney, 56

John Delaney served as a US congressman for Maryland’s sixth district from 2013 to 2019.

Delaney, a former banking entrepreneur, is known as politically moderate with a willingness to reach across the aisle.

He has supported a measure to raise money to build infrastructure by allowing US corporations to avoid taxes when they repatriate profits overseas if they buy bonds that would be used to build infrastructure.

John Delaney stands in a food vendors building during a visit to the Iowa State Fair [File: Charlie Neibergall/AP Photo]

He announced his presidential run in a Washington Post op-ed published on July 28, 2017.

Delaney, one of the wealthiest members of Congress, was the first to announce he will seek his party’s nomination in 2020.

He said he was entering the presidential race early because he knows he will need time to build name recognition.

Tulsi Gabbard, 38

Tusi Gabbard has served as a US congresswoman from Hawaii’s second district since 2013.

Gabbard is the first Hindu member of Congress. At the age of 21, she became the youngest to be elected to a US state legislature serving on the Hawaii House of Representatives.

She has also served in the Hawaii Army National Guard in a combat zone in Iraq and was deployed to Kuwait.

She was a fierce opponent of same-sex marriage when she served in the state legislature in her 20s. But she has since disavowed those views and professes her support for LGBTQ rights.

Critics have pounced on her efforts to block the legalisation of same-sex marriage in Hawaii and a meeting she held with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Earlier this year, she penned an op-ed responding to media reports about her alleged ties to Hindu nationalists.

Tulsi Gabbard delivers a nomination speech for Senator Bernie Sanders on the second day at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia [File: Mike Segar/Reuters]

“While the headlines covering my announcement could have celebrated this landmark first, and maybe even informed Americans about the world’s third largest religion, some have instead fomented suspicion, fear and religious bigotry about not only me but also my supporters,” she wrote.

Gabbard officially launched her presidential campaign on February 2, 2019.

Kirsten Gillibrand, 52

Kirsten Gillibrand has served as a US senator from New York since 2009. Before that, Gillibrand served in the House of Representatives from 2007 to 2009.

Gillibrand has also worked for the Department of Housing and Urban Development. She worked on Hillary Clinton’s 2000 US Senate campaign.

She has been a vocal advocate for electing more women to office and a forceful critic of the Trump administration.

Kristen Gillibrand asks a question during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC [File: Aaron P Bernstein/Reuters]

Gillibrand, who has been a forceful public advocate for victims of sexual misconduct, came under fire for how her deputy chief of staff, Anne Bradley, handled a sexual harassment claim made by a female staffer against one of Gillibrand’s male aides.

She announced her presidential run on January 15, 2019.

Kamala Harris, 54

Kamala Harris has served as a US senator from California since 2017.

Before joining the Senate, Harris was the attorney general of California. She has also served as San Francisco district attorney.

Her track record as San Francisco’s district attorney and California’s attorney general has drawn scrutiny in a Democratic Party that has shifted in recent years on criminal justice issues.

Harris is the daughter of immigrants from Jamaica and India.

Senator Kamala Harris speaks to the media after announcing she will run for president of the United States [Joshua Roberts/Reuters]

She supports a middle-class tax credit, Medicare for All healthcare funding reform, the Green New Deal and the legalisation of cannabis.

She launched her presidential run on January 21, 2019.

John Hickenlooper, 67

John Hickenlooper served as the governor of Colorado from 2011 to 2019.

Before that, Hickenlooper served as the mayor of Denver from 2003 to 2011.

Hickenlooper, cofounder of the Wynkoop Brewing Company in Denver, has positioned himself as a centrist and an experienced officeholder with business experience.

John Hickenlooper speaks at the United States Conference of Mayors winter meeting in Washington, DC [File: Yuri Gripas/Reuters]

He is the only Democratic presidential candidate so far to oppose the Green New Deal plan to tackle climate change, saying it would give the government too much power in investment decisions.

He announced his presidential run on March 4, 2019.

Jay Inslee, 68

Jay Inslee has served as the governor of the state of Washington since 2013.

He has also served in both the state legislator and US House of Representatives. He was the regional director for the US Department of Health and Human Services under President Bill Clinton.

