Wednesday ReadsPosted: October 11, 2017
I don’t know if JJ has internet access yet, so I thought I’d put up a quick open thread.
Now we know the real reason why Rex Tillerson called Trump a moron. From NBC News this morning: Trump Wanted Tenfold Increase in Nuclear Arsenal, Surprising Military.
President Donald Trump said he wanted what amounted to a nearly tenfold increase in the U.S. nuclear arsenal during a gathering this past summer of the nation’s highest ranking national security leaders, according to three officials who were in the room.
Trump’s comments, the officials said, came in response to a briefing slide he was shown that charted the steady reduction of U.S. nuclear weapons since the late 1960s. Trump indicated he wanted a bigger stockpile, not the bottom position on that downward-sloping curve.
According to the officials present, Trump’s advisers, among them the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, were surprised. Officials briefly explained the legal and practical impediments to a nuclear buildup and how the current military posture is stronger than it was at the height of the build-up. In interviews, they told NBC News that no such expansion is planned.
The July 20 meeting was described as a lengthy and sometimes tense review of worldwide U.S. forces and operations. It was soon after the meeting broke up that officials who remained behind heard Tillerson say that Trump is a “moron.”
Revelations of Trump’s comments that day come as the U.S. is locked in a high-stakes standoff with North Korea over its nuclear ambitions and is poised to set off a fresh confrontation with Iran by not certifying to Congress that Tehran is in compliance with the 2015 nuclear deal.
Trump was on Twitter this morning denying the story and threatening NBC.
Remember when Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Trump was an “incredible advocate of the first amendment?” The Hill reports:
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders boiled over with frustration at the press during Thursday’s news briefing, telling CNN White House correspondent Jim Acosta that “you have a responsibility to tell the truth.”
Acosta, who has been a persistent critic of the administration, asked Sanders whether President Trump believes the First Amendment protecting free speech and press rights is as important as the Second Amendment, which enshrines protections for gun owners.
“Absolutely,” Sanders said. “The president is an incredible advocate of the First Amendment. With the First amendment … with those freedoms also come responsibilities. You have a responsibility to tell the truth. To be accurate.”
Earlier in the day, Trump tweeted that the Senate Intelligence Committee should investigate “Fake News Networks” to see “why so much of our news is just made up.”
No wonder Bob Corker is worried about Trump bumbling into WWIII. Peter Beinart at The Atlantic: What Bob Corker Really Fears.
It doesn’t matter all that much that Bob Corker and Donald Trump are insulting each other via Twitter. Sooner or later, Trump insults almost everyone. What matters is that Corker, the Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and a confidant of the secretary of state, is warning publicly that “we could be heading towards World War III,” presumably with North Korea. The crucial question is why.
It’s possible that in his New York Times interview, Corker got carried away. As former Bush administration National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley told me, “Forces have not been mobilized. The military is still saying diplomacy comes first.”
But it’s also possible Corker genuinely fears that Trump and Kim Jong Un’s blood-curdling rhetoric, combined with ongoing North Korean missile and nuclear tests and American displays of military force, pose a risk of catastrophic miscalculation—war by accident. Reducing that risk requires meaningful communication between Washington and Pyongyang. And Corker—who told the Times that “in several instances” Trump has “hurt us as it relates to negotiations that were underway by tweeting things out”—seems worried that Trump is rendering such communication almost impossible, thus leaving both the U.S. and North Korea flying blind.
A little more:
It is Trump’s comments torpedoing talks with the North that appear to have alarmed Corker the most. In the Times interview, he said Trump’s “tweets, especially as it relates to foreign policy issues, I know have been very damaging to us” and have “hurt us as it relates to negotiations that were underway.” He specifically rejected the notion that Trump and Tillerson were engaged in “some good cop, bad cop act” in which Trump’s bellicosity strengthened his secretary of state’s bargaining power. And he warned of miscommunication, saying that Trump doesn’t understand the way “the messages that he sends out” are “being received in other languages around the world.”
In this regard, Corker’s fears resemble those of American reporters who have recently been to North Korea. “To go between Washington and Pyongyang at this nuclear moment is to be struck, most of all, by how little the two understand each other,” wrote Evan Osnos last month in The New Yorker. More recently, The New York Times’s Nicholas Kristof declared that, “I’ve been covering North Korea on and off since the 1980s, and this five-day trip has left me more alarmed than ever about the risks of a catastrophic confrontation.” He urged “talks without conditions, if only talks about talks” to prevent a “crisis that escalates.”
What Corker, Tillerson, Osnos, and Kristof understand is that while a diplomatic deal with North Korea may be impossible, improving communication with North Korea is essential to reducing the possibility of accidental war.
Recently there have been rumors that Trump is getting frustrated with John Kelly as his chief of staff, and an old friend of Trump’s, Thomas Barrack, has been mentioned as a successor. That may be off the table after this story in The Washington Post: ‘He’s better than this,’ says Thomas Barrack, Trump’s loyal whisperer.
