Top Diplomat Implicates Trump In Explosive Impeachment Testimony

Gordon Sondland, the U.S ambassador to the European Union, departs after testifying before the House Intelligence Committee in the Longworth House Office Building on Capitol Hill November 20, 2019, in Washington, DC. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images/AFP CHIP SOMODEVILLA / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / AFP

 

A senior US diplomat directly implicated President Donald Trump Wednesday in a scheme to force Ukraine to probe a political rival, in bombshell testimony to a televised impeachment hearing.

Gordon Sondland, the US envoy to the European Union and a Trump ally, told lawmakers he followed Trump’s orders in seeking a “quid pro quo” deal for Ukraine to probe Democrat Joe Biden in exchange for a White House summit.

The US leader, Sondland said, directed him and other diplomats to work with his personal lawyer Giuliani, who he said mounted a pressure campaign on the government of Ukraine’s new president, Volodymyr Zelensky.

Giuliani’s demands, he said, were for Kiev to investigate Biden and to probe a conspiracy theory, espoused by Trump, that Ukraine helped Democrats against him in 2016.

“Mr Giuliani’s requests were a quid pro quo for arranging a White House visit for President Zelensky,” Sondland said.

Far from being a “rogue” operation outside normal US diplomatic channels, Sondland told the hearing top officials in the White House and State Department — including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo — were kept constantly informed.

“We followed the president’s orders,” in working with Giuliani, he testified before the House Intelligence Committee.

‘Witch Hunt must end NOW’

Democrats said Sondland’s testimony strongly supported allegations of abuse of power that would justify Trump’s impeachment.

“Today’s testimony is among the most significant evidence to date,” said Adam Schiff, the committee chairman leading the inquiry.

“It goes right to the heart of the issue of bribery as well as other potential high crimes or misdemeanors,” he said.

Tweeting as he headed to Texas on board Air Force One, Trump asserted on the contrary that Sondland had exonerated him, and demanded an immediate end to the impeachment probe.

“Impeachment Witch Hunt is now OVER!” Trump wrote. “This Witch Hunt must end NOW. So bad for our Country!”

Addressing reporters earlier at the White House, Trump reenacted segments of the day’s testimony to hammer home his point.

“‘What do you want from Ukraine?'” the president quoted Sondland as asking him, reading from large-print notes.

“Here is my answer: ‘I want nothing. I want nothing. I want no quid pro quo. Tell Zelensky to do the right thing,'” added the president.

“I would say that means it’s all over.”

Trump also sought to distance himself from Sondland — whose testimony was closely watched as a political appointee — saying he did “not know him very well.”

Top officials knew of the policy 

A hotel developer named ambassador after donating $1 million to Trump’s inauguration, Sondland was at the center of efforts to convince Zelensky to do the US bidding on the investigations in order to obtain a meeting with Trump, and also to unlock $391 million on aid put on hold in July.

Sondland told lawmakers a White House summit was explicitly tied to the investigations, meant to target Burisma, an Ukrainian energy company on which former vice president Biden’s son Hunter had held a paid board position.

But he said he figured out himself that the unexplained, White House-ordered hold on security aid was also tied to the investigations — although he never discussed the issue with Trump.

“In the absence of any credible explanation for the suspension of aid, I later came to believe that the resumption of security aid would not occur until there was a public statement from Ukraine committing to the investigations of the 2016 election and Burisma, as Mr Giuliani had demanded,” he said.

“I never heard from President Trump that aid was conditioned on an announcement” of the investigations, he added.

Pressed on how much he knew of Trump’s motivations and his discussions with other officials, Sondland frequently said he “could not remember” certain details.

But he stressed that all the top foreign affairs-related officials in the Trump administration were “in the loop” on his Ukraine activities.

He said Pompeo had directed the US pointman on Ukraine, Ambassador Kurt Volker, to also work with Giuliani.

Asked if Pompeo had been made aware that Trump wanted a Ukrainian investigation of Biden in exchange for a meeting and aid, Sondland replied: “Yes.”