Jay Inslee speaks on Friday, March 1, 2019, during a campaign event at A&R Solar in Seattle [Ted S Warren/ AP Photo]

Inslee, who announced his presidential run on March 1, 2019, has made fighting climate change the central issue of his campaign.

As governor, Inslee has moved to put a moratorium on capital punishment and fully implement the Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare, accompanying the expansion of Medicaid health coverage for the poor.

Amy Klobuchar, 58

Amy Klobuchar served as a US senator from Minnesota since 2007, becoming her state’s first elected female senator.

Before joining the Senate, she was the Hennepin County lawyer.

Amy Klobuchar waits to speak at the Ankeny Area Democrats’ Winter Banquet on Thursday, February 21, 2019, in Des Moines, Iowa [Charlie Neibergall/AP Photo]

Klobuchar gained national attention in 2018 when she sparred with Brett Kavanaugh during Senate hearings for his Supreme Court nomination.

She announced her presidential run on February 10, 2019.

On the campaign trail, the former prosecutor and corporate lawyer supports an alternative to traditional Medicare healthcare funding and is taking a hard stance against rising prescription drug prices.

Wayne Messam, 44

Wayne Messam has served as mayor of Miramar, Florida, since 2015.

Messam grew up in South Bay, an agricultural town of 3,500 people, adjoining Lake Okeechobee. His parents emigrated from Jamaica.

Messam believes Miramar has much that the rest of the US would like to have: environmentally friendly development, high-end manufacturing and major corporate operations.

Miramar Mayor Wayne Messam poses for a portrait in Miramar [Brynn Anderson/AP Photo]

Pundits have said he is unlikely to win due to low name recognition and funding. No sitting mayor has ever won the presidency and he has a lack of political experience.

On March 28, 2019, he announced he was running for president.

Seth Moulton, 40

Seth Moulton has served as the US representative for Massachusetts’s sixth congressional district since 2015.

Moulton first came to prominence in 2014 when he unseated long-term incumbent Representative John Tierney in a Democratic primary to represent the sixth congressional district.

Moulton announced his presidential bid on April 22, 2019.

In a YouTube video announcing his presidential candidacy, he said: “Decades of division and corruption have broken our democracy and robbed Americans of their voice.”

Seth Moulton speaks at a Merrimack County Democrats Summer Social in Bow, New Hampshire [File: Brian Snyder/Reuters]

In the video, Moulton said he wants to tackle climate change and grow the US economy by promoting green jobs as well as hi-tech and advanced manufacturing.

Moulton served in the Marines from 2001 to 2008. During his 2014 congressional bid, he became a vocal critic of the war in Iraq in which he served, saying no more troops should be deployed to the country.

He has advocated stricter gun laws, saying military-style weapons should not be owned by civilians.

Beto O’Rourke, 46

Beto O’Rourke served Texas’s 16th congressional district in the House of Representatives from 2013 to 2019.

O’Rourke gained fame last year for his record fundraising and ability to draw crowds before of his unexpectedly narrow loss in the US Senate race against Republican incumbent Ted Cruz.

His Senate bid generated a torrent of media attention and excited voters in a party desperate for fresh political faces. He lost the race by fewer than three percentage points, the tightest senate contest in the state in four decades.

O’Rourke announced a $6.1m fundraising haul for the first 24 hours of his campaign, bettering his Democratic opponents.

Beto O’Rourke speaks during a campaign stop at a cafe on April 19, 2019, in Somersworth, New Hampshire [Scott Eisen/AFP]

Since his Senate bid ended, O’Rourke has worked to keep himself in the public eye, regularly staying in touch with his supporters and sitting for an interview with Oprah Winfrey.

But with progressive policies and diversity at the forefront of the party’s nominating battle, O’Rourke will face a challenge as a wealthy white man who is more moderate on several key issues than many of his competitors.

He announced his presidential bid on March 14, 2019.

Tim Ryan, 45

Ryan has served as a US House representative from Ohio’s 13th district since 2003.

He represents a northeastern Ohio area that has reportedly lost manufacturing jobs in the past few years and shifted to Republican Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential election.

Ryan has said Trump has turned his back on those blue-collar voters who fled to him in 2016 and failed to live up his promise to revitalise the manufacturing industry.

