President Barack Obama launched a final push on Tuesday to persuade Congress to close the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, but lawmakers, opposed to rehousing detainees in the United States, declared his plan a non-starter.
In White House remarks, Obama, a Democrat, pleaded with the Republican-led Congress to give his proposal a “fair hearing.” He said he did not want to pass along the issue to his successor next January.
The Pentagon plan proposes 13 potential sites on U.S. soil for the transfer of remaining detainees but does not identify the facilities or endorse a specific one.
“We’ll review President Obama’s plan,” Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said. “But since it includes bringing dangerous terrorists to facilities in U.S. communities, he should know that the bipartisan will of Congress has already been expressed against that proposal.”
Paul Ryan, the Republican speaker of the House of Representatives, said Obama had yet to convince Americans that moving the prisoners to the United States was smart or safe.
Obama pledged to close the prison as a candidate for the White House in 2008. The prisoners were rounded up overseas when the United States became embroiled in wars in Iraq and Afghanistan following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on New York and Washington. The facility in years past came to symbolize aggressive detention practices that opened the United States to allegations of torture.
“Let us go ahead and close this chapter,” Obama said.
“Keeping this facility open is contrary to our values … It is viewed as a stain on our broader record of upholding the highest standards of rule of law,” he said.
Obama is considering taking unilateral executive action to close the facility, situated in a U.S. naval station in southeast Cuba, if Congress does not vote to allow transfers to the United States. Republicans oppose any executive order.
The White House has sought to buttress its argument for closing the prison by focusing on its high cost. Obama said nearly $450 million was spent last year alone to keep it running. The new plan would be cheaper, officials said.
The transfer and closure costs would be $290 million to $475 million, an administration official told reporters, while housing remaining detainees in the United States would be $65 million to $85 million less expensive than at the Cuba facility, meaning the transfer bill would be offset in 3 to 5 years.
The prison, which Obama said once held nearly 800 detainees, now houses 91 detainees. Some 35 prisoners will be transferred to other countries this year, leaving the final number below 60, officials said.
Obama noted that his predecessor, Republican President George W. Bush, transferred hundreds of prisoners out of Guantanamo and wanted to close it. Republican Senator John McCain, Obama’s 2008 presidential opponent and a former prisoner of war during U.S. involvement in Vietnam, also wanted it shut.
The plan would send detainees who have been cleared for transfer to their homelands or third countries and transfer remaining prisoners to U.S. soil to be held in maximum-security prisons. Congress has banned such transfers to the United States since 2011.
Though the Pentagon has previously noted some of the sites it surveyed for use as potential U.S. facilities, the administration wants to avoid fueling any political outcry in important swing states before the Nov. 8 presidential election.
David Cameron took a veiled dig at Boris Johnson over the EU referendum as the two top Tories came up against one another in the House of Commons for the first time since the London Mayor declared his support for Brexit.
The Prime Minister used a statement to MPs to dismiss the idea – reportedly floated by Mr Johnson – that a Leave vote could be a prelude to securing a better deal in a second referendum.
And, in what seemed a lightly-veiled reference to the Mayor’s apparent ambition to succeed him as PM, Mr Cameron told the Commons that his own pledge to step down at the general election meant he had “no agenda” other than the interests of Britain.
Making clear that a Leave vote would be followed by withdrawal negotiations under Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, Mr Cameron said: “Sadly, I’ve known a number of couples who have begun divorce proceedings, but I don’t know any who have begun divorce proceedings in order to renew their marriage vows.”
His comment was greeted by loud laughter from Labour MPs directed at Mr Johnson, whose own first marriage was dissolved in 1993.
Mr Johnson was one of the first backbench MPs to be called to ask Mr Cameron a question, to loud approval from Eurosceptic backbenchers, but opted not to use the opportunity to speak at length on his decisions to back Brexit.
Instead, the Uxbridge and South Ruislip MP simply asked Mr Cameron “to explain to the House and to the country in exactly what way this deal returns sovereignty over any field of law-making to these Houses of Parliament”.