Pompeo has repeatedly denounced the impeachment inquiry and has drawn fire for failing to defend career employees caught up in the scandal.

Sondland’s testimony firmed up the possibility the investigation could wrap up this week, with evidence then sent to the House Judiciary Committee to draw up articles of impeachment — formal charges against the president.

Trump’s impeachment by the Democratic-controlled House would place him on trial in the Senate, where a Republican majority could protect him from removal.

Trump Spokeswoman Says Obama’s Aides Left Mean Notes In White House

 

President Donald Trump’s spokeswoman claimed Tuesday that Barack Obama staffers left behind catty notes in White House offices for the incoming administration, telling them “you will fail.”

Press secretary Stephanie Grisham’s comment, first made to a CNN reporter, prompted swift denials from ex-Obama officials and a torrent of online mockery from Trump opponents.

“We came into the WH, I’ll tell you something. Every office was filled with Obama books and we had notes left behind that said ‘you will fail,’ ‘you aren’t going to make it,'” a tweet from CNN’s Abby Phillip quoted Grisham as saying.

“This is a complete and utter lie,” tweeted Obama administration lawyer Daniel Jacobson.

“Quite the opposite – we left them briefing books to try to help with the transition as much as possible,” he said.

Jon Wolfsthal, a former senior director at Obama’s National Security Council, called it “an outrageous lie…. Shameless and [email protected] should be fired.”

Faced by the heated denials — and snarky online gags about the “you will fail” prediction proving true — Grisham said her remark had been over-played.

“I don’t know why everyone is so sensitive!” she told AFP.

Grisham said she “certainly wasn’t implying every office had that issue” and recalled finding a “lovely note” for her in the White House East Wing.

“I just saw it as kind of a prank, and that it was something that always happened,” Grisham said.

A famous case of such humor was the reported practical joke by aides of president Bill Clinton who are said to have removed the “W” key from White House computers ahead of George W. Bush taking office.

Trump ‘Strongly Considers’ Testifying In His Impeachment Probe

(FILES) In this file photo taken on November 13, 2019 US President Donald Trump speaks during a meeting with Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and a group of Republican senators in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, DC. 
MANDEL NGAN / AFP

 

President Donald Trump said Monday he is “strongly” considering accepting a challenge from opposition Democrats to testify in his own impeachment investigation.

After the speaker of the lower house, Nancy Pelosi, upped the ante by suggesting that Trump come forward to tell the “truth,” the Republican president said he was keen.

Pelosi suggested “that I testify about the phoney Impeachment Witch Hunt. She also said I could do it in writing,” Trump tweeted.

“Even though I did nothing wrong, and don’t like giving credibility to this No Due Process Hoax, I like the idea & will, in order to get Congress focused again, strongly consider it!”

READ ALSO: Is America Ready For A Gay President? Buttigieg Surge Poses Question

It was unclear what kind of testimony the president had in mind.

His defence team would likely be highly resistant to the idea of him appearing before the House Intelligence Committee delving into the allegation that Trump pressured Ukraine to dig up dirt on a political rival to help his 2020 reelection chances.

During the lengthy probe led by special prosecutor Robert Mueller into accusations that Trump worked with Russians to boost his 2016 election chances, the president refused a face-to-face meeting and instead answered questions in written form.

Even so, his lawyers negotiated strict limits on what kind of questions could be put. In dozens of instances, Trump then said he could not “recall” the facts.

The Mueller report ultimately found that Russian agents sought to influence the US election but that there was no evidence of collusion with the Trump campaign.

Trump’s Frustration

Any testimony by Trump would potentially be risky and his tweet could be nothing more than a tactical move in the tussle with Pelosi’s Democrats.

However, the president’s testifying would not be unprecedented.

During his 1998 impeachment saga, president Bill Clinton, a Democrat, testified before a federal grand jury for four hours by video link. He then answered 81 written questions from the House Judiciary Committee.

Clinton was ultimately impeached in the House but acquited in the Senate.