Tim Ryan speaks at the Heartland Forum on the campus of Buena Vista University in Storm Lake, Iowa [File: Nati Harnik/AP Photo]

Ryan pledged to create jobs in new technologies and to focus on public education and access to affordable healthcare.

He first gained national attention when he unsuccessfully tried to unseat Nancy Pelosi as the House Democratic leader in 2016, arguing it was time for new leadership.

Ryan announced his presidential run on April 4, 2019.

Bernie Sanders, 77

Bernie Sanders served as a US representative for 16 years before being elected to the Senate in 2006 where he currently represents the state of Vermont.

A progressive and cofounder of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, he is the longest-serving Independent in the history of Congress.

Sanders announced his presidential run on February 19, 2019. Sanders ran an unsuccessful bid for president in 2016 after losing to Hillary Clinton.

In the 2020 race, Sanders will have to fight to stand out in a packed field of progressives touting issues he brought into the Democratic Party mainstream four years ago.

Bernie Sanders speaks as he holds one of his first campaign events in Chicago, Illinois, on March 3, 2019 [Joshua Lott/Reuters]

His proposals include free tuition at public colleges, a $15 minimum hourly wage and universal healthcare.

He benefits from strong name recognition and a robust network of small-dollar donors, helping him to raise $5.9m during his first day in the contest.

Eric Swalwell, 38

Eric Swalwell, an Iowa native, has served as a House representative from California’s 15th congressional district since 2013.

Since joining congress, Swalwell has advocated for raising the cap on the portion of salary that is subject to the Social Security payroll tax.

He has also proposed a “mobile congress” that would allow politicians to cast votes remotely from their districts.

Eric Swalwell speaks during a joint hearing of the House Committee on the Judiciary and House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform [File: Jacquelyn Martin/AP Photo]

Swalwell announced his presidential bid on April 8, 2019.

He said tackling student debt and gun violence were among the reasons he jumped into the Democratic primary race.

Elizabeth Warren, 69

Elizabeth Warren has served as a US senator from Massachusetts since 2013.

Warren, known as a progressive, taught law in a number of universities and was a Harvard professor.

Warren is a leader of the party’s liberals and a fierce Wall Street critic who was instrumental in creating the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

Earlier this year, she apologised to the Cherokee Nation for taking a DNA test to prove her claims to Native American ancestry, an assertion that has prompted Trump to mockingly refer to her as “Pocahontas”.

Elizabeth Warren addresses the Rev Al Sharpton’s National Action Network during a post-midterm election at the Russell Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill [File: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images/AFP]

She announced her presidential run on February 9, 2019. She has promised to fight what she calls a rigged economic system that favours the wealthy.

She recently unveiled a student loan forgiveness proposal that would cancel up to $50,000 of debt for millions of Americans. She also supports free college tuition for students at two and four-year institutions.

Marianne Williamson, 66

Marianne Williamson is an author, entrepreneur and activist. Williamson is the founder of Project Angel Food, a volunteer food delivery programme serving home-bound people with life-changing illnesses.

She is also cofounder of the Peace Alliance, an education and advocacy organisation.

The Texas native believes her spirituality-focused campaign can heal the US.

Marianne Williamson meets with child care advocates at the Nevada State Legislature in Carson City, Nevada [Bob Strong/Reuters]

A 1992 interview on Oprah Winfrey’s show propelled her to make a name for herself as a “spiritual guide” for Hollywood and a self-help expert.

She is calling for $100bn in reparations for slavery over 10 years, gun control, education reform and equal rights for lesbian and gay communities. In 2014, she made an unsuccessful bid for a House seat in California as an independent.

She announced her presidential run on January 29, 2019.

Andrew Yang, 44

Andrew Yang is the founder of Venture for America. In 2012, the Obama administration selected him as a Champion of Change.

In 2015, he was selected as Presidential Ambassador of Global Entrepreneurship.

He filed with the Federal Election Commission to run for president in 2020 on November 6, 2017.

The entrepreneur and former tech executive is focusing his campaign on an ambitious universal income plan.

Andrew Yang arrives at a town hall meeting in Cleveland on Sunday, February 24, 2019 [Phil Long/AP Photo]

Yang wants to guarantee all American citizens between the ages of 18 and 64 a $1,000 cheque every month.