Mr Cameron responded: “This deal brings back some welfare powers, it brings back some immigration powers, it brings back some bail-out powers, but more than that, because it carves us forever out of ever-closer union, it means that that ratchet of the European court taking power away from this country cannot happen in future.”
The Prime Minister told MPs: “I won’t dwell on the irony that some people who want to vote to leave apparently want to use a Leave vote to Remain. Such an approach also ignores more profound points about democracy, diplomacy and legality.
“This is a straight democratic decision, staying in or leaving and no Government can ignore that. Having a second negotiation followed by a second referendum is not on the ballot paper. For a Prime Minister to ignore the express will of the British people to leave the EU would not just be wrong, it’d be undemocratic.”
Appearing in Parliament for the first time since striking a late night deal to renegotiate the UK’s membership of the EU on Friday, Mr Cameron outlined to MPs the changes to migrant benefits, economic regulation, red tape and national sovereignty which he believes he has secured and warned that a vote to Leave would mean “risk, uncertainty and a leap in the dark”.
Jovial Labour MPs gleefully mocked the PM over splits on the Conservative side of the chamber, where many Eurosceptic MPs sat stony-faced to listen to their leader make the case for continued membership.
In a sign of the way the EU issue has divided Tory opinion, Mr Cameron was flanked on the Government frontbench by Leader of the Commons Chris Grayling, who is campaigning for Brexit, and Home Secretary Theresa May, who disappointed some supporters of Brexit when she declared that she would vote to Remain.
Mr Cameron ended his statement by saying: “I’m not standing for re-election. I have no other agenda than what is best for our country. I’m standing here telling you what I think.
“My responsibility as Prime Minister is to speak plainly about what I believe is right for our country and that’s what I will do every day for the next four months.”
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said it was “more than disappointing” that Mr Cameron’s renegotiation had “failed” to address the major challenges facing Europe, including dealing with climate change, making global businesses pay fair taxes and tackling terrorism.
The Labour leader said: “The reality is that this entire negotiation has not been about the challenges facing our continent, neither has it been about facing the issues facing the people of Britain.
“It’s been a theatrical sideshow about trying to appease, or failing to appease, half of the Prime Minister’s own Conservative party.”
Downing Street stressed that the Brexit process would begin “straightaway” if the UK voted to leave.
Asked about the Prime Minister’s comments about not having a wider agenda, a Downing Street source said: “He was just setting out the fact that he announced before the last general election that he was not going to stand for election again, he set out very clearly his focus here is on what is best for the country in his view.
“He was just spelling it out very clearly.”
The source added: “There are clearly differing views within the Conservative Party, within the Labour Party on this issue. The PM was just making the point from his point of view he is taking a decision on what he thinks is best for the country. There is no general election that he is thinking about.”
Asked whether the comment on marriage and divorce was a veiled reference to Mr Johnson, the source said: “It was a reference to some people, who have suggested that the British people could vote to leave the EU and that somehow you might ignore and turn your back on the decision of the British people and go forward and try to secure a second renegotiation.
“The Prime Minister’s view on that, and our manifesto made very clear, is that we will respect the outcome of the referendum come what may. If the British people vote to leave, we will take the appropriate steps and move towards Article 50 straight away.”
Anything else would be “not respecting the will of the British people”, the source said.
Following Mr Cameron’s statement, Employment Minister Priti Patel said: “EU courts and politicians will still be in charge of our borders, our courts and our economy. The deal is not legally binding and can be ripped up by EU judges after our vote.
“Even if it did come into force it would change just 1% of the EU Treaties.”
Arron Banks, the co-chairman of the Leave.EU campaign, said: “The Prime Minister promised British voters half a loaf, begged Brussels for a crust and brought home crumbs. It was absolutely tragic trying to watch him sell this dodgy deal in Parliament.”
Donald Trump scored a resounding victory in South Carolina’s Republican primary Saturday, deepening his hold on the GOP presidential field as the race headed into the South. “Let’s put this thing away,” he shouted to cheering supporters.