Trump has become increasingly angry and frustrated over the impeachment process, which he insists is a “witch hunt.” Democrats say they are steadily revealing corruption and abuse of office at the heart of the real estate magnate’s presidency.

This week will see another stream of witnesses come before the Intelligence Committee, where they face questions from Democrats and Republicans.

Although the action is happening at the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue from the White House, Trump watches closely — so closely that on Friday he tweeted an attack on one witness as she testified.

Former Ukraine ambassador Marie Yovanovitch was telling lawmakers how she had been forced out of her post in oddly abrupt circumstances around the time of the alleged Trump scheme in the ex-Soviet republic.

In mid-testimony, Trump tweeted that “everywhere Marie Yovanovitch went turned bad.”

This caused widespread consternation in the hearing room and Yovanovitch called the president’s intervention “very intimidating.”

Trump and his supporters have argued that the allegations against him so far are not supported by first-hand witnesses. That will change, however, on Wednesday when the US ambassador to the European Union, Gordon Sondland, takes questions.

Sondland was in direct contact with Trump during the time when he was meeting with Ukrainian officials, allegedly as a key player in efforts by a small group of Trump confidants to push for the dirt on Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden.

The House, where Democrats hold a majority, is expected to impeach Trump, although Republicans will likely vote solidly against. A trial would then be scheduled in the Senate where the Republican majority is expected to toss out the case.

However, Trump, in this case, would still be only the third president ever impeached and the fight is likely to have unpredictable fallout in the 2020 election.

A poll released Monday confirmed that the country is split more or less down the middle on whether Trump should be removed from office.

Fifty-one percent of those asked said they think Trump should be tried and convicted in the US Senate, while another six percent favour impeachment but not removal, according to the ABC News-Ipsos poll.

AFP

North Korea ‘No Longer Interested’ In US Summits After Trump Tweets

This undated picture released from North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on November 15, 2019 shows North Korean leader Kim Jong Un visiting the Yangdok hot spring resort under construction in South Pyongan Province. KCNA / KCNA VIA KNS / AFP
This undated picture released from North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on November 15, 2019 shows North Korean leader Kim Jong Un visiting the Yangdok hot spring resort under construction in South Pyongan Province. KCNA / KCNA VIA KNS / AFP

 

North Korea is “no longer interested” in summits with the US unless Washington offers new concessions in their nuclear negotiations, Pyongyang said Monday, hours after Donald Trump hinted at the prospect.

“You should act quickly, get the deal done,” Trump tweeted Sunday, referring to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. “See you soon!”

Kim and Trump have met three times since June last year, but talks have been gridlocked since their Hanoi summit in February broke up in disagreement over sanctions relief, while October’s working-level talks rapidly broke down in Sweden.

Pyongyang has set Washington a deadline of the end of the year to come forward with a fresh offer, and foreign ministry advisor Kim Kye Gwan said the US was stalling while “pretending it has made progress”.

He interpreted Trump’s tweet as a signal for a new summit, he said in a statement carried by state news agency KCNA, but declared: “We are no longer interested in such talks that bring nothing to us.”

“We will no longer gift the US president with something he can boast of,” he went on, adding the North should be compensated for the “successes” that President Trump touted as his own achievements.

The implied criticism of Trump by name is a departure for Pyongyang, which has long limited its frustration to other administration officials.

Last month, adviser Kim declared: “Contrary to the political judgment and intention of President Trump, Washington political circles and DPRK policy makers of the US administration are hostile to the DPRK for no reason,” using the initials of North Korea’s official name.

In September he was fulsome in his praise for the US leader, saying that Trump was “different from his predecessors” and that he placed his hopes in “President Trump’s wise option and bold decision”.

But as the North’s deadline approaches it has issued a series of increasingly assertive statements — while also carrying out a number of weapons launches.

Washington should withdraw its “hostile policy” if it wants dialogue to continue, Kim said Monday, without elaborating further.

Trump’s tweet came after Washington and Seoul agreed to postpone annual joint aerial exercises to create space for diplomacy with Pyongyang, which condemns such drills as preparations for invasion.