The son of immigrants from Taiwan, Yang also is pushing for Medicare for All and proposing a new form of capitalism that is “human-centred”.

Mexico border wall: US states sue over emergency declaration

Breaking News image

A coalition of 16 US states led by California is suing President Donald Trump’s administration over his decision to declare an emergency to raise funds for a Mexican border wall.

The lawsuit was filed in the court for the Northern District of California.

It comes days after Mr Trump invoked emergency powers to bypass Congress and secure funding for the project – a key campaign pledge.

Democrats have vowed to contest it “using every remedy available”.

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said they were taking President Trump to court “to block his misuse of presidential power”.

“We’re suing President Trump to stop him from unilaterally robbing taxpayer funds lawfully set aside by Congress for the people of our states. For most of us, the office of the presidency is not a place for theatre,” he added.

Mexico border wall: Trump faces fight in the courts

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President Trump faces legal challenges to his decision to use emergency powers to build a wall on the US border with Mexico.

California and New York said they would take legal action to challenge his move to bypass Congress and secure funding for the project.

Building the wall was a key pledge of Mr Trump’s campaign.

Democrats said it was a “gross abuse of power” and vowed to contest it “using every remedy available”.

On Friday, Mr Trump signed the emergency declaration along with a spending bill aimed at preventing a repeat of a recent government shutdown.

Declaring an emergency could give him access to billions of dollars. Mr Trump announced the plan after Congress refused funding for the wall.

Within hours, the first legal challenge against the declaration of national emergency was launched.

A liberal advocacy group, Public Citizen, sued on behalf of a nature reserve and three Texas landowners who have been told the wall may be constructed on their properties.

How have Democrats responded?

Governor Gavin Newsom of California dismissed the president’s decision as “political theatre”.

“He’s been embarrassed, and his base needs to be fed,” he told reporters.

“Fortunately, Donald Trump is not the last word. The courts will be the last word,” he added.

New York state’s Democratic attorney general, Letitia James, said the state would not “stand for this abuse of power and will fight back with every legal tool at our disposal.”

Activist group Rise And Resist in New York City put out a call for a demonstration at the Trump Hotel in Columbus CircleDemocrats have described the national emergency as “made up”

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) said it would file a lawsuit in the coming days to curb “this blatantly illegal executive action”.

On Friday the two most senior Democrats – House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democrat leader Chuck Schumer – said they would challenge the “power grab by a disappointed president” in Congress and in the courts.

Ms Pelosi also seized on a remark by Mr Trump in response to a question from a reporter, in which he said he “didn’t need to do this”.

Analysts suggest that this remark could undermine Mr Trump’s case that the country is facing an emergency.

What did Mr Trump say?

Making the announcement in the White House Rose Garden, the president said the emergency would allow him to get almost $8bn for the wall.

This is still considerably short of the estimated $23bn cost of the wall along almost 2,000 miles (3,200km) of border.

Mr Trump accepted that he would be sued for the move, and predicted that the emergency order would lead to legal action which was likely to end up in the Supreme Court.

Senator McConnell supports the president; Speaker Pelosi warns it sets a dangerous precedent

“We’re going to confront the national security crisis on our southern border,” he said.

“Everyone knows that walls work.”

Later, Mick Mulvaney, the acting White House chief of staff, told reporters that Mr Trump’s move “creates zero precedent”.

“This is authority given to the president in law already. It’s not as if he just didn’t get what he wanted so he’s waving a magic wand and taking a bunch of money,” he said.

Presentational grey line

Dangerous precedent

By Jon Sopel, BBC North America editor

The trouble with going nuclear is there is fall-out. This has been presented as a predictably partisan issue.

On one side of the wall, Republicans; on the other side Democrats. But by going nuclear the president has made it more complicated than that. There are a lot of Republicans – in the Senate and in the House – deeply uneasy about what Mr Trump is doing.

Why? Because the constitutional arrangement of the US is that Congress – not the president – controls the purse strings and allocates funds.

This is a major land grab by the president. It undermines their position and sets a very dangerous precedent.

Presentational grey line

Can Congress stop Trump’s emergency move?

The National Emergencies Act contains a clause that allows Congress to terminate the emergency status if both houses vote for it – and the president does not veto.

