Feb 15, 2019

Middle Eastern autocrats buoyed by Trump's backing

Dave Lawler, author of World

Egypt's parliament today essentially cleared the way for President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi to rule through 2034. Constitutional changes that "would demolish ... safeguards [Sisi] introduced in 2014" are now on track for approval "within three months," per the NY Times.

MBS (L) and Sisi in Cairo. Photo: Bandar Algaloud/Saudi Kingdom Council/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images
  • Flashback: Sisi told CNBC before last year's sham election that he supported the system of "two four-year terms" and would "not interfere" with the constitution.
  • Between the lines: "Washington’s unquestioning embrace of Mr. el-Sisi, whom President Trump has called a 'great guy,' emboldened the Egyptian leader to act with little fear of American pushback," the Times notes.

Meanwhile: Members of Congress have taken a series of steps since the murder of Jamal Khashoggi to pile pressure on the Saudis, and in particular Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Trump has rebuffed them at every turn.

  • The latest: The Trump administration missed a recent deadline to assign responsibility for Khashoggi's death and potentially trigger sanctions. It ignored a deadline to certify the Saudis are limiting civilian casualties in Yemen. The House just passed a bill to cut off military assistance to the Saudis in that war — and the White House has threatened a veto if it passes the Senate.
  • Between the lines: The administration has been steadfast in backing the Saudis. But the votes in Congress show the winds outside the White House are blowing in a different direction.

Go deeper: Despite Khashoggi, Saudi Arabia unlikely to lose U.S. investments

Go deeper

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Kremlin says Trump discussed inviting Russia to G7 in call with Putin

President Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin at their bilateral meeting at the G20 Osaka Summit 2019, in Osaka, Japan in 2019. Photo: Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images

President Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke on Monday about Trump's plans to expand September's G7 meeting in Washington to include Russia, according to the Russian government's readout of the call.

The big picture: The phone call between the two leaders, which the Kremlin says was initiated by Trump, comes amid six consecutive days of mass unrest in the U.S. over police brutality and racial inequality. The White House confirmed the call took place and said a readout was forthcoming.

Facebook employees stage "virtual walkout"

Screenshot of an image some Facebook employees are adding to their internal profiles, with or without the hashtag, to protest company policy.

"Dozens" of Facebook employees staged a "virtual walkout" Monday over the company's decision not to take action against President Trump's provocative messages in the face of nationwide protests against police violence, the New York Times reports.

Why it matters: While Twitter added fact-check labels and hid the president's most inflammatory tweet — "when the looting starts, the shooting starts" — Facebook has said Trump's statements do not violate its policies, and that the platform aims to promote free speech.

Updated 57 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Trump lashes out at governors, urges them to "dominate" protesters

President Trump berated the nation’s governors in a video teleconference call Monday, calling many of them "weak" and demanding tougher crackdowns on the protests that erupted throughout the country following the killing of George Floyd, according to multiple reports.

The big picture: Trump blamed violence on the "the radical left" and told the governors, who were joined by law enforcement and national security officials, that they have to "dominate" protesters and "arrest people" in order to bring an end to the unrest.