City beneath city: RT films massive network of militant-built tunnels under Syria’s Douma (VIDEO)

The Syrian military has been combing through a vast network of tunnels built by jihadists in Douma, not far from Damascus. RT Arabic filmed vehicles easily fitting in the passages and asked locals how the militants treated them.

Located 15 meters deep under the surface, the massive tunnels are supported by metal pillars and are paneled with some sort of liner plates, creating a subway look. They stretch for kilometers under the town, located in the area of eastern Ghouta, forming an entire city beneath the city.

To complete the set, the tunnels are equipped with electricity, parking lots and workshops. They are so big that a minivan could easily move through them, as seen in the footage. The military discovered that the tunnels were specifically used to stockpile machinery and vehicles.

The militants forced the locals to build the tunnels for them by starving the people, who refused to work, Douma residents told RT. “They starved us, they harassed us,” one man said, adding that the extremists also made captives and civilians work on the tunnels. “They [the militants] would not feed those, who refused to work,” he said.

READ MORE: Moscow slams western media ‘disinformation campaign’ about OPCW experts being denied entry to Douma

The Russian military said they found a chemical laboratory operated by militants in central Douma soon after the city’s liberation. The facility, located in the basement of a residential building, had some sophisticated equipment, including an industrial chemical reactor, which the military said was used by the jihadists to create toxic agents. Vast stockpiles of various chemicals were also found in the laboratory.

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Courtesy: RT

Iran questions legitimacy of fresh nuclear deal demand

Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani has rejected the US-French call for a new nuclear deal. Rouhani insisted that by signing the Joint Comprehensive Plan for Action in 2015, Iran demonstrated its goodwill to the world.

Iranian president Hassan Rouhani (picture-alliance/AP Photo/E. Noroozi)

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani challenged Wednesday the demands for a fresh nuclear deal, saying Tehran’s endorsement of the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan for Action proved to the world that his country “does not seek to acquire weapons of mass destruction.”

His statement came a day after US President Donald Trump and French leader Emmanuel Macron called for a “new deal” with Tehran.

“Together with a leader of a European country, they say: ‘We want to decide on an agreement reached by seven parties.’ What for? With what right?” Rouhani said in a speech.

The Iranian president accused Trump of lacking political experience: “You are just a businessman… you have no experience in politics or law or international agreements. How can you pass judgements on international affairs?” he said.

Read more:

Trump and Macron highlight US-French alliance with public display of affection

Can Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron save the Iran nuclear deal?

Watch video13:17

Bromance: Trump hosts Macron

Beyond the nuclear program

President Trump has fiercely criticized the landmark nuclear deal, which was signed by his predecessor President Barack Obama. Apart from the US and Iran, the UK, Russia, France, China and Germany are also part of the accord.

Trump believes the deal favors Iran and he wants to pull out. But during his visit to the US, Macron said he spoke to the US president about a “new deal” through which the US and Europe would tackle Trump’s concerns about Iran’s nuclear program and beyond.

Speaking at a press conference with Trump, the French president suggested that a new accord could also take into account Iran’s ballistic missile program, and stop Tehran from its activities in Syria and Yemen.

Read more: The West tends to ‘exaggerate’ Iran’s role in the Syrian conflict

Watch video01:56

Can the Iran nuclear deal be saved?

EU, Russia not on board

Macron, however, does not have the European Union’s backing for his proposal: “But there is one deal existing, it is working and it needs to be preserved,” EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said on the sidelines of a Syria conference in Burssels.

“It (the deal) has been preventing Iran from developing a nuclear weapon and commits Iran not to develop a nuclear weapon, without a limit,” Mogherini added.

Read more: Iran and North Korea: The return of John Bolton’s ‘axis of evil’?

Russia also rejected the Trump-Macron call: “We believe there is no alternative [to the 2015 agreement],” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.

“We are in favor of keeping the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action in its current form.”

“The question is: will it be possible to repeat such successful work in the current situation?” Peskov added.