Out West, Hillary Clinton pulled out a crucial win over Bernie Sanders in Nevada’s Democratic caucuses, easing the rising anxieties of her backers. At a raucous victory rally in Las Vegas, she lavished praise on her supporters and declared, “This one is for you.”
The victories put Clinton and Trump in strong positions as the 2016 presidential election advanced toward the March 1 Super Tuesday contests, a delegate-rich voting bonanza. But South Carolina marked the end for Jeb Bush, the one-time Republican front-runner and member of a prominent political family, who withdrew from the race.
“I firmly believe the American people must entrust this office to someone who understands that whoever holds it is a servant, not the master,” Bush told supporters in an emotional speech.
South Carolina marked Trump’s second straight victory this one by 10 points and strengthened his unexpected claim on the GOP nomination. No Republican in recent times has won New Hampshire and South Carolina and then failed to win the nomination.
“There’s nothing easy about running for president,” Trump said at his victory rally. “It’s tough, it’s nasty, it’s mean, it’s vicious. It’s beautiful when you win it’s beautiful.”
Marco Rubio edged out Ted Cruz for second place, according to complete but unofficial results. Bush and others lagged far behind.
“This has become a three-person race,” Rubio declared.
Cruz harked back to his win in the leadoff Iowa caucuses as a sign he was best positioned to take down Trump. He urged conservatives to rally around his campaign, saying pointedly, “We are the only candidate who has beaten and can beat Donald Trump.”
For both parties, the 2016 election has laid bare voters’ anger with the political establishment. The public mood has upended the usual political order, giving Sanders and Trump openings while leaving more traditional candidates scrambling to find their footing.
Trump’s victory comes after a week in which he threatened to sue one rival, accused former President George W. Bush of lying about the Iraq war and even tussled with Pope Francis on immigration. His victory was another sign that the conventional rules of politics often don’t apply to the brash billionaire.
He was backed by nearly 4 in 10 of those who were angry at the federal government, and a third of those who felt betrayed by politicians in the Republican Party.
For Cruz, despite his confident words, South Carolina must have been something of a disappointment. The state was his first test of whether his expensive, sophisticated get-out-the-vote operation could overtake Trump in a Southern state, where the electorate seemed tailor-made for the Texas senator.
Florida’s Rubio used his top-tier finish to bill himself as the mainstream alternative to Trump and Cruz, candidates many GOP leaders believe are unelectable in November.
South Carolina was the final disappointment for Bush, who campaigned alongside members of his famous family, which remains popular in the state. Though he was once considered the front-runner for the GOP nomination, new fundraising reports out Saturday showed that donations to his super PAC had largely stalled.
Also in the mix was Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who had low expectations in South Carolina and was looking toward more moderate states that vote later in March. Retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson vowed to stay in the race, despite a single-digit showing.
The crowded Republican contest was a contrast to the head-to-head face-off among Democrats. Clinton has emerged as a favorite of those seeking an experienced political hand, while Sanders is attracting young voters and others drawn to his call of a political and economic revolution.
The Nevada results highlighted Clinton’s strength with black voters, a crucial Democratic electorate in the next contest in South Carolina, as well as several Super Tuesday states. The Hispanic vote was closely divided between Sanders and Clinton.
According to the entrance polls, Clinton was backed by a majority of women, college-educated voters, those with annual incomes over $100,000, moderates, voters aged 45 and older and non-white voters. Sanders did best with men, voters under 45 and those less affluent and educated.
The former secretary of state captured the backing of voters who said electability and experience were important. But in a continuing sign of her vulnerability, Sanders did best with voters looking for a candidate who is caring and honest.
Sanders congratulated Clinton on her victory, but then declared that “the wind is at our backs. We have the momentum.” With a vast network of small donors, Sanders has the financial resources to stay in the race for months.
Clinton’s win means she will pick up at least 19 of Nevada’s 35 delegates. She already holds a sizeable lead in the delegate count based largely on her support from superdelegates, the party leaders who can support the candidate of their choice, no matter the primaries and caucuses.
