As we all expected, Trump got played by Kim Jong Un in Singapore. Trump laid the flattery on thick and gave away the store while Kim gave nothing specific in return. According to The Guardian’s live blog, Trump already invited Kim to the White House. Here’s the statement they both signed:
President Donald J. Trump of the United States of America and Chairman Kim Jong Un of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) held a first, historic summit in Singapore on June 12, 2018.
President Trump and Chairman Kim Jong Un conducted a comprehensive, in-depth and sincere exchange of opinions on the issues related to the establishment of new US-DPRK relations and the building of a lasting and robust peace regime on the Korean Peninsula. President Trump committed to provide security guarantees to the DPRK, and Chairman Kim Jong Un reaffirmed his firm and unwavering commitment to complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.
Convinced that the establishment of new US-DPRK relations will contribute to the peace and prosperity of the Korean Peninsula and of the world, and recognizing that mutual confidence building can promote the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, President Trump and Chairman Kim Jong Un state the following:
2. The United States and DPRK will join their efforts to build a lasting and stable peace regime on the Korean Peninsula.
3. Reaffirming the April 27, 2018 Panmunjom Declaration, the DPRK commits to work toward complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.
4. The United States and the DPRK commit to recovering POW/MIA remains, including the immediate repatriation of those already identified.
Having acknowledged that the US-DPRK summit — the first in history — was an epochal event of great significance in overcoming decades of tensions and hostilities between the two countries and for the opening up of a new future, President Trump and Chairman Kim Jong Un commit to implement the stipulations in the joint statement fully and expeditiously. The United States and the DPRK commit to hold follow-on negotiations, led by the US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, and a relevant high-level DPRK official, at the earliest possible date, to implement the outcomes of the US-DPRK summit.
President Donald J. Trump of the United States of America and Chairman Kim Jong Un of the State Affairs Commission of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea have committed to cooperate for the development of new US-DPRK relations and for the promotion of peace, prosperity, and the security of the Korean Peninsula and of the world.
DONALD J. TRUMP
President of the United States of America
KIM JONG UN
Chairman of the State Affairs Commission of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea
June 12, 2018
You’ll notice there are no specifics–no definition of “denuclearization,” no mention of a timetable or inspections. Yet Trump has already promised to stop the joint U.S-South Korean military exercises in South Korea. The Washington Post reports:
Trump sounded triumphant following his meeting with Kim, expressing confidence that the North Korean leader was serious about abandoning his nuclear program and transforming his country from an isolated rogue regime into a respected member of the world community.
But Trump provided few specifics about what steps Kim would take to back up his promise to denuclearize his country and how the United States would verify that North Korea was keeping its pledge to get rid of its nuclear weapons, saying that would be worked out in future talks….
Kim, it seems, got at least one benefit up front.
Trump announced that he will order an end to regular “war games” that the United States conducts with ally South Korea, a reference to annual joint military exercises that are an irritant to North Korea.
Trump called the exercises “very provocative” and “inappropriate” in light of the optimistic opening he sees with North Korea. Ending the exercises would also save money, Trump said.
The United States has conducted such exercises for decades as a symbol of unity with Seoul and previously rejected North Korean complaints as illegitimate. Ending the games would be a significant political benefit for Kim, but Trump insisted he did not give up leverage.
South Korea and Japan can’t be very happy about that, but Trump has already said that he wants to pull all the troops out of South Korea.
President Trump wrapped up his improbable summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on Tuesday, vowing to “start a new history” with the nuclear-armed nation after signing a vaguely worded agreement that contained no concrete plan for disarmament.
Later, at a 65-minute news conference, Trump said he had agreed to North Korea’s longtime demands to stop joint U.S. military exercises with South Korea. The war games have been a mainstay of the U.S. alliance with Seoul for decades.
Trump said halting the drills would save “a lot of money” and he called them “provocative,” the complaint North Korea often made. He also said he hopes eventually to withdraw the 28,000 U.S. troops stationed in South Korea, although not as part of the current agreement with Kim….
He lavished praise on Kim as a “great talent,” denied concerns about treating him as an equal and painted a rosy picture of North Korea’s potential future — one laid out in a bizarre, propaganda-style video that the White House had prepared for the North Korean leader.
Asked why he trusted a ruler who had murdered family members and jailed thousands of political prisoners, Trump lauded Kim for taking over the regime at age 26, when his father died in 2011, and being “able to run it, and run it tough.”
While Trump repeatedly portrayed his two-page agreement with Kim as “comprehensive,” it contained little new except a commitment by both sides to continue diplomatic engagement, with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo leading the U.S. side in future talks.
There’s much more at the LA Times link. That is probably the most realistic article I’ve read about the summit.
More North Korea summit links to check out:
ABC News Exclusive: ‘I do trust him’: Trump opens up about Kim after historic summit.
Nicholas Kristof at The New York Times: Trump Was Outfoxed in Singapore.
Robert Kuttner at The American Prospect: The Lasting Damage Of Trump’s Disastrous Diplomacy.
This one is an argument for women world leaders. Yahoo News: ‘Alpha male’ handshakes as Trump, Kim meet, but body language shows some nerves.