Trump faces a May 12 deadline to make a final decision on sanctions.

Read more: Yemen truce brings lull in fighting – for now

Watch video01:16

Who is John Bolton?

shs/jm  (AFP, Reuters, dpa)

Each evening at 1830 UTC, DW’s editors send out a selection of the day’s hard news and quality feature journalism. You can sign up to receive it directly here.


Supreme Court’s conservative justices appear to back Trump’s authority for travel ban

Supreme Court hears oral arguments in travel ban case

Washington Post reporter Robert Barnes recaps oral arguments heard at the U.S. Supreme Court on President Trump’s controversial travel ban. 

 April 25 at 12:12 PM 
The conservative majority on the Supreme Court seemed to agree Wednesday that President Trump has the authority to ban travelers from certain majority-Muslim countries if he thinks that it is necessary to protect the country.

Lower courts have struck down each of the three iterations of the president’s travel-ban proclamation, the first of which was issued just a week after he took office in January 2017. But the conservative-leaning Supreme Court may be Trump’s best hope, and it gave the administration a boost by allowing the ban to go into effect in December while considering the challenges to it.

Solicitor General Noel Francisco told the justices that the president was well within his power to issue the proclamation and that it came after a thorough, worldwide review of the vetting procedures of countries.

The initiative applies only to a “tiny” number of countries, Francisco told the justices, and permits the vast majority of travelers to enter, including those from Muslim-majority countries.

Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. was most active in advancing the notion that the president is privy to national security information that courts are ill prepared to second-guess.

After being caught in Trump’s travel ban, a Syrian family finds a place to call home

As the nation marks President Trump’s 100 days, see how these Syrian refugees once caught in the travel ban are finding their new home. 

And Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, who always seems to occupy the pivotal position when conservative and liberal justices disagree, asked questions that mostly seemed supportive of the president’s authority.

The court is considering the third iteration of Trump’s travel ban, issued last fall, which barred various travelers from eight countries, six of them with Muslim majorities. They are Syria, Libya, Iran, Yemen, Chad, Somalia, North Korea and Venezuela. But restrictions on North Korea and Venezuela are not part of the challenge. Chad was removed from the list earlier this month.

The first questions for the government came from the two liberal justices, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor, who had noted their dissent from the high court’s earlier order to allow the ban to go into effect while challenges continued.

Sotomayor suggested that Congress had already taken steps to ensure national security by implementing a heightened vetting process for travelers from other countries.

“Where does the president get the authority to do more than Congress has already decided is adequate?” she asked.

Francisco pointed to the removal of Chad from the list as evidence that the review process was working as anticipated by encouraging more cooperation from countries to help screen out those who might intend to harm the United States.

The challengers are led by the state of Hawaii, which said its citizens and educational institutions have suffered because of the ban.

Former Obama administration acting solicitor general Neal K. Katyal, representing Hawaii, said Trump had taken an “iron wrecking ball” to the law Congress had implemented to govern immigration and keep the nation safe.

“No president in 100 years” has tried to issue such a broad-based immigration ban, Katyal said, adding that it was based on Trump’s animosity toward Muslims.

Conservative justices Samuel A. Alito Jr. and Neil M. Gorsuch, along with Roberts, peppered Katyal with questions on how the president had exceeded his lawful authority, given that Congress had granted the executive branch broad latitude to bar people’s entry into the United States.

Katyal argued that while the president had great power in immigration decisions, he could not effectively rewrite the law. The ban, he said, also violated the Constitution.

But some of the justices seemed skeptical that the ban did so. Alito noted that the law said if the president found the entry of “any aliens” to be detrimental to U.S. interests, he could bar them. How, he asked, did the travel ban not fall “squarely” within that power?

Alito also said the ban affected only 8 percent of the world’s Muslim population.

“If you look at what was done, it does not look at all like a Muslim ban,” Alito said.