Trump won a majority of the delegates in South Carolina and he had a chance to win them all. With votes still being tabulated, he was projected to win at least 38 of the 50 at stake.
Democrats and Republicans will swap locations in the coming days. The GOP holds its caucus in Nevada on Tuesday, while Democrats face off in South Carolina on Feb. 27.
The Prime Minister returned overnight from his marathon negotiations in Brussels to brief a rare Saturday meeting of the Cabinet on his reform package and to confirm his promised in/out referendum will be held on June 23.
The meeting was the signal for five Cabinet ministers headed by Justice Secretary Michael Gove – freed from the shackles of collective responsibility – to declare they would be campaigning for an “out” vote.
The group – plus Employment Minister Priti Patel who is not a full Cabinet member but attends meetings – immediately headed out from Downing Street to the Vote Leave campaign headquarters where they posed for photos with a “Let’s take back control” poster.
In No 10, there was relief there were no last minute surprises among the list of “outers” – which also included Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith, the Leader of the Commons Chris Grayling, Culture Secretary John Whittingdale and Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers.
During a meeting which lasted more than two hours – with every minister present being given the opportunity to speak – potential waverers such as Business Secretary Sajid Javid, Attorney General Jeremy Wright and deputy Conservative chairman Rob Halfon confirmed they would be in the “in” camp.
A No 10 spokesman said the discussion had been conducted in “a good spirit and a dignified manner” with “measured, thought through interventions” from ministers reflecting the way they had each carefully weighed up the choice they were facing.
That left “out” supporters looking to Boris Johnson – who has assiduously kept his options open – as the possible high-profile champion that their campaign clearly craves.
There was speculation that the London mayor could use his weekly column in The Daily Telegraph finally to come off the fence and declare his hand.
Speaking on the steps of No 10, Mr Cameron said that the “special status” that he had secured for the UK meant the country could enjoy the benefits of the EU in terms of trade and security without having to sign up to a European superstate.
He said Britain inside the EU would be “safer, stronger and better off” while leaving would threaten the country’s “economic and national security” creating deep uncertainty for the future.
“Those who want to leave Europe cannot tell you if British businesses would be able to access Europe’s free trade single market, or if working people’s jobs are safe, or how much prices would rise. All they’re offering is a risk at a time of uncertainty – a leap in the dark,” he said.
Mr Gove, one of the Prime Minister’s closest political allies, said it was “the most difficult decision of my political life” to disagree with him, but that he had to be true to his principles.
“My instinct is to support him through good times and bad. But I cannot duck the choice which the Prime Minister has given every one of us,” he said.
“I believe our country would be freer, fairer and better off outside the EU. And if, at this moment of decision, I didn’t say what I believe I would not be true to my convictions or my country.”
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, while confirming the Opposition would campaign for an “in” vote, said the renegotiation was a “missed opportunity”.
“We will be campaigning to keep Britain in Europe in the coming referendum, regardless of David Cameron’s tinkering, because it brings investment, jobs and protection for British workers and consumers,” he said.
Ukip leader Nigel Farage dismissed the “truly pathetic deal” and urged voters to seize the “golden opportunity” to show that Britain would be better off being fully independent of Brussels.
After visiting the US-Mexico border, Pope Francis on Thursday responded to a question about Donald Trump’s plan to build a wall between the two countries by saying that “this man is not Christian if he has said things like that.”
Francis added that he would give Trump “the benefit of the doubt,” given that he did not know details of the Republican presidential candidate’s plan to build a border wall. Though the pope was asked specifically about Trump’s plan during his visit to Mexico, the businessman is not the only GOP candidate who has called for a wall to secure the US border. Both Sens. Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio have said that they support a similar plan.
Trump quickly responded to Francis’s remarks with his usual bombast, warning of a potential attack on the Vatican.
“If and when the Vatican is attacked by ISIS, which as everyone knows is ISIS’s ultimate trophy, I can promise you that the pope would have only wished and prayed that Donald Trump would have been president because this would not have happened,” Trump said in a statement.
