Donald Trump returns to domestic squabbles on India trip

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U.S. President Donald Trump and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi shake hands before their meeting at Hyderabad House in New Delhi, India, Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2020. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Returning to domestic squabbles, Donald Trump lashed out at Supreme Court justices and his Democratic rivals on Tuesday during the second and last day of a whirlwind trip to India. Addressing reporters and business leaders, Trump warned of economic calamity if he loses his reelection race in November and repeated his call for two liberal-leaning Supreme Court justices to recuse themselves from cases involving him or his administration.

The Republican president also said he had not been briefed on intelligence suggesting Russia is meddling in the 2020 election, either to bolster him or Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders.

“Nobody ever told me that,” he said at a news conference, later adding,“I want no help from any country and I haven’t been given help from any country,” despite Russia’s well-documented meddling in the 2016 election to help him win.

Trump had joked at the beginning of the news conference that he would be “very, very conservative” in his answers to avoid distracting from his “fantastic two days” in India.

But then he quickly launched into attacks, including criticizing Supreme Court Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor, the latter for a blistering dissent that was critical of the Trump administration’s rush to claim emergencies when asking the Supreme Court to review cases.

“I just don’t know how they can not recuse themselves for anything Trump or Trump-related,” he said.

He added: “What Justice Sotomayor said yesterday was highly inappropriate. She’s trying to shame people with perhaps a different view into voting her way.” He said Ginsburg had gone “wild” against him during the 2016 campaign.

Trump spent much of Tuesday meeting with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and emerged saying he was optimistic about the prospects of inking a trade deal with India despite moves by both sides that created doubt about the ability to reach an agreement. Trump had made clear before the trip that hammering out a long-sought trade deal with India was unlikely during the two-day trip.

“Our teams have made tremendous progress on a comprehensive trade agreement and I’m optimistic we can reach a deal that will be of great importance to both countries,” Trump told reporters on the second and final day of his whirlwind, 36-hour, first official visit to India.He said at the news conference that, if a deal happens, it will likely be “towards the end of the year.”

The day began with an elaborate welcome ceremony in front of the grand Rashtrapati Bhavan Presidential Palace in New Delhi, continuing the pomp and pageantry the Indian government had lavished on Trump a day earlier.

Cannons fired as the president’s armored car, nicknamed “The Beast,” rolled through the palace gates accompanied by a parade of red-uniformed guards on horseback. The ceremony included hundreds of military officials, marching with instruments and swords, as well as an official greeting by India’s president and Modi.

Elsewhere in Indian capital, new violence erupted a day after at least seven people, including a police officer, were killed and nearly 100 others reportedly injured in clashes between hundreds of supporters and opponents of a new Indian citizenship law that provides fast-track naturalization for some foreign-born religious minorities but not Muslims, police said.

Protesters in several areas of northeast Delhi defied orders prohibiting the assembly of more than five people and threw stones and set some shops and vehicles on fire, a police officer said. Some homes were attacked with rocks.

Trump declined to comment on the law. “I don’t want to discuss that. I want to leave that to India,” he said. But he added that he privately had raised the issue of religious freedom with Modi and that Modi was “incredible” on the subject.

“He wants people to have religious freedom,” said Trump, who proposed temporarily barring all Muslims from entering the U.S. during his 2016 campaign and successfully implemented a travel ban that targets travelers from certain majority-Muslim countries.

And he continued to shower praise on Modi for the opulent and colorful welcome spread across three cities.

“The last two days were amazing in every sense of the word,” Trump said as he and Modi briefly addressed reporters after the first of their two meetings. Trump described the trip as “unforgettable,” “extraordinary” and an expression of “love.”

Modi said he was thankful Trump visited despite the presidential campaign underway in the United States. Trump has said the short India visit was partly due to presidential politics.

“I know that it’s busy time for you in the United States,” Modi told Trump. “But despite that, you accepted an invitation to visit India. I welcome you and your delegation.”

Modi said talks to ease trade tensions between their countries would continue. Those tensions escalated after Trump imposed tariffs on Indian steel and aluminium exports. India responded with higher penalties on U.S. agricultural goods and restrictions on medical devices, prompting the U.S. to strip India of its decades-old trade preferences.

At a meeting with Indian business leaders, the Republican president abandoned the tradition of avoiding domestic political squabbles while traveling abroad and criticized the Democratic candidates who are competing for the right to challenge his reelection bid in November, warning of economic turmoil if one of them defeats him.

He said he believes the U.S. economy is being held back by the upcoming U.S. election and claimed that, “if the wrong person gets elected, everything will come to a halt” and unemployment will soar.

Trump also addressed the coronavirus outbreak, which has begun to spook the U.S. stock market. Trump said the administration has asked Congress for an additional $2.5 billion to help get the U.S. ready “just in case something should happen” and to assist countries he says are ill-equipped to deal with the virus’ spread on their own.

During Monday’s protests, police fired tear gas and used canes as they charged at the protesters in several districts of New Delhi. The rival groups hurled rocks at each other and set some houses, shops, vehicles and a gasoline pump on fire. Police closed access to two metro stations in the area.

Trump, however, was far away from the violence. And everywhere he went, he encountered streets lined with cheering Indian citizens, troops of traditional dancers and roadways lined with posters and billboards celebrating his visit. Trump and first lady Melania Trump also went on a stunning sunset tour of the famed Taj Mahal.

On Tuesday, the couple participated in a wreath-laying ceremony at Raj Ghat, a memorial to Mohandas Gandhi in New Delhi at the site where the famed Indian independence leader was cremated after his assassination in January 1948.

Trump had visited Gandhi’s home on Monday.

Republished with the Permission of the Associated Press.