Roberts posited a hypothetical: If the intelligence agencies told the president that 20 Syrian nationals planned to enter the United States with biological weapons, could the president ban the entry of Syrians to stop them? Katyal conceded that he could, because in that instance — unlike this one — there was a true emergency.

“We’re so far from that hypothetical, we’ll concede the hypothetical,” Katyal said.

Justice Elena Kagan similarly asked Francisco about a hypothetical anti-Semitic candidate for president who, once elected, put in place a proclamation blocking entry for citizens of Israel. She asked: Could the courts intervene in such a situation?

“This is an out-of-the-box kind of president in my hypothetical,” Kagan added, prompting laughter from the courtroom.

Francisco called it a “tough hypothetical” but said such a president could impose the measure if it came at the recommendation of staff who had identified a genuine national security problem. In contrast, Francisco said Trump’s travel ban is an “easy case” because it came after a multi-agency review and on the advice of Cabinet officials. He conceded that if Cabinet officials knew the president was ordering a ban based on religious animus, because he told them as much, they would be “duty bound” to resign or refuse to comply with his order to come up with a justification.

“Is everything that the president said effectively that?” Kagan asked. Trump had, on the campaign trail and afterward, suggested that he favored a Muslim ban, though the Justice Department argues that his travel ban is not that.

The justices are reviewing a unanimous ruling from a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit in San Francisco. That panel said the third version of the travel ban suffered from the deficiencies of the first two — that Trump had again exceeded his lawful authority and that he had not made a legally sufficient finding that entry of those blocked would be “detrimental to the interests of the United States.”

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit in Richmond struck down the ban on the constitutional question. The 9-to-4 decision took a deep dive into Trump’s statements and tweets since he became president and concluded that the proclamation, like the first two, was motivated not by national security concerns but by antipathy toward Muslims.

However, Judge William B. Traxler Jr. switched sides, saying the administration’s work between the second travel ban and the third cured its problems for him.

The third version must be judged on the basis of the “context of the investigation and analysis that the agencies acting on the president’s behalf have completed, the consultation that has taken place between the president and his advisers, and the logical conclusions and rationale for the proclamation that are documented therein,” Traxler wrote.

 Courtesy: The Washington Post

Donald Trump Warns of ‘Big Problems’ if Iran Reboots Nuclear Effort

President meets his French counterpart, who has urged U.S. to remain in the 2015 deal

French President Emmanuel Macron and U.S. President Donald Trump shake hands during a joint press conference in the East Room of the White House on Tuesday.
French President Emmanuel Macron and U.S. President Donald Trump shake hands during a joint press conference in the East Room of the White House on Tuesday. PHOTO: CHIP SOMODEVILLA/GETTY IMAGES

WASHINGTON—President Donald Trump said Iran would have “big problems” if the country restarts its nuclear program, as he hosted French President Emmanuel Macron, who has pushed for the U.S. to remain in the nuclear pact and Tuesday floated the idea of an expanded deal.

Sitting down with Mr. Macron at the White House, Mr. Trump called the landmark 2015 Iran nuclear “insane” and one that “should never have been made.” He warned: “If they restart it, they’re going to have big problems, bigger than they ever had before. And you can mark it down.”

At a later news conference, Mr. Trump again used tough rhetoric against Tehran. “If Iran threatens us in any way, they will pay a price like few countries have ever paid,” he said.

The Trump administration has vowed to pull out of the nuclear accord unless European allies agree to address administration concerns. Mr. Trump says the deal gives Iran too much in sanctions relief for too few curbs on its nuclear program.

Mr. Macron said he sees the deal differently, but he noted that the two leaders both want to stem nuclear proliferation.

“No matter the decision now that President Trump will take, I would like us to work as from now on a new deal,” Mr. Macron said at the news conference.