In other news . . .
Kellyanne Conway’s husband George Conway has a piece at Lawfare in which he defends the Muller investigation: The Terrible Arguments Against the Constitutionality of the Mueller Investigation. Iran has Trump’s number alright.
In an early-morning tweet last week, President Trump took aim once again at Special Counsel Robert Mueller, but with a brand new argument: “The appointment of the Special Councel,” the president typed, “is totally UNCONSTITUTIONAL!” [….]
He didn’t explain what his argument was, or where he got it, but a good guess is that it came from some recent writings by a well-respected conservative legal scholar and co-founder of the Federalist Society, professor Steven Calabresi. Unfortunately for the president, these writings are no more correct than the spelling in his original tweet. And in light of the president’s apparent embrace of Calabresi’s conclusions, it is well worth taking a close look at Calabresi’s argument in support of those conclusions.
Calabresi has made his argument in a Wall Street Journal op-ed, on a Federalist Society teleconference and in a more detailed paper he styles as a “Legal Opinion.” He contends that all of Special Counsel Mueller’s work is unconstitutionally “null and void” because, in Calabresi’s view, Mueller’s appointment violates the Appointments Clause of the Constitution, Article II, Section 2, Clause 2.
The Appointments Clause distinguishes between two classes of executive-branch “officers”—principal officers and inferior officers—and specifies how each may be appointed. As a general rule, the clause says that “Officers of the United States”—principal officers—must be nominated by the president and appointed “with the Advice and Consent of the Senate.” At the same time, however, the Appointments Clause allows for a more convenient selection method for “inferior officers”: It goes on to add, “but the Congress may by law vest the Appointment of such inferior Officers, as they think proper, in the President alone, in the Courts of law, or in the Heads of Departments.”
Read the rest at Lawfare. I wonder how Kellyanne is dealing with her husbands differences of opinion with the Trump gang?
There has been some progress in the case against Trump’s violation of the emoluments clause of the Constitution. The New York Times: Judge in Emoluments Case Questions Defense of Trump’s Hotel Profits.
GREENBELT, Md. — A federal judge on Monday sharply criticized the Justice Department’s argument that President Trump’s financial interest in his company’s hotel in downtown Washington is constitutional, a fresh sign that the judge may soon rule against the president in a historic case that could head to the Supreme Court.
The plaintiffs in the lawsuit, the District of Columbia and the state of Maryland, charge that Mr. Trump’s profits from the hotel violate anti-corruption clauses of the Constitution that restrict government-bestowed financial benefits, or emoluments, to presidents beyond their official salary. They say the hotel is siphoning business from local convention centers and hotels.
The judge, Peter J. Messitte of the United States District Court in Maryland, promised to decide by the end of July whether to allow the plaintiffs to proceed to the next stage, in which they could demand financial records from the hotel or other evidence from the president. The case takes aim at whether Mr. Trump violated the Constitution’s emoluments clauses, which prevent a president from accepting government-bestowed benefits either at home or abroad. Until now, the issue of what constitutes an illegal emolument has never been litigated.
Attorneys general for the District of Columbia and Maryland say that by allowing foreign officials to patronize the five-star Trump International Hotel blocks from the White House, Mr. Trump is violating the Constitution’s ban on payments from foreign governments to federal officeholders. They also claim the president is violating a related clause that restricts compensation, other than his salary, from the federal government or from state governments.
Read the rest at the NYT link.
Finally, from Mother Jones: Sessions Makes It Vastly Harder for Victims of Domestic Abuse and Gang Violence to Receive Asylum.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions has just made it dramatically harder for victims of violence to receive asylum in the United States. Using his authority over the US immigration court system, Sessions decided Monday that people fleeing gangs and domestic violence will generally not qualify for asylum.
To receive asylum, applicants have to show they were persecuted because of characteristics such as their race, religion, or membership in a “particular social group.” Sessions wrote Monday that a gang’s victims have not necessarily “been targeted ‘on account of’ their membership” in a social group just because the gang harassed a certain geographical area. He expressed similar skepticism about domestic violence claims, overturning a 2014 case that established that “married women in Guatemala who are unable to leave their relationship” can count as a social group.
Sessions’ decision requires asylum seekers to show that their government has “condoned” the violence committed by non-governmental actors or demonstrated an “inability” to protect victims. “Generally, claims by aliens pertaining to domestic violence or gang violence perpetrated by non-governmental actors will not qualify for asylum,” he wrote. “While I do not decide that violence inflicted by non-governmental actors may never serve as the basis for an asylum or withholding application based on membership in a particular social group, in practice such claims are unlikely to satisfy the statutory grounds for proving group persecution.”
Michelle Brané, the director of the Migrant Rights and Justice program at the Women’s Refugee Commission, calls the decision a “devastating blow” to families who come to the United States seeking protection. “What this means in practical terms is that the United States is turning its back on our commitment to never again send people back to a country where their life is at risk,” she says in an email. “Women and children will die as a result of these policies.”
Now, what stories are you following today?