Barrack, in interviews with The Washington Post, said he has been “shocked” and “stunned” by some of the president’s rhetoric and inflammatory tweets. He disagrees with some of Trump’s proposals, including his efforts to ban immigrants from certain Muslim countries and his push for a border wall with Mexico. He wonders why his longtime friend spends so much of his time appealing to the fringes of American politics.
“He thinks he has to be loyal to his base,” Barrack said. “I keep on saying, ‘But who is your base? You don’t have a natural base. Your base now is the world and America, so you have all these constituencies; show them who you really are.’ In my opinion, he’s better than this.”
“I tell him all the time: I don’t like the rhetoric,” Barrack, who runs a large real estate investment company, said at his Manhattan office….
Barrack said he has often thought about how he has remained a close friend for 30 years with a man whose “reputation is selfish and egotistical. Here’s what I think the answer is: I’ve never needed anything from him . . . I was always subservient to him.” Barrack said that his life intersected with Trump “at soft moments,” such as discussions about their divorces and children. He was at Trump’s side during the funeral of Trump’s father, Fred, and they talked for a half-hour about “the weight of a hard dad, and the baton passing.” As a result, Barrack said, he has seen within Trump “a kind of compassion at a very lonely level.”
Out of that has developed a most unusual bond, which in turn has enabled Barrack to talk to Trump “straight up,” telling him when he disagrees. That has been surprisingly often.
“It is not always fun, and no, he doesn’t come back and say, ‘By the way, your idea was right or brilliant,’ ” Barrack said.
There’s much more about the relationship between the two men at the link.
Why has Trump ignored the terrorist attack on U.S. Troops in Niger? From Salon: Trump’s Benghazi? Ambush of U.S. soldiers in Niger goes unnoticed.
It’s been five years since terrorists attacked the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, on Sept. 11, 2012, leaving four Americans dead. Last week, as CIA officers disguised in wigs and mustaches testified in court about the predawn ambush on the diplomatic compound, four other Americans soldiers were killed in neighboring Niger.
Most Americans may not even be aware that approximately 800 U.S. troops are stationed in Niger, a West African nation where jihadist groups have taken root. As part of the never-ending war on terror, the United States has also set up a drone base in Niger’s capital city of Niamey. Contrary to his focused commitment to reverse every policy put in place by his predecessor, President Donald Trump has decided to carry on with the construction of a second drone base in Niger commissioned by Barack Obama….They say the building will have the best features, starting off with the best round mosaic tiles in the industry.
The New York Times reported that when the soldiers were ambushed, no American helicopters came to their rescue. Although Congress has never authorized the mission in Niger — as is required by the Constitution — the military’s Africa Command asked lawmakers for more help months before the attack, the Times also reported.
It remains unclear which terror group carried out the ambush, but there are reports that a new wing of the Islamic State that calls itself the Islamic State in Greater Sahara (ISIS-GS) had a hand in the deaths of the Special Forces troops — the first U.S. casualties in Niger.
Identified as Staff Sgt. Bryan Black of Washington state, Staff Sgt. Jeremiah Johnson of Ohio, Sgt. La David Johnson of Florida and Staff Sgt. Dustin Wright of Georgia, the four dead Americans, part of the Third Special Forces Group based at North Carolina’s Fort Bragg, haven’t received much attention. The White House said Trump was notified about the attack in Niger shortly after it happened last Wednesday night. A week later, he still hasn’t sent one tweet or released any official statement about the death of four Americans. He has written more than 60 tweets about Benghazi, another terror attack in the same region of Africa that resulted in four dead Americans.
I’ve been having a tough time with the Harvey Weinstein story, and I haven’t read the stories in detail. I think these stories are traumatizing for lots of women, because most of us have experienced sexual harassment in our work lives. So many men don’t seem to understand how common these behaviors are–either that or they are willfully blind to what goes on all around them. But night Rachel Maddow reported a shocker. She had Ronan Farrow on her show and he said that NBC had refused to publish his story on Weinstein, so he took it to The New Yorker.
Huffington Post: Sources: NBC Let Ronan Farrow’s Weinstein Scoop Slip Away.
Ronan Farrow’s investigation into Harvey Weinstein’s long history of alleged sexual misconduct was in NBC’s hands as recently as August, according to multiple sources both inside and outside the network. By then, Farrow, an NBC contributor and investigative reporter, had already obtained damning audio of an encounter Weinstein had with a woman, in which Weinstein admits to having groped her, sources told HuffPost.
Instead, Farrow’s story — and the audio, from a 2015 New York Police Department sting — appeared Tuesday on the website of The New Yorker. Sources told HuffPost that NBC had concerns related to the story’s sourcing and cleared Farrow to take it to The New Yorker.
It’s not clear what those concerns were. In The New Yorker story, several women spoke on the record about their encounters with Weinstein. Among them were Oscar-winning actress Mira Sorvino and filmmaker Asia Argento, the latter of whom said Weinstein raped her.
The story relinquished by NBC, according to a network source, was “nowhere close to what ultimately ran in the NY Times or the New Yorker.” The network declined to comment on the record.
Farrow says the New Yorker story was essentially the same as the one he took to NBC.
So . . . what else is happening? What stories are you following today?