 

AFP

Erdogan To Tell Trump: US Hasn’t Met Syria Ceasefire Obligations

 

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Tuesday he would tell US counterpart Donald Trump that Washington must do more to implement a ceasefire deal they agreed in order to halt Turkey’s offensive in Syria.

“I will tell him, with the use of documents, that the agreement we reached on the operation has not been fully implemented,” Erdogan told reporters as he prepared to leave for Washington.

Michael Bloomberg ‘Will Fail’ If He Joins White House Race – Trump

File photo dated March 5, 2018 shows Michael Bloomberg posing after being appointed Special Envoy for Climate Action UN by Secretary-General Antonio Guterres at the United Nations headquarters in New York. Bloomberg is preparing to enter the crowded race to become the Democratic nominee for the 2020 presidential election, US media reported November 7, 2019. KENA BETANCUR / AFP

 

US President Donald Trump mocked “little” billionaire and former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg on Friday, saying his potential opponent for the 2020 election would fail if he joined the race.

“He doesn’t have the magic to do well… Little Michael will fail,” Trump told reporters at the White House as he headed to the southern state of Georgia to rally support.

“There’s nobody I’d rather run against than Little Michael.”

Trump On Complete Rollback China Tariffs: ‘I Won’t Do It’

(FILES) In this file photo taken on October 25, 2019 US President Donald Trump speaks to the press before departing the White House in Washington, DC. 
NICHOLAS KAMM / AFP

 

President Donald Trump said Friday he will not remove all the existing tariffs imposed on Chinese goods as part of a deal to resolve the longstanding trade war.

“I won’t do it,” he told reporters at the White House when asked about a complete rollback of tariffs he imposed on almost $400 billion in Chinese goods to date.

Trump also said the initial deal will be signed “in our country,” possibly in Iowa.

Investors worldwide have been cheered in recent days by reports quoting sources in Washington and Beijing saying duties already imposed could be removed in a proportional way.

Trump’s Impeachment Probe To Go Public Next Week

(FILES) In this file photo taken on October 25, 2019, US President Donald Trump speaks to the press before departing the White House in Washington, DC. US President Donald Trump on November 6, 2019, said he had hosted successful talks in the White House with representatives of Egypt, 
NICHOLAS KAMM / AFP

 

The first open impeachment hearings into US President Donald Trump will begin next week, the congressman leading the probe said Wednesday, as it heads into a highly-anticipated public phase.

William Taylor, Washington’s top diplomat to Ukraine, and deputy assistant secretary of state George Kent will testify on Wednesday next week, House Intelligence Committee chairman Adam Schiff announced.

People will be able to see “the degree to which the president enlisted whole departments of government in the illicit aim of trying to get Ukraine to dig up dirt on a political opponent,” Schiff said.

READ ALSO: Trump Jr Releases Provocative Book Defending Father

In a closed-door deposition, Taylor bolstered the principal accusation against Trump — that the president abused his office by withholding military aid to blackmail Kiev into launching investigations that could help him politically.

Kent, who heads the European and Eurasian bureau at the State Department, expressed concerns about White House efforts to remove the then ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch.

Yovanovitch herself told investigators she was ousted because Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani and others wanted her out of the way as they conducted Ukraine policy outside traditional diplomatic channels. She is scheduled to appear next Friday.

Schiff has already begun releasing transcripts of private witness testimony but it is widely believed that the trio’s appearance at public hearings could have a more dramatic impact on the American public.

The Capitol Hill hearings will be broadcast live as lawmakers from both parties and trained staff question witnesses, many of whom the White House has sought to discredit.

Republican lawmakers have spent weeks accusing Democrats of holding “sham” secret hearings in the US Capitol basement and demanding a more open process.

Schiff said that moment in the fast-moving inquiry had arrived, and that Americans would be able to hear the accounts of potential abuse of power directly from witnesses who were caught up in the scandal.

The hearings “will be an opportunity for the American people to evaluate the witnesses for themselves, to make their own determinations about the credibility of the witnesses, but also learn first-hand about the facts of the president’s misconduct,” Schiff added.