It’s hard to believe things could get any crazier, but I think maybe Trump is going to find ways to make it happen. It’s so exhausting, that I spent some time this morning looking at photos of baby animals. As always, it calmed me down somewhat. I hope these pictures will do the same for you.
The big news last night was the latest Devin Nunes insanity, but this morning that has been eclipsed by threats exchanged between Pence and North Korea. So for now, the planned summit between Trump and Kim John Un is cancelled. Politico reports:
President Donald Trump on Thursday canceled his summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un that was scheduled for next month, saying Kim’s “tremendous anger and open hostility” made the historic meeting untenable.
“Sadly, based on the tremendous anger and open hostility displayed in your most recent statement, I feel it is inappropriate, at this time, to have this long-planned meeting,” Trump wrote to Kim in a letter released by the White House.
In the letter, the U.S. leader thanked Kim for the “wonderful dialogue” that had developed in recent weeks between the two nations while leaving the door open to a rescheduled summit in the future.
“If you change your mind having to do with this most important summit, please do not hesitate to call me or write,” the president said. “The world, and North Korea in particular, has lost a great opportunity for lasting peace and great prosperity and wealth.”
I still do a double take every time I see the words “President Donald Trump.” This can’t be happening, but it is. You can read the letter at the Politico link.
North Korea had threatened to cancel the meeting because of remarks made by Mike Pence on Fox News. CNN:
US Vice President Mike Pence warned North Korea that it could end up like Libya if it fails to make a nuclear deal with Washington.
“There was some talk about the Libyan model last week, and you know, as the President made clear, this will only end like the Libyan model ended if Kim Jong Un doesn’t make a deal,” Pence said Monday.
Previous comments, by President Donald Trump’s national security adviser John Bolton, that the administration was looking at Libya as a potential example for North Korea to follow, provoked alarm in Pyongyang.
Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi agreed to abandon his nuclear ambitions in exchange for sanctions relief in the early 2000s. Within years, Gadhafi was overthrown and killed by rebels backed by Washington.
A North Korean official responded by calling Pence “stupid” and a “political dummy.”
A North Korean official has lashed out at US Vice President Mike Pence and said Pyongyang is ready for a nuclear showdown if dialogue with the United States fails.
Choe Son Hui, a vice-minister in the North Korean Foreign Ministry, said if the US continued on its current path, she would suggest to North Korea‘s leadership that they reconsider the planned summit between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
“Whether the US will meet us at a meeting room or encounter us at nuclear-to-nuclear showdown is entirely dependent upon the decision and behavior of the United States,” Choe said in comments carried by North Korea’s state-run KCNA news agency Thursday.Choe was responding to comments by Pence made Monday during a Fox News interview that she deemed “unbridled and impudent.
So, as Trump says repeatedly, “we’ll see what happens.”
Some Twitter reactions:
The art of deal folks! Trump just gave a little speech about the cancellation with Pence looking on adoringly.
So we’re still not sure what’s going on with Devin Nunes’ phony meeting to supposedly get classified information about an FBI informant who was asked to look into concerning contacts between Russia and the Trump campaign. First it was going to be a meeting with just Intel officials, Nunes, and Trey Gowdy, no Democrats allowed. Then after Democrats and some Republicans objected, the White House agreed to have two meetings–the Nunes/Gowdy meeting followed by a briefing the Gang of Eight. Now apparently Adam Schiff will be included in the first meeting.
MSNBC is reporting that Schiff was seen going into the DOJ for the 12PM meeting. Vox is reporting that Paul Ryan will also be in the noon meeting, but I haven’t seen reports of him entering the DOJ.
We don’t yet know if John Kelly was included in the meeting, which would be completely inappropriate. Still Kelly doesn’t need to be there, because Nunes will report everything to Trump anyway. I haven’t heard anything about who will be in 2PM meeting yet. Paul Ryan has said he won’t be there.
If you didn’t see Rachel Maddow’s show on Tuesday, I’m sure you’ve heard about her interview with James Clapper, in which the former Intel chief said that Russian interference in the 2016 election clearly swung the result to Trump. PBS News Hour also interview Clapper: Here’s their report: Russia ‘turned’ election for Trump, Clapper believes.
Russians not only affected the outcome of the 2016 presidential election — they decided it, says James Clapper, who served as the director of national intelligence in the Obama administration, and during the 2016 vote.
“To me, it just exceeds logic and credulity that they didn’t affect the election, and it’s my belief they actually turned it,” he told the PBS NewsHour anchor Judy Woodruff on Wednesday.
Clapper, who chronicles his life and career in his new book, “Facts and Fears: Hard Truths From a Life in Intelligence,” said Russians are “are bent on undermining our fundamental system here. And when a foreign nation, particularly an adversary nation, gets involved as much as they did in our political process, that’s a real danger to this country.”
Clapper also responded to Trump’s idiotic conspiracy theory about “spies” in his campaign.
Clapper called those accusations “distorted.” He said there is a “a big gulf between a spy in the traditional sense — employing spycraft or tradecraft — and an informant who is open about … who he was and what the questions he was asking.”
“The important thing was not to spy on the campaign but rather to determine what the Russians were up to. Were they trying to penetrate to campaign, gain access, gain leverage, gain influence, and that was the concern that the FBI had? … I think they were just doing their job and trying to protect our political system.”