With a comfortable majority in the House, Democrats could pass such a resolution to the Senate. The Republicans control the Senate, but a number of Republican senators have been vocal in their unease about the president invoking a national emergency.

Chart: Apprehensions on the US-Mexico border were at their lowest in 2017 since 2000

The dissenting Republicans include 2012 presidential contender and new senator for Utah Mitt Romney, Florida senator Marco Rubio, and the senator from Maine Susan Collins, who said the move was of “dubious constitutionality”.

The resolution would however still require Mr Trump’s signature to pass, allowing him to veto it. A supermajority in both houses of Congress is needed to overturn a presidential veto.

What is a national emergency?

The National Emergencies Act is intended for times of national crisis. Mr Trump has claimed that there is a migration crisis at the nation’s southern border – a claim strongly refuted by migration experts.

The largest number of illegal migrants settling in the US each year is those who stay in the country after their visas expire.

Declaring a national emergency would give the president access to special powers that effectively allow him to bypass the usual political process, and he would be able to divert money from existing military or disaster relief budgets to pay for the wall.

Chart: There are 31 ongoing national emergencies

Emergency declarations by previous presidents have been overwhelmingly used for addressing foreign policy crises – including blocking terrorism-linked entities from accessing funds or prohibiting investment in nations associated with human rights abuses.

Where will the money come from?

On Friday, Mr Mulvaney said the $8bn would be made up of:

  • $1.4bn from the agreed budget
  • $600m from cash and assets seized from drug traffickers
  • $2.5bn from a defence department anti-drug trafficking fund
  • $3.5bn reallocated from military construction projects

The latter is the biggest amount and the relevant statute allows a president to divert funds for projects that “require use of the armed forces”. This is almost certain to bring a legal challenge.

A congressional aide told ABC News projects that could be cancelled include constructions at Guantanamo Bay, a military school in Japan and special forces facilities in North Carolina.

Poor living conditions for military families have become a concern but a Pentagon spokesman, Bill Speaks, insisted “military family-housing projects will not be affected”.

Trump officials also said that projects affecting force-readiness would not be compromised.

Mr Trump said military officials had told him the wall was more important and that what he was told would be cut “didn’t sound too important to me”.

Democrats, groups seek to challenge Trump’s emergency declaration

Trump’s national emergency declaration to build a border wall faces uncertain future as groups plan legal challenges.Trump declares a national emergency at the US-Mexico border during remarks about border security in the Rose Garden [Carlos Barria/Reuters]
Trump declares a national emergency at the US-Mexico border during remarks about border security in the Rose Garden [Carlos Barria/Reuters]

Democrats and rights groups have vowed to fight US President Donald Trump‘s emergency declaration along the southern border, saying it’s an unconstitutional attempt to fund a wall without approval from Congress.

A key committee in the US House of Representatives announced on Friday it was launching an immediate investigation into President Donald Trump’s national emergency declaration, saying the move to fund his promised wall at the US-Mexico border raised constitutional and statutory issues.

In a letter to Trump, Democrats who control the House Judiciary Committee asked the Republican president to make available relevant White House and Justice Department officials.

They also requested legal documents on the decision that led to the declaration, setting a deadline of next Friday.

“We believe your declaration of an emergency shows a reckless disregard for the separation of powers and your own responsibilities under our constitutional system,” said the letter signed by committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler and other top Democrats on the panel.

Trump declares a national emergency to build border wall

Trump declared a national emergency on Friday after Congress passed a spending deal to keep the government open that did not include funding for a border wall.

A national emergency, if not blocked by the courts or Congress, would allow Trump to dip into funds politicians had approved for other purposes to build a border wall.

‘We’ll use every remedy available’

But the top two Democrats in Congress said they will use “every remedy available” to oppose Trump’s declaration.

What is a national emergency? Can Trump declare one for the wall?

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said on Friday that they will take action “in the Congress, in the courts and in the public”.

They called Trump’s declaration unlawful, adding that it would “shred the Constitution” by usurping Congress’s power to control spending.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) announced its intention to sue less than an hour after the White House released the text of Trump’s declaration that the “current situation at the southern border presents a border security and humanitarian crisis that threatens core national security interests and constitutes a national emergency”.