‘Don’t Be Fooled’

An anonymous whistleblower filed a complaint in September highlighting potential abuse of power by the president when he telephoned Ukraine’s leader and asked him to investigate Trump’s potential 2020 election rival Joe Biden.

The complaint led Democrats to formally launch their impeachment inquiry, which has led to an avalanche of testimony from several witnesses, including current and former diplomats or administration officials who have largely corroborated the whistleblower’s account.

Even so, Trump has repeatedly attacked the complaint as “false” and “phony,” and has demanded the whistleblower’s identity be revealed.

Trump loyalists in Congress have been disparaging the impeachment process, as House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy sought to do after Schiff’s announcement.

“Don’t be fooled. Public hearings are not the same as FAIR hearings,” McCarthy tweeted.

The marquee appearance teed up for next week may well be Taylor’s.

The Vietnam war veteran and career diplomat, during his testimony to investigators last month, expressed grave concerns about the Trump administration’s “irregular, informal channel of US policy-making with respect to Ukraine.”

Trump is accused of conditioning $391 million in congressionally approved military aid to Ukraine on Kiev announcing that it would investigate a Ukrainian energy company with ties to Biden’s son.

Taylor said a US diplomat closely involved in the shadow diplomacy, Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland, told him that “‘everything’ was dependent on such an announcement, including security assistance.”

While several witnesses have already testified, the White House continues its efforts to stonewall the investigation.

On Tuesday Democrats summoned the highest-ranking White House official yet, Trump’s acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, to testify this week, although he is highly likely to refuse.

Mulvaney publicly stated last month that the decision to freeze aid was tied to the demand for investigations of Democrats. He later walked back those comments.

AFP

Trump’s Chief Of Staff Summoned To Testify In Impeachment Probe

In this file photo taken on October 17, 2019 White House Acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney speaks during a press briefing at the White House in Washington, DC. 
JIM WATSON / AFP

 

US House impeachment investigators on Tuesday summoned President Donald Trump’s acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney for a deposition, saying he has “substantial first-hand knowledge” of Trump’s efforts to pressure Ukraine.

Mulvaney is the latest administration official to be ordered to testify with the impeachment probe closing in around those nearest the president as it proceeds into a new public phase, in which transcripts of closed-door testimony are being released.

Mulvaney is the highest-ranking White House official to be summoned in the probe, although he is unlikely to comply given the White House’s opposition to administration officials cooperating with investigators.

The chairs of the three House committees leading the investigation wrote Mulvaney requesting he appear before the panels on Friday at 9:00 am.

“The investigation has revealed that you may have been directly involved in an effort orchestrated by President Trump, his personal agent, Rudolph Giuliani and others to withhold a coveted White House meeting and nearly $400 million in security assistance in order to pressure (Ukraine) to pursue investigations that would benefit President Trump’s personal political interests,” they wrote.

“Your failure or refusal to appear at the deposition, including at the direction or behest of the president, shall constitute further evidence of obstruction of the House’s impeachment inquiry and may be used as an adverse inference against you and the President.”

Last month, Mulvaney publicly stated that the decision to freeze aid was tied to the demand for investigations. He later walked back those comments.

Several current and former officials have defied House subpoenas or voluntary requests to testify.

John Eisenberg, a White House lawyer suspected of involvement in the Ukraine scandal, and Robert Blair, assistant to the president and senior advisor to Mulvaney, were among four officials who ignored calls to testify Monday.

The no-shows continued Tuesday when Wells Griffith, a White House adviser on energy, failed to appear.

Trump Jr Releases Provocative Book Defending Father

US President Donald Trump speaks during the 9th Shale Insight Conference at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center on October 23, 2019, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Brendan Smialowski / AFP

 

Donald Trump Jr. released a provocative book Tuesday that rails against his father’s opponents, as he admitted he had caught the political bug and may consider running for office in the future.