Even Carter Page says he didn’t have any problems with the FBI source who spoke with him. CNN: Carter Page: I ‘never found anything unusual’ in conversations with FBI source.
Former Trump campaign aide Carter Page on Tuesday discussed his encounters with an FBI confidential source during the 2016 campaign, saying he “never found anything unusual.”
Page said on CNN’s “Anderson Cooper 360” that he first met the individual while attending an academic conference at Cambridge University in July 2016, a week after his visit to Russia.
“I never found anything unusual, whatsoever,” Page told Cooper about their conversations. Page said he and the source stayed in contact for more than a year, including meeting up back in the United States.
“We would talk about various things that are happening. And, you know, he’s someone who is, you know, long term, someone who had been in, part of the establishment in Republican politics. So typically around the convention time and halfway through a presidential year you keep bringing on more people in terms of potential supporters from the party, etc., and it just seemed like something like that,” he said.
In other news, the NFL released a new rule to prevent players from exercising their their free speech rights. The Daily Beast: The NFL’s New Anthem Policy Is Madness—But the Players Can Stop It.
In its own, typically blinkered and inimitable fashion, the NFL decided to dig in its heels on Wednesday, wrapping itself in the flag, and requiring players who are on the field to stand during the national anthem or face a series of penalties.
It’s a course of action that will fail, and spectacularly so. Ever since Colin Kaepernick—who has since been banished and is currently suing the NFL for collusion—began taking a knee, the league has wrung its hands, hemming and hawing as they tried to devise a means to stanch the tide of largely bad-faith criticism. In the end, they chose to silence its labor force….
Here’s the NFL’s newest solution to the grave and pressing matter of NFL players speaking out against systemic racism and the state-sanctioned violence perpetrated by law enforcement: Previously, all personnel were required to be on the field while someone belted out “The Star-Spangled Banner,” with no further specifications regarding their behavior. That is, if someone wanted to take a knee, the NFL couldn’t do squat.
Now the game operations manual has been adjusted, after two days of meetings between NFL owners and the league in Atlanta. Anyone who prefers not to place a hand on his heart during the anthem can remain in the locker room, but if they step on the field, they are required to “stand and show respect for the flag and the anthem.”
Read the rest at the link.
Trump was thrilled with the NFL’s stupid decision, and yesterday he suggested that any players who didn’t want to stand and salute the flag should be kicked out of the country. The Washington Post: Trump: NFL players unwilling to stand for anthem maybe ‘shouldn’t be in the country’
NFL players unwilling to stand for the national anthem should be barred from playing and maybe “shouldn’t be in the country,” President Trump said in a television interview that aired Thursday.
The president was reacting to the adoption Wednesday of a new NFL policy that could bring disciplinary action for players who kneel or make other protests during the national anthem.
Trump said he objected to a provision in the new policy that will allow players to stay in the locker room while the song is played, but added: “Still, I think it’s good.”
“You have to stand proudly for the national anthem or you shouldn’t be playing, you shouldn’t be there, maybe they shouldn’t be in the country,” Trump said in an interview that aired Thursday morning on “Fox & Friends” on Fox News.
I can’t wait until this fascist numbskull is impeached, forced to resign, or preferably sent to prison.
What stories are you following today?
I admit it. I’m obsessed with the Trump/Russia investigation, and I think my posts have become boring because of my obsession; so today, I’m going to try avoiding the subject and hope I’ll get more readers. This post is illustrated with “selfies” from before we had cell phones, just because. I hope you enjoy them.
Have you been getting a lot of annoying calls lately? I have. I usually don’t answer calls that come in from people I don’t know or area codes where I don’t know anyone; but once in awhile, I’ll pick up a call and it’s usually a recorded message. It turns out you can find out which numbers are robocalling your area.
From the Arlington Patch: Here’s Who Keeps Robocalling Your Area Code.
If you think you’re receiving robocalls now more than ever, you’re not wrong. According to the robocall blocker YouMail, pre-recorded phone messages are at an all-time high.
There were 3.36 billion robocalls last month in the U.S., 6.5 percent higher than the previous record and a whopping 34 percent higher than April 2017….
Here are the states that received the most robocalls, as well as how many they received:
- California, 384.4 million
- Texas, 363.3 million
- Florida, 261.1 million
- Georgia, 213.6 million
- New York, 207.8 million
- Illinois, 134.6 million
- Ohio, 115.8 million
- Pennsylvania, 115.4 million
- North Carolina, 111 million
- Louisiana, 97.6 million
- Michigan, 89.7 million
- Tennessee, 88.3 million
- New Jersey, 84.3 million
- Virginia, 83 million
- Maryland, 79 million
- Alabama, 77.9 million
- South Carolina, 64.4 million
- Arizona, 60 million
- Missouri, 51.7 million
- Indiana, 51 million
Atlanta received the dubious honor of most robocalled city in America for the 29th straight month. People in that city received nearly 148 million robocalls last month and three Atlanta area codes cracked the top 20 most robocalled area code list.
