President Donald Trump’s legal team has made the following claim referring to presidential immunity: “While in office, (the president) enjoys absolute immunity from criminal process of any kind,” spanning “every phase of criminal proceedings, including investigations, grand jury proceedings and subpoenas, indictment, prosecution, arrest, trial conviction and incarceration.” In other words, anything and everything Trump does, or wants to do, is legal, so long as he remains in office.
Think about that and remember this. Everything Adolf Hitler ordered was legal in Nazi Germany, because Hitler said so. Everything Josef Stalin ordered was legal in the Soviet Union, because Stalin said so. The same can be said about every order ever given by every dictator who ever ruled.
For Trump’s legal team to present that argument in a court of law tells you all you need to know about this president’s thought process. You should also keep in mind that authoritarian dictators are not voted out of office, because they call upon their “absolute legal authority” to nullify the vote. Don’t believe for a second that Trump hasn’t thought about that. He’s already made public statements alluding to remaining in office longer than two terms.
I continue to have faith in our democracy, the Constitution, the power of a free press and the American people. But I have no faith in the honorable intentions of Trump or his most ardent enablers.
HONG KONG – US Sen. Ted Cruz on Saturday condemned China’s handling of pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong, saying suppression of free speech in the territory showed fear from what he called a “dictatorship” in Beijing.
Ted Cruz wearing all black in solidarity with HK protesters.
“The Chinese Communist government, I believe, is terrified of the protesters in the streets in Hong Kong,” the Texas Republican told reporters at an afternoon meeting at the US consul general’s residence in the Chinese special administrative region.
“President Xi is terrified of millions of people in Hong Kong but even more than that millions of people in China yearning to live free.”
The 2016 US presidential candidate was dressed head to toe in black, in what he called a sign of solidarity with Hong Kong protesters — men and women, boys and girls, he said — who have adopted that as their de facto uniform.
“A protester has power that makes the dictatorship tremble,” Cruz said, comparing a man shot in the chest by a Hong Kong police officer last week to the protester who stared down a column of tanks in Tiananmen Square during the 1989 anti-government protests.
Asked about the violent turn some of the Hong Kong protests have taken in recent weeks, Cruz said he had not seen violence on the part of the protesters, who have been vandalizing subway stations and businesses with ties to China and who have physically attacked some who have disagreed with them.
Cruz said he had met protest leaders, whom he did not name, and was told that violence was being perpetrated by agents of Beijing who had infiltrated the protest movement.
While he said he had no proof of that, he said it was something that Beijing would favor.
“There is a reason that the Communist Party in China wants the Hong Kong protests to turn violent,” he said. “The Chinese Communist Party very much wants to characterize these protests as violent acts of terrorism rather than democracy protesters standing up for human rights.”
He called on protesters not to give Beijing that leverage and to resist the urge to engage in aggression and adopt the non-violent protest examples of Mahatma Gandhi in India and Martin Luther King Jr. in the US.
Cruz, one of the highest-profile US politicians to visit the Hong Kong since the pro-democracy protests began 19 weekends ago, said Carrie Lam, the city’s chief executive, canceled a meeting with him on his arrival in the territory on Saturday morning.
The long-planned meeting was scrapped when he refused to keep any discussions with Lam secret, he said.
“She seems to misunderstand how free speech operates,” Cruz said.
The cancellation was a sign of weakness and fear from Lam, he said.
The Texas senator said Beijing’s reaction to a tweet by an NBA general manager this week showed similar fear of values like free speech.
Daryl Morey, GM of the Houston Rockets, the NBA team in Cruz’s hometown, posted an image on Twitter that read, “Fight for freedom, stand with Hong Kong.”
In response, “the Communist government in China lost their minds,” Cruz said. “They treated it as a threat to the very heart of their dictatorship.”
China responded with “economic blackmail and extortion,” severing long-standing business relationships with the basketball league and demanding apologies.
He said Beijing was trying to impose “global censorship” to anybody who disagreed with its policies and principles.
He called on the league to cease commercial relations with China.
Getting back to Hong Kong in the 40-minute session with reporters, Cruz said protesters’ demands for an investigation into police actions during the protests and, more importantly, universal suffrage and free elections, should be met.
“Those demands are right, they are reasonable and I stand with the people of Hong Kong calling on the government of China to honor the promises it made to the world when it promised to maintain political freedom in Hong Kong,” he said.
The city has become an example to the world of what freedom and free enterprise can accomplish, Cruz said, but it needs to restore democratic values to continue to be that beacon.