ACLU

@ACLU

BREAKING: We’re suing President Trump over today’s blatantly illegal declaration of a national emergency.

There is no emergency. This is an unconstitutional power grab that hurts American communities. We’ll see him in court.

The coming legal fight seems likely to hinge on two main issues: whether the president can declare a national emergency to build a border wall in the face of Congress’s refusal to give him all the money he wanted; and whether federal law allows the Defense Department to take money from some congressionally approved military construction projects to pay for wall construction.

The Pentagon has so far not said which projects might be affected.

National Emergencies Act of 1976

Trump relied on the National Emergencies Act of 1976, which Congress adopted as a way to put some limits on presidential use of national emergencies. The act requires a president to notify Congress publicly of the national emergency and to report every six months.

The law also says the president must renew the emergency every year, simply by notifying Congress. The House and Senate also can revoke a declaration by majority vote, though it would take a two-thirds vote by each house to override an expected presidential veto.

The US gov’t may be open again, but fears remain for contractors

Beyond that, though, the law doesn’t say what constitutes a national emergency or impose any other limits on the president.

The discretion afforded to the president could make it hard to persuade courts to rule that Trump exceeded his authority in declaring a border emergency.

“He’s the one who gets to make the call. We can’t second-guess it,” said John Eastman, a professor of constitutional law at the Chapman University School of Law.

Courts often are reluctant to look beyond the justifications the president included in his proclamation, Ohio State University law professor Peter Shane said on a call organised by the liberal American Constitution Society.

But other legal experts said the facts are powerfully arrayed against the president. They include government statistics showing a decades-long decline in irregular border crossings as well as Trump’s rejection of a deal last year that would have provided more than the nearly $1.4bn he got for border security in the budget agreement he signed Thursday.

Opponents of the declaration also are certain to use Trump’s own words at his Rose Garden news conference Friday to argue that there is no emergency on the border.

“I could do the wall over a longer period of time,” Trump said. “I didn’t need to do this, but I’d rather do it much faster.”

ACLU executive director Anthony Romero said Trump’s remarks are an admission that there is no national emergency. “He just grew impatient and frustrated with Congress,” Romero said in a statement that also said the rights group would file a lawsuit next week.

Beyond the challenge to Trump’s authority to declare an emergency, lawsuits also are expected to focus on the military construction project law that allows the re-allocation of money in a national emergency.

As Trump wages political war over border, activists fight back

Eastman said he doubts that the Supreme Court would try to interfere with Trump’s decision to send the military to the border and then authorise the use of money from other Defense Department construction projects to build miles of a border wall.

“The president is authorized to make those judgments, not some judge in San Francisco,” Eastman said.

But the ACLU’s suit will argue that Congress allowed for flexibility in using money it appropriated for projects needed to support the emergency use of the military forces, like overseas military airfields in wartime.

 

SOURCE: AL JAZEERA AND NEWS AGENCIES

Dems Grill Trump Judicial Pick Rao on Past Sexual Assault Victim Blaming

FEB 06, 2019

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Senators held a confirmation hearing Tuesday for Neomi Rao, President Trump’s nominee to replace Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. California Senator Kamala Harris asked Rao about articles she wrote while in college in the mid-1990s, including a piece in which she blamed women for putting themselves at risk for sexual assault by drinking too much. Rao said she regrets her past views on sexual assault. This is Senator Harris questioning Rao.

Sen. Kamala Harris: “You said, quote, ‘Women should take certain steps to avoid becoming a victim.’ What steps do you have in mind that women should take to avoid becoming a victim of sexual assault?”

Neomi Rao: “Senator, it’s just sort of a commonsense idea about, for instance, excessive drinking. You know, that was advice that was given to me by my mother.”

Sen. Kamala Harris: “So that’s one step you believe women should take to avoid becoming a victim of sexual assault?”

Neomi Rao: “Well, it is—it is just a way to make it less likely.”

Neomi Rao—who has never tried a case in court—also wrote in past articles that affirmative action is the “anointed dragon of liberal excess,” said welfare was “for the indigent and lazy,” and called LGBT issues a “trendy” political movement.

 

(Susan Collins must love this weak-willed human.)