Here are the top 10 most robocalled cities:
- Atlanta, GA
- Dallas, TX
- New York, NY
- Los Angeles, CA
- Chicago, IL
- Houston, TX
- Baltimore, MD
- Philadelphia, PA
- San Francisco Bay Area, CA
- Newark, NJ
The company says 47 of the 50 most robocalled cities in the country saw a higher robocalling volume in April. The increase comes even as lawmakers, consumer groups, telecommunications carriers and device makers pay closer attention to illegal calls.
“Despite the best efforts of regulators, industry groups, service providers, and app developers, we are warning consumers to remain vigilant by not picking up any calls from unfamiliar numbers, using robocall blocking apps, and researching numbers before calling them back,” YouMail CEO Alex Quilici said in a release.
Click here and enter an area code to see the full results.
I’m glad to know it’s not just me getting all these annoyance calls. Unfortunately, I’ve found that even when I block the numbers, they just call back from slightly different ones.
The media is currently obsessed with lecturing Democrats about how we need to be kinder and more understanding of Trump voters. Here’s a response to that from Osita Nwanevu at Slate: Liberals, It’s Not About Being Nice.
Over the weekend, the New York Times published an op-ed titled “Liberals, You’re Not As Smart As You Think.” In it, University of Virginia political science professor Gerard Alexander accuses American liberals of arrogance and warns them against making broad negative generalizations about large swaths of the population. “Liberals often don’t realize how provocative or inflammatory they can be,” he writes. “In exercising their power, they regularly not only persuade and attract but also annoy and repel.” Alexander cites a few particular examples of recent annoying and repulsive liberal behavior, including comedian Michelle Wolf’s performance at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner, but the heart of the piece is a broad indictment of identity politics as practiced by liberals and the left. “Racist is pretty much the most damning label that can be slapped on anyone in America today, which means it should be applied firmly and carefully,” Alexander writes. “Yet some people have cavalierly leveled the charge against huge numbers of Americans—specifically, the more than 60 million people who voted for Mr. Trump. In their ranks are people who sincerely consider themselves not bigoted, who might be open to reconsidering ways they have done things for years, but who are likely to be put off if they feel smeared before that conversation even takes place.”
The piece was the latest in an unending stream of commentary attributing Democrats’ electoral misfortunes to conservative cultural backlash—a variation on a theme in punditry that was old hat long before Hillary Clinton made the supposed mistake of calling Trump supporters “deplorables.” Alleged gaffes like that, the story goes, form part of an imperious posture Democrats take on questions of identity politics that alienates simple folk who haven’t caught up with the progressive consensus on social questions.
This argument has very little to do with the actual state of American public opinion on those questions. Survey data suggests that identity politics as practiced by Democrats and the left has been quite successful and persuasive. Take racial issues, for instance. According to Pew, the percentage of white people in America who believe that the country “needs to continue making changes to give blacks equal rights with whites” has grown by 18 points since the beginning of the decade. Most of this can be attributed to white Democrats moving left on the question, but the numbers show change on the right as well: The number of Republicans and Republican leaners who believe this has grown by six points to 36 percent over the same period. The percentage of Republicans and Republican leaners who say that “racial discrimination is the main reason why many black people can’t get ahead these days” has also jumped about five points to 14 percent. These are, of course, still small minorities on the right, but given talk about how liberal arrogance and piety have alienated those who disagree with Democrats on racial identity politics into a backlash, one would expect the numbers to show … well, a backlash. Instead, they suggest that post–Trayvon Martin, Ferguson, and Black Lives Matter, rhetoric and activism may be working quite well on a broad cross section of Americans.
It’s a lengthy, thoughtful piece. Read the rest at Slate.
What’s the “nice” response to a “president” who says things like this?
President Trump used extraordinarily harsh rhetoric to renew his call for stronger immigration laws Wednesday, calling undocumented immigrants “animals” and venting frustration at Mexican officials who he said “do nothing” to help the United States.
“We have people coming into the country or trying to come in, we’re stopping a lot of them, but we’re taking people out of the country. You wouldn’t believe how bad these people are,” Trump said.
“These aren’t people. These are animals.”
Trump’s comments came in a freewheeling, hour-long White House meeting with local California leaders opposed to so-called “sanctuary city” policies. “California’s law provides safe harbor to some of the most vicious and violent offenders on Earth, like MS-13 gang members putting innocent men, women, and children at the mercy of these sadistic criminals,” he said.
I can’t think of anything nice to say about that or about people who support the man who said it.
Will John Bolton destroy Trump’s dreams of a deal with North Korea? Politico: Trump’s North Korea Nobel buzz could die with John Bolton.
Donald Trump wants a deal with North Korea. His national security adviser thinks the North Koreans can’t be dealt with. And North Korea thinks he’s “human scum.”
North Korea’s latest diatribe against the United States — and specifically a “repugnant” national security adviser, John Bolton — spotlights a core tension within the Trump administration as the president seeks a nuclear deal with North Korea that he hopes might earn him a Nobel Peace Prize.