In “Triggered: How the Left Thrives on Hate and Wants to Silence US,” the president’s eldest son lets rip at the usual suspects: Hillary Clinton, special counsel Robert Mueller and the mainstream media.

“This is the book that the leftist elites don’t want you to read!” screams a blurb on Amazon.

“If you love America and red meat, and you don’t care for political correctness… you’ve come to the right place,” adds the inside cover.

Trump Jr dedicates the 300-page part memoir, part polemic to “deplorables” — a clear dig at Clinton who infamously used the term to describe Trump supporters during the 2016 presidential campaign.

The book, which details a heavy drinking youth, quickly rose to third on Amazon’s list of bestselling books after the president encouraged his 66.5 million Twitter followers to order a copy.

“A great new book that I highly recommend for ALL to read,” Trump tweeted on Monday.

Trump Jr regularly goes after the president’s enemies on social media and deploys predictably combative language in the book.

He calls Mueller, who investigated Russian meddling in the 2016 election, an “old over-the-hill puppet” and refers to “morons” in the House of Representatives and Senate.

Trump Jr, who manages the family’s business interests with his brother Eric in New York, also says he was “vaccinated” against socialism during visits to see his grandparents in the former Czechoslovakia.

He slams Bernie Sanders, a favorite of the left, and fellow Democratic 2020 candidate Joe Biden, who he says would be the “easiest candidate for my father to take apart.”

Trump Jr titles a chapter about the press “The Enemy of the People?”.

– Booze –
He also talks about partying too hard and giving up alcohol because he couldn’t drink in moderation.

“I began to realize that with my personality, drinking alcohol was a recipe for disaster,” he writes.

Trump Jr, 41, writes that he is addicted to Twitter and Facebook but accuses social networks of trying to censor him and other conservatives.

“This ‘shadow banning’ amounts to a complete suppression of freedom of speech. It can’t be allowed to continue,” he writes.

While Ivanka Trump was thought to be the most political of the president’s four adult children owing to her role as a White House advisor, Trump Jr hints that he may be tempted to run one day.

“Until my father announced that he was running for president, the idea of entering politics was about as remote as my becoming a vegan,” he writes.

While promoting the book on CBS Tuesday, Trump Jr. said he enjoyed campaigning.

“I’m interested in winning 2020 for my father right now. We’ll worry about everything else later, adding: “I don’t rule anything out.”

“Triggered” is published by Center Street, a known publisher of conservative books.

The president has published several books, most famously “Trump: The Art of the Deal” in 1987 which became a New York Times bestseller.

Trump Threatens To Withhold Emergency Aid From Fire-Hit California

US President Donald Trump talks to the media on the South Lawn upon his return to the White House by Marine One, in Washington, DC, November 3, 2019, after returning from a trip to New York. Olivier Douliery / AFP

 

US President Donald Trump threatened once again Sunday to withhold federal aid from California after its Democratic governor criticized his environmental policies.

Over the past two weeks, fires have ravaged nearly 100,000 acres (40,000 hectares) in the sprawling western state, where fighters on Sunday were battling the Maria Fire, about 60 miles northwest of Los Angeles.

Taking a line of attack he first used last year when fires killed 86 people in northern California, Trump blamed Governor Gavin Newsom, saying he had done “a terrible job of forest management.”

“Every year, as the fire’s rage & California burns, it is the same thing-and then he comes to the Federal Government for $$$ help. No more. Get your act together Governor,” he said on Twitter.

In an interview with the New York Times this week, Newsom pointed to Trump’s skeptical remarks about climate change and his roll-back of environmental protections.

“We’re waging war against the most destructive fires in our state’s history, and Trump is conducting a full-on assault against the antidote,” Newsom said.

The president has on several occasions openly questioned the scientific consensus that human activity causes changes in the climate, and notably the drought that has contributed to the California fires.

His administration decided on September 18 to revoke California’s authority to set its own standards for automobile pollution.

Newsom criticized the Republican government’s ambivalence in dealing with the disasters.