‘Huge mistake’: Fears of arms race as US, Russia suspend INF pact

The US suspended the INF Treaty after accusing Russia of violating the pact with its 9M729 missile system [Yuri Kochetkov/EPA]
The US suspended the INF Treaty after accusing Russia of violating the pact with its 9M729 missile system [Yuri Kochetkov/EPA]

In an escalating standoff over nuclear weapons, Russia and the United States have suspended compliance with the Cold War-era Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, prompting fears of a new arms race that analysts and politicians say could push the world “much closer” to a nuclear war.

The long-running dispute between Washington and Moscow came to a head on Friday when US President Donald Trump accused Russia of violating the 1987 bilateral treaty with “impunity”, and announced his government was suspending its obligations under the landmark pact.

Pledging to “move forward” with its own military response options, Trump said the US will withdraw from the accord  in six months unless Moscow destroyed land-based missiles allegedly deployed in violation of the treaty.

In a tit-for-tat move on Saturday, Russian President Vladimir Putin said he was also suspending Moscow’s participation in the agreement.

“Our American partners have announced they were suspending their participation in the treaty and we will do the same,” he said in a televised meeting with his defence and foreign ministers.

“They have announced they will conduct research and development, and we will act accordingly.”

Russia will start work on creating new missiles, including hypersonic weapons, he said, adding that Moscow will not deploy such weapons in the European part of the country or elsewhere unless the US does so.

‘Huge mistake’

The reciprocal moves effectively terminate a pact regarded as one of the most important safeguards against nuclear war.

They come amid strained relations between Washington and Moscow over issues including Russia’s annexation of Crimea from Ukraine, and its alleged interference in the 2016 US presidential elections.

Analysts said Trump’s decision to scrap the pact leaves Russia free to shape the military balance in Europe.

The strategic advantages for the US, however, were less clear, they said.

“Nothing good will come out of the US withdrawal,” said Mark Fitzpatrick, executive director of the non-proliferation programme at the Washington-based International Institute for Strategic Studies.

“The Trump administration has made a huge mistake – it’s a breakdown of arms control. It’s a breakdown of trust between US and Russia. The US will have problems with its European allies, and it will engage in a new arms race with China as well.”

READ MORE

5 things to know about threatened US-Russia nuclear weapons deal

The INF Treaty was signed following the Euromissile crisis in the late 1970s and 1980s, when the Soviet Union’s mobilising of cruise missiles that could hit most of Europe prompted the US to deploy to the region ballistic missiles that could reach Moscow in 10 minutes.

The pact banned all ground-based missiles with ranges between 500km and 5,500km, ridding Europe of an entire category of destabilising weapons – nearly 3,000 ground-launched intermediate ballistic and cruise missiles were destroyed.

The treaty does not cover air- or sea-launched weapons, and did not include other powers such as China, North KoreaIran and Israel, allowing these countries to grow their stockpile of weapons.

Strategic benefits

Since 2014, US officials have accused Russia of breaching the treaty with its 9M729 missile. Moscow rejects the allegation, saying the missile’s range does not exceed 500km. It also accused the US of violating the treaty with its missile defence systems in Romania and Poland – a claim the US denies.

“Let’s be clear – the Russians were cheating,” said Tom Nichols, a US-based defence analyst. “It was a provocation to menace the Europeans and to see if they could bait the Americans into walking away.”

The US response only showed how “confused” Washington’s nuclear arms policy was, he said.

Observers said most European and NATO countries were unlikely to host any land-based intermediate-range missiles that the US might develop, meaning Washington was pulling out of the deal without any real strategic benefit.

Poland and Romania, scarred by past Soviet occupation, may be more enthusiastic to host such weapons, according to Leo Hoffman at the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, but such a move could divide the NATO alliance.

“This is also completely the wrong approach to take,” the Brussels-based campaigner said, “because by arming yourself to the teeth, you make yourself a target”.

The US’ unilateral decision was “jeopardising” Europe’s security, he added.

Carl Bildt, a co-chair of the European Council on Foreign Relations, agreed. The INF Treaty’s demise will allow Russia to deploy its Kalibr cruise missiles with a range of 1,500km from ground launchers, he said in a Twitter post on Friday.

“This would quickly cover all of Europe with an additional threat,” he said.