But rather than criticize Pope Francis directly for his remarks, Trump suggested that the pontiff was being misinformed by the Mexican government “because they want to continue to rip off the United States, both on trade and at the border, and they understand I am totally wise to them.”
Trump added, however, that he thought it was “disgraceful” for a religious leader “to question a person’s faith,” noting that he is “proud to be a Christian.”
“No leader, especially a religious leader, should have the right to question another man’s religion or faith. They are using the pope as a pawn and they should be ashamed of themselves for doing so,” he said in apparent reference to the Mexican government, “especially when so many lives are involved and when illegal immigration is so rampant.”
Sen. Marco Rubio, took the real-estate mogul’s side in the spat with the Vatican.
When asked by CNN on “The Lead with Jake Tapper” about the Pope’s remarks, Rubio gave a lengthy defense of the United States as the “most compassionate and open country in the world on legal immigration,” and defended the government’s right to implement and enforce immigration laws as it sees fit.
“I think the Holy Father recognizes or should recognize and I believe he does how generous America is,” Rubio said. “We accept, every year, close to a million or over a million people every year as permanent residents of the United States. No other country even comes close.”
Republican rival, Jeb Bush, a devout Catholic, who came to Trump’s defense.
“I think his Christianity is between he and his creator don’t think we need to discuss that,” Bush told reporters on Thursday in Columbia. The defense of his spiritual life did not extend to his political life, though. “As it relates to his policies related to ISIS, he’s not the right guy to be commander-in-chief,” Bush added.
The blast struck a convoy of military service vehicles but it was still not clear who carried it out, said Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus, confirming the latest toll.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan vowed retaliation against the perpetrators of the attack, which came on the heels of a spate of deadly strikes in Turkey blamed on jihadists but also on Kurdish rebels.
The car bomb detonated when a convoy of military buses carrying dozens of soldiers stopped at traffic lights in central Ankara, creating scenes of panic and chaos.
“This attack has very clearly targeted our esteemed nation as a whole and was carried out in a vile, dishonourable, treacherous and insidious way,” said Kurtulmus.
Plumes of smoke could be seen from all over the city rising from the scene, close to the headquarters of the Turkish military and the parliament.
The powerful blast was heard throughout Ankara, sending alarmed residents rushing to their balconies. The army said the attack took place at 1631 GMT and had targeted “service vehicles carrying army personnel”.
Without specifying what the retaliation could entail, Erdogan warned that “Turkey will not shy away from using its right to self-defence at any time, any place or any occasion.”
“Our determination to respond in kind to attacks taking place inside and outside our borders is getting stronger,” he said.
Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu cancelled a planned visit to Brussels on Thursday, his office said. Erdogan also shelved a trip to Azerbaijan.
A mini-summit on Europe’s refugee crisis gathering 11 EU countries and Turkey scheduled for Thursday was cancelled due to Davutoglu’s absence, diplomats said.
In Ankara, ambulances and fire engines were sent to the scene and wounded victims were seen being taken away on stretchers.
Images showed fire-fighters trying to overcome a fierce blaze engulfing wrecked service buses that were gutted by the blast.
Turkish police threw a security cordon around the area. A second blast later rocked the area, but officials said this was police detonating a suspicious package.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said the alliance strongly condemned the bombing. “NATO Allies stand shoulder to shoulder in the fight against terrorism,” he said.
French President Francois Hollande denounced the attack as “odious”.
“We are with Turkey and its people in these difficult times,” added EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini.
Kurtulmus acknowledged that “we don’t have any information yet about who carried out this attack” but vowed the perpetrators “will be revealed as soon as possible.”
The Islamic State group has been blamed for a slew of bombings in the country since the middle of last year but the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) has also killed dozens of soldiers in attacks mainly in the southeast of the country.
The capital was already on alert after 103 people were killed on October 10 when two suicide bombers blew themselves up in a crowd of peace activists in Ankara, the bloodiest attack in the country’s modern history.
Eleven people, all German tourists, were also killed on January 16 when a suicide bomber blew himself up in the tourist heart of Istanbul.