“Last night they approved seven additional emergency grants in record time,” Newsom told the Times. “But what’s so insidious, and what’s so remarkable is that he’s doing everything right to respond to these disasters and everything wrong to address what’s happening to cause them.”

Far from the political struggles, firefighters pressed their fight on Sunday against the Maria Fire, which is 30 percent contained, and the Kincade Fire north of San Francisco, now 74 percent contained.

Other fires, including some that threatened multi-million-dollar homes and iconic institutions in the Los Angeles area, have subsided, and residents who had evacuated are beginning to return home.

Trump Booed At UFC Bout In New York

US Secret Service agents watch the crowd during the Ultimate Fighting Championship at Madison Square Garden in New York on November 2, 2019. ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS / AFP

 

 

President Donald Trump was booed for the second time in a week at a sporting event Saturday as he watched mixed martial artists brawl in a cage in New York.

Trump sat around 15 feet away as UFC fighters delivered vicious kicks and punches to the face and body of their opponents, regularly drawing blood, at Madison Square Garden.

The president was seen clapping and at one point stood up for a better view as 20,000 pumped-up fans screamed and swore amid an electric atmosphere at the pay-per-view spectacle.

Jeers rang out as Trump, wearing a dark suit and red tie, punched his fist and waved at the crowd as he walked into the arena shortly before 10pm (0300GMT).

READ ALSO: Rescuers Retrieve Two Bodies From South Korea Chopper Crash

Many fans also cheered the US leader and there was no repeat of the loud chants of “lock him up” that greeted his appearance at a World Series baseball game last weekend.

“We’d be having more fun if he wasn’t here,” 50-year-old Anna Torres, who booed loudly with her boyfriend, told AFP.

Some spectators, however, were delighted to see the president, who has a fight of his own on his hands back in Washington with the Democrats’ bid to impeach him.

“It’s disrespectful to boo because he is our president,” said Nico Ferranti, 30, adding that he was unsurprised to see the president turn up.

“He’s from New York and he likes this kind of stuff. Back in the day he was on Wrestlemania,” said Ferranti, referring to Trump’s infamous scripted bodyslam of WWE President Vince McMahon in 2007.

Several dozen protesters carrying placards with slogans such as “Trump/Pence Out Now!” and “Headlock Him Up”, in reference to a UFC move, demonstrated outside the Manhattan venue.

Inside, the president, 73, looked concerned as a lightweight fighter delivered a brutal left kick to his rival’s face during the first bout on the main card.

The contact, which left the fighter sprawled on the ground for around 30 seconds, drew loud gasps from the capacity crowd as they watched the slow-motion replay of his face being squished.

Trump, who spent three hours at the fight night, could be seen clapping in support when the felled fighter finally got to his feet.

He also heards fans chant “USA” as an American brawler triumphed over his Bulgarian counterpart.

In the crowd, sporadic, alcohol-fueled fights broke out. At least two people were dragged away by security in just one section.

Down below, ring girls wearing just shorts and a bra walked around the periphery of the cage carrying boards above their heads displaying the number of the next round.

– ‘The Rock’ –

The president attended with sons Donald Jr and Eric, and several Republican leaders. All three Trumps retweeted a video showing spectators applauding the TV reality star turned politician.

“I cheered for him,” said Ilya Dibner, who had travelled from Philadelphia for the event.

“I may not agree with his policies but it’s cool he’s sitting out there with the people when he could be in a box.”

Trump has long been a fan of UFC, hosting events at his hotels, and is known to be close to its president Dana White, who has publicly backed POTUS.

He was due to stay overnight at Trump Tower on Fifth Avenue before leaving Sunday morning, a departure that coincides with New York’s marathon, adding to fears of traffic chaos in the Big Apple.

Trump’s visit came two days after he announced that he and his family would be changing their main residency from New York to Florida, where tax rates are lower.

Trump left shortly before 1:00 am after Jorge Masvidal defeated Nate Diaz for the “BMF” belt in the night’s final fight. Wrestler-turned actor Dwayne Johnson, known as “The Rock”, presented the belt.

AFP