He said any deal would address “four pillars,” including what is addressed in the 2015 accord—Iran’s current ability to produce a nuclear weapon—as well as Iran’s future ability to produce a weapon, its ballistic missiles and Iran’s regional influence. Mr. Macron appeared to suggest he was seeking to build on the 2015 deal, which he said addresses Iran’s nuclear activities until 2025. He said he hoped to seek with Mr. Trump and other countries on an arrangement that would address concerns not contained in the original accord.

American and European officials have been discussing ways to address Mr. Trump’s concerns with the deal ahead of a May 12 deadline Mr. Trump set for the U.S. to see its worries addressed or leave.

Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif said in an interview broadcast Sunday on CBS that his country could respond to U.S. moves by resuming its nuclear program, which it halted for years to come as part of the agreement, in exchange for economic benefits.

“We have put a number of options for ourselves, and those options are ready,” Mr. Zarif said, “including options that would involve resuming at a much greater speed our nuclear activities.”

At their White House meeting, the two leaders both sought to project a close personal connection. Seated next to Mr. Macron, Mr. Trump said the pair have a “very special relationship,” and at one point brushed what he said was dandruff off Mr. Macron’s suit. Mr. Macron said they share an “excellent personal relationship.”

The two men held a joint news conference in the early afternoon, and in the evening, they were to participate in the first state dinner of the Trump presidency.

Related Video

What Is the 2015 Iran Nuclear Deal?

Iran reached a historic agreement with major world powers over its nuclear program in 2015. Under the deal, what did Iran give up and how is it benefiting? WSJ’s Niki Blasina explains.

Aside from Iran, other topics of the talks were expected to include trade. On trade, Mr. Trump has threatened to impose tariffs on European steel and aluminum, a situation Mr. Macron has likened to negotiating “with a gun to our heads.”

Earlier, at an arrival ceremony on the South Lawn of the White House, a 21-gun salute welcomed Messrs. Trump and Macron as the leaders inspected a gathering of the five branches of the U.S. military.

Saying Mr. Macron’s visit “comes at a critical time for our alliance,” Mr. Trump thanked the French president for joining the U.S. and the U.K. in the missile attacks this month in Syria. Mr. Trump said there was a “steadfast partnership” between the two nations.

Mr. Trump showered Mr. Macron with praise during brief remarks Tuesday morning, recalling his own visit to the “majestic county” of France for Bastille Day last year and referring to the “wonderful friendship” between the two countries. After Mr. Macron arrived in Washington on Monday, he and his wife toured George Washington’s estate at Mount Vernon with the Trumps.

Write to Michael C. Bender at and Stacy Meichtry at

Courtesy: WSJ

Mr. Comey’s Bad Week

His memos to himself about Trump don’t help his public claims.

Former FBI Director James Comey arrives to speak about his new book "A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership" at Barnes & Noble bookstore, April 18.
Former FBI Director James Comey arrives to speak about his new book “A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership” at Barnes & Noble bookstore, April 18. PHOTO: DREW ANGERER/GETTY IMAGES

The James Comey book tour is off to a rocky start. The idea was to sell the former FBI director as the Beltway Boy Scout who stood up to a corrupt Donald Trump. But the more we learn about the events Mr. Comey was involved in, the more his self-styled reputation for truth-telling comes into question.

On Thursday news broke that the Justice Department inspector general has referred Andrew McCabe for potential prosecution after finding that the former FBI deputy director lied to investigators about a press leak. This started a back and forth between Mr. Comey, who said he might be a witness for the prosecution, and Mr. McCabe, each accusing the other of not telling the truth.

Potomac Watch Podcast

Jim Comey’s Private Memos
00:00 / 26:33

The testimony doing the most damage to Mr. Comey’s reputation comes from Mr. Comey himself in the memos he wrote following meetings with President Trump. After months of stonewalling, Justice finally released them to Congress Thursday. Mr. Comey said he told Mr. Trump, “I don’t do sneaky things. I don’t leak. I don’t do weasel moves.” So let’s help readers make a weasel assessment.