Bolton is famously contemptuous of what he considers naïve U.S. diplomacy with foreign adversaries who can only be trusted to cRheat and lie. Prominent on his list is North Korea itself, which he has written “will never give up nuclear weapons voluntarily,” calling past U.S. diplomatic forays with the country “embarrassments.”
Trump, too, believes America has struck “terrible deals” for decades. And he shared Bolton’s intense animus for the Iran nuclear deal, which Trump torpedoed last week. But in the case of North Korea, even some Trump supporters worry the president is too eager for a deal that could dazzle the world and reap him huge political rewards.
The question now is whether Trump and Bolton can strike a constructive balance — or whether they might wind up at cross-purposes on one of the most important diplomatic experiments in U.S. history.
Read the rest at Politico.
May it would be a good thing if North Korea backs out of the summit, because Trump thinks he doesn’t need to spend a lot of time getting ready for the meeting. Time: President Trump ‘Doesn’t Think He Needs’ to Prepare Much for His Meeting With North Korea’s Kim Jong Un.
With just one month until a scheduled sit-down with North Korea’s leader, President Donald Trump hasn’t set aside much time to prepare for meeting with Kim Jong Un, a stark contrast to the approach of past presidents.
“He doesn’t think he needs to,” said a senior administration official familiar with the President’s preparation. Aides plan to squeeze in time for Trump to learn more about Kim’s psychology and strategize on ways to respond to offers Kim may make in person, but so far a detailed plan hasn’t been laid out for getting Trump ready for the summit.
Even with North Korea threatening to scrap the meeting over long-planned U.S.-Korean military exercises, Trump’s aides in the White House and State Department are continuing to prepare briefing material in advance of the June 12 summit in Singapore. When asked Wednesday if he thinks Kim is bluffing, Trump responded, “We’ll see what happens.” He told reporters he still plans to insist on North Korea giving up its nuclear weapons.
So briefing materials are being prepared, but Trump isn’t going to bother to read them. Big surprise.
I’m going to end with just one article related to the Russia investigation. Eric Wemple at The Washington Post: New York Times acknowledges it buried the lead in pre-election Russia-Trump story.
The upside of the New York Times’ aggressive coverage of the FBI investigation into Russian election meddling is that the American public is learning more and more about recent history. The downside is that the newspaper keeps bumping into its archives.
In a massive article Wednesday on the FBI’s 2016 snooping into the possible nexus between Russians and the Trump presidential campaign, reporters Matt Apuzzo, Adam Goldman and Nicholas Fandos include these two paragraphs:
In late October, in response to questions from The Times, law enforcement officials acknowledged the investigation but urged restraint. They said they had scrutinized some of Mr. Trump’s advisers but had found no proof of any involvement with Russian hacking. The resulting article, on Oct. 31, reflected that caution and said that agents had uncovered no “conclusive or direct link between Mr. Trump and the Russian government.”
The key fact of the article — that the F.B.I. had opened a broad investigation into possible links between the Russian government and the Trump campaign — was published in the 10th paragraph.
That’s one heck of a concession: We buried the lead! In their book “Russian Roulette,” authors Michael Isikoff and David Corn report that editors at the New York Times “cast the absence of a conclusion as the article’s central theme rather than the fact of the investigation itself,” contrary to the wishes of the reporters.
The article in question was published on Oct. 31, 2016, and it has received a great deal of hindsight-aided scrutiny for the role it may have played in easing voters’ concerns about ties between Donald Trump and Russia. Under the bylines of Eric Lichtblau and Steven Lee Myers, the story, headlined “Investigating Donald Trump, F.B.I. Sees No Clear Link to Russia,” hit the public sphere just as other outlets — Slate and Mother Jones — published reports that began poking at the outlines of possible collusion.
But will the Times apologize to Hillary Clinton and the American people?
Those are my offerings for today; what stories are you following?
I’m tired . . . so tired. Life in Trump world is exhausting. We’ve reached the point where it’s obvious that Trump’s family and campaign conspired witIh Russia to win the White House, and yet we still have to listen to Trump rant “no collusion” in his ugly, blaring voice. Have you noticed his Queens accent really comes out when he’s apoplectic like he was on Fox and Friends on Thursday? It seems his rosacea gets worse when he’s angry too. If only I never had to hear that honking voice or see his ugly orange face ever again!
I think maybe Angela Merkel agrees with me. Bess Levin at Vanity Fair: All the Times Angela Merkel’s Face Said “STFU You Dumkopf Orange Oaf.”
On Friday, German chancellor Angela Merkel arrived at the White House for a three-hour “working session” with Donald Trump, the goal of which was to convince the American to resist his impulses and not do anything stupid on a host of issues ranging from trade to Iran to the environment. Picking up where French president Emmanuel Macron left off—which is to say, at square one—Merkel’s visit was expected to be much less of a lovefest, meaning no hugging, kissing, hand-holding, fancy dinners, 21-gun salutes, or animal-kingdom mating rituals. The best anyone could hope for, experts warned, was that through small words and simple sentence construction, the chancellor could make Trump understand that so many of his threats—particularly the ones on trade—would hurt not only the targets for which they were intended, but the U.S. as well.