Carl Bildt

@carlbildt

After demise of INF Treaty Russia can now also deploy its Kaliber cruise missiles with ranges around 1.500 km from ground launchers. This would quickly cover all of Europe with an additional threat. https://twitter.com/Liveuamap/status/1091637014431182848 

Liveuamap

@Liveuamap

Replying to @Liveuamap

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu: After the US withdrawal from the treaty, I propose to use Kaliber missiles with land-based launchers https://russia.liveuamap.com/en/2019/2-february-russian-defense-minister-sergei-shoigu-after-the #Russia

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China’s nuclear missile arsenal

The “real reason” for the US pullout, according to Fitzpatrick, was Washington’s concern over China’s buildup of intermediate-range missiles in the Western Pacific.

China’s inventory contains more than 2,000 ballistic and cruise missiles, approximately 95 percent of which would violate the INF Treaty if Beijing were a signatory, according to US officials. But the INF Treaty prevents the US from placing short and intermediate range missiles on land near China as a deterrent.

However, it was unclear how willing US allies in Asia, such as Japan or South Korea, maybe to host such weapons. So while the US move “sends a signal of concern about China, it comes without any plan or response in place,” said Fitzpatrick. “And I think that’s a big danger.”

For its part, China has appealed to the US and Russia to preserve the treaty, saying the US move “may trigger a series of adverse consequences”.

OPINION

The end of INF: Another nuclear treaty bites the dust

Alexander Gillespie
by Alexander Gillespie

In Moscow, Pavel Felgenhauer, a Russian military analyst, said he was concerned about Putin’s order to develop hypersonic ballistic missiles.

“Such a weapon would avoid missile defence systems in Europe and the Middle East. That brings the situation into a higher level, more dangerous … and that would bring nuclear war much closer,” he said.

In Washington, Trump’s political opponents have labelled the president’s INF Treaty move a “disaster” and submitted legislation to bar the US from using a nuclear weapon unless attacked with one first.

Elizabeth Warren, a Democrat senator and presidential hopeful who introduced the No First Use Act, urged the country’s Congress to pass her bill and prevent Trump “from unilaterally starting a nuclear war”.

Elizabeth Warren

@SenWarren

We can hold Russia accountable without tearing up the INF Treaty. Withdrawing won’t make America any safer – it just increases the potential for a new arms race that would make the world even more dangerous.

Elizabeth Warren

@SenWarren

.@realDonaldTrump wants to upgrade our nuclear arsenal AND end decades-old arms control agreements. That’s a recipe for disaster. Congress must immediately pass my bill to prevent him (or any president) from unilaterally starting a nuclear war. https://www.cnn.com/2019/01/30/politics/warren-adam-smith-nuclear-weapons/index.html 

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With the INF Treaty all but gone, all eyes are on the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START), a 2010 pact that limits the US and Russia to no more than 700 deployed strategic missiles and bombers and no more than 1,550 deployed strategic warheads.

The treaty expires in two years, but can be extended by up to five years.

“If New START lapses in 2021, no treaties will constrain US and Russian nuclear forces, a break from some 50 years of nuclear arms control between Washington and Moscow,” Steven Pifer, a fellow at Brookings Institute, said in a post on Axios, a US-based news and information website.

“That world invariably will be less stable, less predictable and less secure,” he wrote.

Zaheena Rasheed contributed reporting to this article.

SOURCE: AL JAZEERA NEWS

WSJ: After Venezuela, U.S. to Target Cuba in Effort to Reshape Latin America

FEB 01, 2019

H1 cuba

The Wall Street Journal is reporting the U.S.-backed effort to oust Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro is just the first step in the Trump administration’s plan to reshape Latin America—with Cuba next on its radar. According to the report, the U.S. is planning to announce new measures against Cuba in the coming weeks, including new sanctions and restoring Cuba’s designation as a state sponsor of terrorism. The moves could severely hamper foreign investment into the country. According to The Wall Street Journal, the U.S. then plans to target Nicaragua. In November, national security adviser John Bolton dubbed the three nations the “troika of tyranny.” Last week, Vice President Mike Pence said that President Trump is “not a fan” of U.S. interventions abroad, except for in “this hemisphere.”