• Leaking. Mr. Comey writes in his memos that he told Mr. Trump he didn’t leak. But he later did precisely that when he leaked the memos of his conversations with the President to his friend, Columbia law professor Daniel Richman, on the understanding that the professor would then leak the contents to the New York Times.

• Classification. The Wall Street Journal reported Friday that the inspector general is now conducting a review because at least two of the memos that Mr. Comey gave Mr. Richman contained classified information, contrary to Mr. Comey’s claim that it was all unclassified.

• Hillary Clinton’s role in the dossier. When Mr. Comey first briefed the President on the Steele dossier, he limited it to the sexual and salacious aspects. He also omitted a point Mr. Trump had a right to know: The dossier was compiled by Christopher Steele on behalf of the Democratic National Committee and the Hillary Clinton campaign through the research firm cutout, Fusion GPS.

An earlier House Intelligence Committee report notes that none of the FBI’s applications for a FISA warrant on former Trump campaign associate Carter Page mentioned the links to the DNC or Clinton campaign even though “the political origins of the Steele dossier were then known to senior DOJ and FBI officials.” Presumably that includes Mr. Comey, but why didn’t he tell that to Mr. Trump?

• Michael Flynn . Mr. Comey says Mr. Trump’s request that he “let this go” in reference to Mr. Flynn, his first National Security Adviser, is “evidence” of obstruction. But far from suggesting the President encouraged the FBI director to close his eyes to a crime, the memos make clear Mr. Trump was making the case Mr. Flynn hadn’t done anything wrong.

• Loyalty. In his new memoir, “A Higher Loyalty,” Mr. Comey likens Mr. Trump to a mob boss in his demand for loyalty. But the Comey memos make clear that Mr. Trump raised the issue of loyalty after complaining about leaks and wondering about Mr. McCabe, whom Mr. Trump had criticized during the campaign.

He also had reason to be suspicious: The fact that Mr. Trump had been briefed on the Steele dossier did soon leak—and became the news peg that CNN used to report that the dossier existed, after which BuzzFeed published the entire dossier. Just because Mr. Trump is paranoid doesn’t mean people aren’t out to get him.

We know from Mr. Comey himself that he wanted these memos leaked to the New York Times in hopes of having a special counsel appointed. In that he succeeded. But contrary to his claims, the memos suggest little reason for appointing a special counsel: Far from looking to obstruct an investigation into Russian collusion, Mr. Trump urges Mr. Comey to continue to investigate in hopes that this would show that the ugliest details in the Steele dossier weren’t true.

Mr. Trump’s motives were personal vindication because he feared his wife might believe the allegations, and Mr. Trump should not have made the request. But asking for an investigation to disprove the Steele dossier undermines the charge that Mr. Trump fired Mr. Comey to obstruct justice. We don’t know what other evidence special counsel Robert Mueller has, but hanging an obstruction rap on the Comey memos isn’t going to work.


What to Read Next…

G7 to study Russia’s ‘malign behavior’

The G7 is to more closely examine Russia’s attempts to sow “doubt and confusion” abroad, Britain’s foreign secretary has said. The announcement was made on the sidelines of a ministerial meeting in Canada.

Canada - G7 foreign ministers stand for a photo in Toronto (picture-alliance/dpa/XinHua/Zou Zheng)

The Group of Seven (G7) industrialized countries have agreed to set up a working group to study Russia’s “malign behavior,” British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said on Monday.

G7 foreign ministers made the agreement, which has come amid heightened tensions with Russia over Syria and Ukraine, during a two-day meeting in Canada ahead of a G7 leaders’ summit in June.

Read more: G7 not planning swift return for Russia

What Johnson said:

  • Johnson said: “What we decided yesterday was that we were going to set up a G7 group that would look at Russian malign behavior in all its manifestations – whether it’s cyber warfare, whether it’s disinformation, assassination attempts, whatever it happens to be and collectively try to call it out.”
  • “Russia is so unbelievably clever at kind of sowing doubt and confusion and spreading all this fake news and trying to muddy the waters.”
  • “We think there’s a role for the G7 in just trying to provide some clarity.”