Even then, expectations were extremely low, given the 45th president’s inability to understand complex, nuanced issues, or the freaking difference between a trade deficit and a surplus. Still, when the two took to a pair of podiums to hold a joint press conference on Friday afternoon, the vibe seemed slightly better than expected. For one thing, Trump was neither foaming at the mouth nor actively refusing to shake Merkel’s hand. For another, Merkel dug deep and paid Trump some compliments using words and phrases you know he just ate up, mentioning the “strength” of his sanctions on North Korea, and claiming that last year’s tax legislation has made the U.S. a “very interesting place for our companies” to invest. Still, one need only take a gander at Merkel’s notoriously weak poker face to understand that inside, she was screaming I can’t believe I have to occupy the same airspace as this knuckle-dragger.
Watch videos and read more snark at Vanity Fair. I can’t even begin to imagine how Macron could bear to have Trump’s hands all over him during their visit. Just the thought of it makes me gag.
On the “no collusion” front . . .
Paul Waldman and Greg Sargent at The Washington Post: The new House GOP report on Russia is revealing. But not in a good way for Trump.
Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee on Friday released a report on Russia’s involvement in the 2016 election. Although it is meant to exonerate President Trump and everyone around him, what it actually does is bring the utter degradation and disgrace of that committee to its fullest expression.
By contrast, there may be real news in the Democrats’ response to the report. In particular, the Democrats detailed new information that appears to shed light on what Republicans would not do in their investigation.
The response by Democrats makes this important charge: That Republicans refused to follow up on a lead that could have demonstrated whether, despite his denials, Trump had advance knowledge of the now-infamous Trump Tower meeting in June 2016 between a group of Russians and Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, and Paul Manafort.
Specifically, it appears very likely that Trump talked to Don Jr. on the phone while Jr. was setting up the meeting.
According to the Democratic response, right after Trump Jr. set up the specifics of the meeting, he had two calls with a number in Russia belonging to Emin Agalarov. Between those two calls, the Democratic response recounts, Trump Jr. received a third call from a blocked number. Who might it have been? [….]
“We sought to determine whether that number belonged to the president, because we also ascertained that then-candidate Trump used a blocked number,” Schiff said during our interview. “That would tell us whether Don Jr. sought his father’s permission to take the meeting, and [whether] that was the purpose of that call.”
Schiff added that Democrats asked Republicans to subpoena phone records to determine whose number it was, but Republicans “refused,” Schiff said. “They didn’t want to know whether he had informed his father and sought his permission to take that meeting with the Russians.”
Raise your hand if you think the call from the blocked number was from someone other than Daddy Trump. I’m sure Robert Mueller and his team already know whose number that was.
A direct line of communication between the Kremlin-connected Agalarov family and the Trump family was open during the transition after President Donald Trump’s presidential election, BuzzFeed News has learned.
The “first of a series” of text messages was sent between Emin Agalarov and Donald Trump Jr. two days after the 2016 election, a source familiar with the communications told BuzzFeed News.
The communications continued through at least mid-December 2016, according to information made public Friday.
It is not clear how many messages were sent, whether Trump Jr. sent any of them, or how many were sent by either party — although BuzzFeed News confirmed that multiple messages were sent.
Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee revealed one of the text messages, from Dec. 13, 2016, in their “minority views” report on Friday — one of several new pieces of information that suggest that the Trumps’ relationship with the Agalarovs was much closer than the president and his family have said.
Many more details at the Buzzfeed link.
Rep. Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the intelligence panel, told CNN’s Jim Sciutto on Friday that Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya reached out to the Trump family after the election with a request to follow up on efforts to repeal the Magnitsky Act, the 2012 Russian sanctions the US enacted over human rights abuses.
Veselnitskaya was the Russian lawyer at the center of the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting, where Donald Trump Jr. expected to receive damaging information on Hillary Clinton but instead Veselnitskaya focused on the repeal of the sanctions.
“Clearly, there’s an expectation there on the Russian side that they may now have success with the Magnitsky Act, given that the prior meeting and communications dealt with the offer of help,” Schiff said. “It certainly seems like the Russians were ready for payback.”
In addition, another effort to reach out to Trump’s team after the election came from Aras Agalarov, the Azerbaijani-Russian oligarch who also has ties to the Trump Tower meeting. Agalarov, along with his pop-star son, Emin Agalarov, also worked with Trump to bring the 2013 Miss Universe Pageant to Moscow….
Democrats cite a November 28, 2016, email from publicist Rob Goldstone to Trump’s assistant, Rhona Graff, which said that “Aras Agalarov has asked me to pass on this document in the hope it can be passed on to the appropriate team.”
“Later that day, Graff forwarded to Steve Bannon the email with Agalarov’s document regarding the Magnitsky Act as an attachment, explaining, ‘The PE [President Elect] knows Aras well. Rob is his rep in the US and sent this on. Not sure how to proceed, if at all.'”
Trump’s team has denied there was any follow up after the Trump Tower meeting.
While Trump claims credit for the meeting between North Korea’s Kim Jon Un and South Korea’s Moon Jae-in, Max Boot points out at The Washington Post that this has happened before: Don’t let the Korea summit hype fool you. We’ve been here before.