“The Chinese government, if it continues to respond with brutality and oppression, risks destroying the prosperity in Hong Kong,” he said.
Cruz said he would continue efforts in the US Congress to pass the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act of 2019, which would require reevaluation of certain rights the territory was granted separate from China.
“We should continue to look for tools to stand up for human rights and for democracy and to speak clearly against repression and torture and murder,” Cruz said. He cited not only the Hong Kong legislation but other actions the US government has taken to sanction those involved with the detention of Muslim Uyghurs and other minority groups in China.
WASHINGTON –WASHINGTON – Sen. Ted Cruz, visiting Hong Kong, blasted the Chinese government for pressuring the Houston Rockets and the NBA in order to silence critics of its crackdown on pro-democracy protests.
“What’s happening here in Hong Kong is inspiring,” the Texas Republican said Sunday on CBS “Face the Nation.” “It’s really an unfortunate dynamic how China uses its vast resources to promote censorship and all of our allies are facing this increased aggressiveness of China” and should stand up to defend our shared values.
“American businesses shouldn’t be the business of censoring Americans,” he said.
Carrie Lam, Hong Kong’s chief executive, had been scheduled to meet with Cruz on Saturday morning. When he refused to keep their discussion secret, the meeting was cancelled.
“She seems to misunderstand how free speech operates,” Cruz told reporters in Hong Kong, asserting the cancellation showed weakness and fear.
Cruz has been deeply critical both of China and the NBA over an episode that began a week ago when Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey expressed support for the protesters, in a tweet that read: “Fight for freedom. Stand with Hong Kong.”
Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta quickly distanced himself and the team from the comments. Morey deleted his tweet.
The NBA posted a statement on Weibo, a popular Chinese social network, saying the league was “extremely disappointed” at Morey’s “inappropriate remarks,” even as top league officials insisted to the U.S. audience that they stand for the right of free expression.
On Thursday, Cruz joined liberal Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., and six other lawmakers on a terse letter to Silver, condemning the NBA’s handling of the controversy.
In Hong Kong on Saturday, Cruz depicted China’s leadership in Beijing as a “dictatorship.” He wore black, in solidarity with the protesters.
“The Chinese Communist government is terrified of the protesters in the streets in Hong Kong,” he told reporters at the US consul general’s residence. “President Xi is terrified of millions of people in Hong Kong but even more than that millions of people in China yearning to live free.”
Cruz also kept up his criticism of the NBA for enabling Chinese censorship. On “Face the Nation” he said that despite the crackdown from the mainland government, which took control of Hong Kong from Britain in 1997, “the protests are continuing full force.”
He called Morey’s tweet “very benign… And the Chinese communist government just about lost it.”
“It was really sad to see an American company and indeed a global sports league like the NBA being dragooned into censoring the free speech of American citizens,” Cruz said, but “it’s not complicated why the NBA did that. Television and the Chinese market is worth a whole lot of money.”
Sen. Ted Cruz: “An escalating conflict with Pakistan makes it harder for India and India’s allies to work together on the pressing priorities we have across Asia and across the world.”
Echoes sthg Eisenhower, Kennedy & Johnson admins regularly said w/r/t US-India coop vs China https://t.co/4b8ibAOYp7
Cruz is taking part in a week-long Senate Foreign Relations committee trip to Asia, with previous stops in Hawaii and Taiwan. Among the goals, aides said: evaluating Chinese military modernization and influence and the U.S. role in the region.
In some corners, Tunisians yearn for Ben Ali’s rule — not out of any fondness for authoritarianism, but because it was the last time many felt a sense of stability, even though it was imposed by repression and surveillance.
“The Ben Ali era has come to signify an idealized past of ‘security’ and ‘stability’ that Tunisians are yearning for,” said Myriam Amri, a Tunisia scholar at Harvard University’s Center for Middle East Studies.
Such nostalgia for the Ben Ali regime underscores the challenges Tunisia’s next president will face. Since the revolution — which forced Ben Ali to flee the country — Tunisians have been suffering from a litany of economic woes, from rising food prices to high unemployment to lack of opportunities for a burgeoning youth population. Security concerns have grown as well, with both the Islamic State and al-Qaeda building footholds in the nation.
Disillusionment drove Tunisians to abandon established politicians in last month’s presidential elections. The top two vote-getters — Nabil Karoui, a media mogul who has campaigned from jail, and Kais Saied, a once-obscure law professor — will compete in this Sunday’s runoff elections.