Read more: G7 gives Africa the cold shoulder

Canada - G7 meeting in Toronto - German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas speaks to reporters (Imago/photothek/T. Trutschel)German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas told reporters: “There will be no political solution in Syria without Russia”

From G8 to G7: The current G7 countries decided in 2014 to expel Russia from what was at the time called the G8 after Russia annexed the Crimea peninsula from Ukraine. Current members include: The US, UK, Canada, France, Italy, Germany and Japan.

Russia’s transgressions: G7 countries have in recent years criticized Moscow’s foreign policy, including its support for separatist rebels in eastern Ukraine, its intervention in the Syrian civil war and its cyber attacks on the US and European countries.

US sends deputy: The US was represented at the G7 meeting in Canada by Deputy Secretary of State John J. Sullivan. Mike Pompeo, who has been nominated to be the next US Secretary of State, could not attend because he still needs to be confirmed by the US Senate.

Watch video00:36

G7 to Russia: Help end war in Syria

Iran factor: German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said on the sidelines of the meeting that Germany and France would push Trump to stay in the 2015 Iran nuclear deal in the next few weeks. The deal’s future is uncertain after US President Donald Trump set May 12 as a deadline to “fix the terrible flaws” of the agreement or reapply US sanctions on Iran.

What happens next? Government leaders including US President Donald Trump and German Chancellor Angela Merkel are set to meet for a two-day summit on June 8-9 in the eastern Canadian town of Charlevoix.

Read more: France’s Emmanuel Macron urges Donald Trump not to ditch Iran deal

Watch video01:17

G7 spotlight on Africa

amp/rt (AFP, Reuters, dpa, AP)

Each evening at 1830 UTC, DW’s editors send out a selection of the day’s hard news and quality feature journalism. You can sign up to receive it directly here.


Why Mike Pompeo’s Senate confirmation is historic — and not in a good way for Trump

The Fix

 April 23 at 1:22 PM 
Pompeo braces for key Senate vote

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will vote on April 23 on President Trump’s secretary of state nominee, CIA Director Mike Pompeo. 

Update: Minutes before the Senate’s foreign relations committee was set to vote, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) announced he has changed his mind and will support CIA Director Mike Pompeo to be President Trump’s secretary of state. That means, instead of making history for the opposition to his nomination, Pompeo is expected to get approval from the committee and be confirmed by the full Senate later this week.

Senator Rand Paul


President Trump believes that Iraq was a mistake, that regime change has destabilized the region, and that we must end our involvement with Afghanistan.

Senator Rand Paul


Having received assurances from President Trump and Director Pompeo that he agrees with the President on these important issues, I have decided to support his nomination to be our next Secretary of State.

It has been more than 70 years since a cabinet nominee had such a hard time making it out of the Senate while still being confirmed.

In at least one way, no secretary of state nominee has had as much trouble as CIA Director Mike Pompeo is having getting confirmed: By the end of the day Monday, he’s expected to become the first secretary of state nominee to fail to get voted out of a Senate committee. But by the end of the week, he could be the first Cabinet member since 1945 to get a vote in the full Senate anyway.

There are a couple of factors that play off each other, making life hard for Pompeo and President Trump, but they mainly boil down to one: partisanship.

Donald J. Trump


Hard to believe Obstructionists May vote against Mike Pompeo for Secretary of State. The Dems will not approve hundreds of good people, including the Ambassador to Germany. They are maxing out the time on approval process for all, never happened before. Need more Republicans!

On Monday afternoon, Pompeo’s committee approval vote is expected to fall short by one vote, as Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) will join all 10 Democrats on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to vote against Pompeo.

That’s the first time that has ever happened to a secretary of state, said Matt Green, a political-science professor at Catholic University. While Cabinet nominations like the attorney general tend to have partisan confirmation processes, secretaries of state have generally received broad bipartisan support in the Senate, Green said.