Those attacks were blamed on IS jihadists, as were two other deadly bombings in the country’s Kurdish-dominated southeast earlier in the year.
But Turkey is also waging an all-out assault on the outlawed PKK which has repeatedly attacked members of the security forces with roadside bombings on their convoys in the southeast.
The PKK launched an insurgency against the Turkish state in 1984, initially fighting for Kurdish independence although now more for greater autonomy and rights for the country’s largest ethnic minority.
The conflict, which has left tens of thousands of people dead, looked like it could be nearing a resolution until an uneasy truce was shattered in July.
Meanwhile, Turkish artillery in southern Turkey shelled positions of Kurdish fighters in Syria for the fifth day in the row on Wednesday in an escalating standoff, reports said.
Turkey says the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) and its People’s Protection Units (YPG) are merely the Syrian branch of the PKK and themselves terror groups.
The banned ultra-left Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party–Front (DHKP-C) has also staged a string of usually small-scale attacks in Istanbul over the last few months.
China has deployed an advanced surface-to-air missile system to one of the disputed islands it controls in the South China Sea, Taiwan and U.S. officials said, ratcheting up tensions even as U.S. President Barack Obama urged restraint in the region.
Taiwan defense ministry spokesman Major General David Lo said on Wednesday the missile batteries had been set up on Woody Island. The island is part of the Paracels chain, under Chinese control for more than 40 years but also claimed by Taiwan and Vietnam. A U.S. defense official also confirmed the “apparent deployment” of the missiles.
China’s foreign minister said the reports were created by “certain Western media” that should focus more on China’s building of lighthouses to improve shipping safety in the region. “As for the limited and necessary self-defense facilities that China has built on islands and reefs we have people stationed on, this is consistent with the right to self-protection that China is entitled to under international law so there should be no question about it,” Wang Yi told reporters in Beijing.
China claims most of the South China Sea, through which more than $5 trillion in global trade passes every year, and has been building runways and other infrastructure on artificial islands to bolster its title.
The United States has said it will continue conducting “freedom of navigation patrols” by ships and aircraft to assure unimpeded passage through the region, where Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, the Philippines and Taiwan have rival claims.
Admiral Harry Harris, the commander of the U.S. Pacific Command, said the deployment of missiles to the Paracels would not be a surprise but would be a concern, and be contrary to China’s pledge not to militarize the region.
“We will conduct more, and more complex, freedom of navigation operations as time goes on in the South China Sea,” Harris told a briefing in Tokyo. “We have no intention of stopping.”
News of the missile deployment came as Obama and leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations concluded a summit in California, where they discussed the need to ease tensions in the South China Sea but did not include specific mention of China’s assertive pursuit of its claims there.
China’s increasing military presence in the disputed sea could effectively lead to a Beijing-controlled air defense zone, analysts
A U.S. Navy destroyer sailed within 12 nautical miles of Triton Island in the Paracels last month, a move China condemned as provocative.
China last month said it would not seek militarization of its South China Sea islands and reefs, but that did not mean it would not set up defenses.
Taiwan President-elect Tsai Ing-wen said tensions were now higher in the region.
“We urge all parties to work on the situation based on principles of peaceful solution and self-control,” Tsai told reporters.
Vietnam’s foreign ministry did not immediately respond to requests for comment. But in a rare move, the country’s prime minister on Monday pressed Obama for a greater U.S. role in preventing militarization and island-building in the South China Sea.
Images from civilian satellite company ImageSat International show two batteries of eight surface-to-air missile launchers on Woody Island, as well as a radar system.
The missiles arrived over the past week and, according to a U.S. official, appeared to show the HQ-9 air defense system, which has a range of 125 miles (200 km) and would pose a threat to any airplanes flying close by, the report said.
In November, two U.S. B52 strategic bombers flew near artificial Chinese-built islands in the Spratly Islands.
Asked about the report, Bill Urban, a Pentagon spokesman, said: “While I cannot comment on matters related to intelligence, we do watch these matters very closely.”