Whoever prevails, Tunisia could be in for more uncertainty. Preliminary results indicate Ennahda, a moderate Islamist party, gained the most seats in parliamentary elections last Sunday, setting the stage for the kind of coalition politics that have yet to deliver for Tunisia.
If Saied wins the presidential race, he will be hard-pressed to gain lawmakers’ support, since he is not affiliated with any political party. If Karoui wins, it’s questionable whether he can even take office. He was imprisoned in August on charges of tax evasion and money laundering, which his campaign says are politically motivated. An appeals court ordered his release on Wednesday, but the charges have not been dropped.
That threatens to extend the political inertia and drive more Tunisians from all walks of life to view their country through the prism of Ben Ali.
“It’s gotten worse economically,” said Ziad Selma, 33, seated in a cafe on Avenue Habib Bourguiba, the epicenter of the 2011 revolts. “A lot of people regret Ben Ali’s departure. We can’t benefit from democracy if we don’t have a good economy.”
Other Arab countries have also seen nostalgia for past autocrats. In neighboring war-riven Libya, large segments of the population wish Moammar Gaddafi had never been ousted. In Egypt, there is nostalgia for Hosni Mubarak because the policies of the current president, Abdel Fatah al-Sissi, have deepened poverty and increased oppression. And in Yemen, the late Ali Abdullah Saleh had millions of followers even after he was forced out of power.
But Tunisia emerged from the Arab Spring with a unique standing. In a region where elections are often rigged and civil strife is common, Tunisia has held credible, peaceful and fair elections four times since 2011 — twice each for the presidency and the parliament.
Last month’s presidential elections came less than two months after the death of 92-year-old President Beji Caid Essebsi, who was elected in 2014. More than two dozen candidates competed to succeed him.
Even as political transparency, free elections and freedom of the press have taken root, vestiges of the former regime remain. Many politicians in government positions, including Essebsi, held significant posts during Ben Ali’s rule. The police, notoriously used by Ben Ali to monitor the population, are still a powerful security apparatus with little oversight, analysts say. A group of wealthy loyalist families, widely seen as corrupt, that controlled the economy under Ben Ali continues to do so today.
Some repressive laws from the Ben Ali era have remained on the books, including the infamous “Law 52” that sentences anyone consuming any quantity of narcotics — including one marijuana joint — to a mandatory year in prison.
Tunisia’s Truth and Dignity Commission, a body that has documented vast human rights violations and corruption under Ben Ali, has been obstructed by ex-regime figures in the government, police and business community, activists and human rights groups say. That has allowed alleged perpetrators to go unpunished.
“If we take an expansive perspective of democracy that includes individual rights and freedoms and economic equality,” said Amri, “the endurance of the repressive state apparatus, of economic inequalities and corruption are creating bigger gaps in Tunisian society today.”
Most Tunisians have not forgotten the Ben Ali regime’s human rights abuses, corruption and marginalization of Tunisians outside of the coastal elite.
Among many Tunisians, the nostalgia for Ben Ali’s regime “is counterbalanced by a greater sense that Ben Ali was a corrupt leader who oversaw the torture and imprisonment of his people and got away easy by living out his life in exile in Saudi Arabia,” said Sarah Yerkes, a Middle East expert at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
But for many others, it is the disappointed expectations of the revolution that figure most prominently.
Unemployment stands at 15 percent; it’s 36 percent for Tunisians under 24 years of age. Living standards have fallen amid cuts in government spending ordered by the International Monetary Fund. Across the country, protests have erupted over the anemic economy and lack of opportunities.
Under Ben Ali, Islamist groups were banned. After the revolution, new freedoms flourished, allowing both moderate and radical Islamists to gain influence. Since 2015, the Islamic State has claimed responsibility for several high-profile attacks in Tunisia.
“We’re facing a lot of things that we didn’t face before the revolution,” said Leila Benbelga, the 20-something owner of a translation services company. “So when that happens, you say, ‘Okay, we didn’t like Ben Ali back then. And we wanted a revolution. But we didn’t expect any of this.’ We needed to see a better outcome.”
Sassi, the photo shop employee, agreed. Under Ben Ali, he said he received a government pension of 350 Tunisian dinars, or roughly $122 a month. Today, he gets 250 dinars, or $87.50.
“Ben Ali never touched the middle class,” said Sassi. “We were doing well under him. Now, even within families we are divided.”