That doesn’t mean Trump has to go back to the drawing board. Senate GOP leaders are expected to bend procedural rules and bring Pompeo’s nomination up for a full vote in the Senate, anyway, later this week.

There, with more votes in play, Pompeo is expected to narrowly gain confirmation, thanks to two Democrats who will make up for Paul’s defection: Sens. Heidi Heitkamp (N.D.) and Joe Manchin III (W.Va.).

Senator Joe Manchin


After meeting with Mike Pompeo, discussing his foreign policy perspectives, & considering his distinguished time as CIA Director & his exemplary career in public service, I will vote to confirm Mike Pompeo to be our next Secretary of State.

Heitkamp and Manchin are running for reelection in states that Trump won by double digits in 2016, so they have an incentive to be seen as working with the president. (Even though, notably, neither voted for Trump’s premiere legislative accomplishment, the GOP tax overhaul, last year.)

Anyway. Back to our history lesson. If/when Pompeo does finally get confirmed by the Senate, he’ll have done it in such a roundabout way as to make history again.

Green and Senate records say Pompeo is on the cusp of becoming the first Cabinet nominee to fail a committee vote since 1945. That time, Franklin D. Roosevelt’s former vice president, Henry Wallace, couldn’t get enough support from conservative Southerners in his own party to get through a committee vote to be commerce secretary, but he did get through the full Senate.

There are a couple of similarities between now and then that are instructive to understanding Pompeo’s historic struggles:

Wallace was a Democrat who didn’t make it out of a Democratic-controlled committee, thanks to factions within the party, Green pointed out. Pompeo is a Republican who probably won’t make it out of a Republican-controlled committee for some of the same reasons. Paul represents a relatively small but vocal noninterventionist wing of the party.

It’s like deja vu for Trump, who was extremely frustrated in the summer when an effort to repeal Obamacare failed by one vote in a Republican-controlled Congress because the party was so divided.

Donald J. Trump


Can you believe that Mitch McConnell, who has screamed Repeal & Replace for 7 years, couldn’t get it done. Must Repeal & Replace ObamaCare!

Pompeo also doesn’t have the traditional résumé of a secretary of state. A congressman before he became CIA director, Pompeo doesn’t have the relationship with senators or diplomatic experience on which most secretaries of state have been able to rely, Green pointed out.

That has led to skepticism among Democrats in particular that Pompeo may be swayed by Trump’s controversial views on Russia and more nationalistic tendencies. At his confirmation hearing, he refused to explicitly say whether Trump asked him to get the FBI to back off an aspect of the Russia investigation.

It’s also one reason many of Trump’s nominees have struggled to get confirmed: They’re often novices in the job. The secretary of state Trump fired for Pompeo, Rex Tillerson, had no government experience. He got approved by a 13-vote margin, which would be big for Pompeo but is remarkably tight, compared with previous secretaries of state. Green calculated that going back to the Carter era, secretaries of state were approved by an average margin of 91 votes.

There’s a dynamic factoring into Pompeo’s nomination that is uniquely 2018: hyperpartisanship when it comes to the president. Democrats voting against Pompeo have their policy reasons, but it’s undeniable that the politics of sticking it to Trump are a winner among their base.

Opposing Trump is popular among Democrats because Trump is so extremely unpopular. His approval ratings have risen slightly, but he’s still one of the most unpopular presidents in history at this moment in his presidency.

All of that combined makes Trump’s life extremely difficult. His party has such a narrow majority in the Senate that losing one or two senators is all it takes to sink a key vote. He’s nominating people for the Cabinet who would be controversial even in calmer times. And the Senate is so partisan right now that even the historically bipartisan secretary of state position is getting caught up in it.

“Need more Republicans!” Trump tweeted in frustration on Monday morning about the makeup of the Senate. On that, he’s partially right. Pompeo’s Senate snub will make history, but let’s not forget it’s happening, in part thanks to a Republican senator.

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