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Trump says ‘major decisions’ on Syria likely in next 24 to 48 hours



Syrian opposition activists and aid groups said over the weekend that dozens of people had died in the suspected chemical weapons attack on the city of Douma, and aid groups are blocked off from accessing the afflicted area.

“If it’s Russia, if it’s Syria, if it’s Iran, if it’s all of them together, we’ll figure it out,” the president added.

Trump, who was reportedly moved by the images of dead children on television during the Khan Sheikhoun attack a year ago, signaled the possibility of tough action.

“This is about humanity — we’re talking about humanity,” he said Monday. “It can’t be allowed to happen.”

Syria passed the seven-year mark last month in its civil war that has killed some 450,000 people and displaced half the country’s population. The Trump administration has slashed refugee admissions to a historic low and changes to the U.S. Refugee Resettlement Program have left many people in limbo.

The White House on Monday called out countries supporting the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad, including Russia, which Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said has “betrayed” its vow to help bring an end to the Syrian government’s suspected use of chemical weapons.

The alleged attack occurred late on Saturday amid a resumed offensive by Syrian government forces after the collapse of a truce with the Army of Islam rebel group. Douma is the last rebel stronghold in eastern Ghouta, a region that has faced an intensive bombing campaign by Assad’s forces.

 National security adviser John Bolton listens, on his first day on the job, as President Donald Trump speaks during a cabinet meeting at the White House on April 9, 2018. Evan Vucci / AP

Assad’s government denied that it launched a chemical attack. Moscow has called the reports “fabricated” and warned that any military strikes in retaliation would trigger the “gravest consequences.”

Asked whether Russian President Vladimir Putin bears responsibility for the alleged chemical attack, Trump responded, “He may.”

“If he does, it’s going to be very tough,” he added.

Last April, the Trump administration launched strikes on a Syrian-government airfield in retaliation for a brutal chemical attack on the town of Khan Sheikhoun. The latest attack comes as Trump deliberates the future of the American military in Syria.

The president said last week that he wanted U.S. troops out of Syria by the fall. His desire for a rapid withdrawal faced unanimous opposition from the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Pentagon, the State Department and the intelligence community, which argue that keeping the 2,000 U.S. soldiers currently in Syria is key to ensuring the Islamic State does not reconstitute itself.

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., tweeted Sunday that Trump’s “pledge to withdraw from #Syria has only emboldened Assad, backed by Russia & Iran, to commit more war crimes in #Douma.”

Sanders dismissed McCain’s accusation, saying, “This administration and this president have been tougher on Russia than previous administrations.”

Trump has called Russia out in the past for its support of the Assad regime, and much of his administration’s Iran policy centers around the Islamic Republic’s destabilizing activities in Syria.

However, Trump remains open to the idea of speaking directly with Putin, insisting that it’s better to find common ground with Russia on Syria, as well as other economic and security matters.

“The president still feels that if we can have a good relationship with Russia at some point that that’s a good thing for the world,” Sanders said Monday. “But at the same time, this president is going to be tough on Russia until we see some changes in their behavior.”

Trump talked on Sunday with his French counterpart, Emmanuel Macron, and the two leaders agreed to “coordinate a strong, joint response” to the alleged attack. British Prime Minister Theresa May also condemned the suspected use of chemical weapons, and criticized Russia for its continued support of the Assad regime.

“In recent years, Russia’s repeated vetoes at the U.N. have enabled these rules to be broken, and removed mechanisms that allow us to investigate and hold to account chemical weapons attacks in Syria,” May said at a conference in Denmark on Monday. “This must stop.”

While the U.S. is still investigating the attack, the State Department said on Saturday that “the (Assad) regime’s history of using chemical weapons against its own people in not in dispute.”

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Boris Johnson urged to punish EU if Brussels miss trade deal deadline – 'Enough is enough'



THE EU has still not ratified the post-Brexit trade deal agreed with the UK as MEPs refuse to name a date for a vote to take place before the April 30 deadline set by Downing Street. And Boris Johnson has been urged to punish the bloc if they miss the deadline.

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Hard-right Republicans forming new caucus to protect ‘Anglo-Saxon political traditions’



WASHINGTON — A group of ultra-conservative House Republicans, including Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, are discussing launching an “America First Caucus” that would protect “Anglo-Saxon political traditions.”

Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, told reporters on Friday that he’s “looking at” joining.

“There is an America First Caucus,” he said, confirming that Greene is involved.

The formation of a caucus could be another sign of an emboldened faction of House Republicans who are known for nativist ideas and have been criticized by Democrats as racist.

A seven-page organizing document that includes the group’s name and a logo, first reported by Punchbowl News, says: “America is a nation with a border, and a culture, strengthened by a common respect for uniquely Anglo-Saxon political traditions.”

It adds that “societal trust and political unity are threatened when foreign citizens are imported en-masse into a country, particularly without institutional support for assimilation and an expansive welfare state to bail them out should they fail to contribute positively to the country.”

The document also backs infrastructure projects — a topic currently being debated in Congress — as long as they befit “the progeny of European architecture, whereby public infrastructure must be utilitarian as well as stunningly, classically beautiful, befitting a world power and source of freedom.”

Greene spokesman Nick Dyer confirmed that a platform is being written but complained about “dirty backstabbing swamp creatures” who leaked the document, and did not confirm or deny its authenticity.

“Be on the look out for the release of the America First Caucus platform when it’s announced to the public very soon,” Dyer said.

Gohmert said the group will focus on issues, “that will sustain us for the future,” but added that he hadn’t seen the platform language about Anglo-Saxon traditions.

“It’s not supposed to be about race at all. We’re stronger as diversified. But there are some things that help make us strong. Slavery nearly destroyed us,” he said.

He compared it to putting on one’s mask on an airplane before helping others: “If we let our country go without taking care of America and making sure we’re viable for the future, then we’re not going to be in a position to help the other countries.”

The term “America First” was used as a campaign slogan by former President Donald Trump, but received criticism because it was also used during World War II by those who opposed intervention in Europe to help stop German advances, even amid reports that Nazis were committing genocide against Jewish people.

Greene has advocated for extreme positions and dangerous conspiracy theories, including the QAnon conspiracy movement. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has condemned her for spreading “loony lies” and the Democratic-controlled House removed her from committees in February.

Punchbowl News reported that Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz., is also involved with the group. His office didn’t return a request for comment.

Rep. Barry Moore, R-Ala., was reported as a potential recruit.

His office said Moore “will not agree to join any caucus until he’s had an opportunity to research their platform, which he has not had the chance to do so with the America First Caucus and therefore has not joined.”

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Keir Starmer's Labour Party plummets as Boris Johnson doubles lead in new poll



THE TORIES have doubled their lead over Labour in the latest YouGov poll as Boris Johnson’s party continues to enjoy favourable ratings thanks to the huge success of the Covid vaccine rollout.

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