The meeting between the leaders of North and South Korea was acclaimed as “historic.” The two leaders hugged, “smiled broadly, shook each other’s hand vigorously and toasted each other with glasses of champagne.” Reporters noted that the “opening formalities seemed surprisingly relaxed, exceeding the expectations of many people, including perhaps those of the principals themselves. The South Korean leader said we must “proceed together on a path of reconciliation and cooperation.” The North Korean leader replied that “you will not be disappointed.”
Sound familiar? It should, because the news coverage of the 2000 meeting between South Korean President Kim Dae-jung and North Korean leader Kim Jong Il in Pyongyang parallels the euphoria over Friday’s meeting in Panmunjom between Moon Jae-in and Kim Jong Un, Kim Jong Il’s son. If anything, the 2000 meeting produced more tangible results: Not only declarations about ending the Korean War and uniting the two countries, but also concrete steps toward creating a joint South Korean-North Korean industrial park in Kaesong , allow South Korean tourists to visit the North, and to reunify families long divided by the demilitarized zone. Between 1998 and 2008, South Korea provided some $8 billion in economic assistance to North Korea in the hope that all of this aid would create a kinder, gentler regime. Kim Dae-jung won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2000 for his efforts.
And yet the Sunshine Policy, so widely heralded at the time, is now widely judged a failure. Despite North Korea’s promises, it did nothing to ease the repression of its populace or to end its nuclear and missile programs. It turned out Kim Dae-jung only achieved that “historic” 2000 summit by offering Kim Jong Il a $500 million bribe. Another summit was held in 2007, arranged by Moon Jae-in, then an aide to President Roh Moo-hyun, and it too was rapturously acclaimed. But the next year, a conservative government took power in Seoul and ended the Sunshine Policy.
Read the rest at the link.
Finally, a little schadenfreude. The Independent reports that there was a fire in the Trump Tower in Azerbaijan. Fortunately, there were no injuries.
A skyscraper that was slated to become a Trump International Hotel in the Azerbaijani capital of Baku has caught fire.
The Azadliq newspaper reported that the blaze broke out on the middle floors of the 33-storey building, which is locally known as Trump Tower, and spread.
Etibar Mirzoev, deputy head of the Emergency Situations Ministry, said there were no injuries and authorities were working to establish the cause of the of the fire.
What stories are you following today?
As usual in the horrifying new world of Trump, there is so much shocking news that there’s no way to deal with all of it. I guess the top story has to be that Trump’s former lawyer John Dowd dangled pardons in front of Michael Flynn and Paul Manifort last summer.
The New York Times: Trump’s Lawyer Raised Prospect of Pardons for Flynn and Manafort.
A lawyer for President Trump broached the idea of Mr. Trump’s pardoning two of his former top advisers, Michael T. Flynn and Paul Manafort, with their lawyers last year, according to three people with knowledge of the discussions.
The discussions came as the special counsel was building cases against both men, and they raise questions about whether the lawyer, John Dowd, who resigned last week, was offering pardons to influence their decisions about whether to plead guilty and cooperate in the investigation.
The talks suggest that Mr. Trump’s lawyers were concerned about what Mr. Flynn and Mr. Manafort might reveal were they to cut a deal with the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, in exchange for leniency. Mr. Mueller’s team could investigate the prospect that Mr. Dowd made pardon offers to thwart the inquiry, although legal experts are divided about whether such offers might constitute obstruction of justice.
Mr. Dowd’s conversation with Mr. Flynn’s lawyer, Robert K. Kelner, occurred sometime after Mr. Dowd took over last summer as the president’s personal lawyer, at a time when a grand jury was hearing evidence against Mr. Flynn on a range of potential crimes.
Flynn ultimately took the safe route and agreed to cooperate with the Mueller investigation; but this could explain why Paul Manafort is holding out even though the evidence against him is overwhelming and he could face life in prison if convicted.
Constitutional experts are now discussing whether Trump could get away with pardoning Manafort and others, even if he did it with corrupt intent. Some opinions:
Alex Whiting at Just Security: Why Dangling a Pardon Could Be an Obstruction of Justice—Even if the Pardon Power is Absolute. A brief excerpt:
Some experts have argued that the pardon power is absolute and that the President’s motives in issuing a pardon thus could not be questioned, while others contend that it could be a crime to issue a pardon for corrupt purposes (such as in exchange for cash). But the debate over the absolute nature of the pardon power is actually not relevant to the alleged incidents involving Trump’s lawyer. Indeed, that entire debate can be set aside for the moment. Why? Because there’s been no pardon. Instead, a pardon has only been dangled before Flynn and Manafort, and the analysis of whether that action could become part of an obstruction case against Trump raises entirely different considerations….
The pardon dangle works completely differently—and in important respects has the opposite effects. First, this kind of dangle is not a public act. Therefore, as long as it remained secret, it could be done without incurring any of the political downstream consequences that come with actually pardoning someone. It hides the President from scrutiny rather than exposes him to it as a potential check on the use of the power. Second, the objective of the dangle appears to have been to foreclose the prospect of Flynn and Manfort’s cooperating or testifying. Once again, this is the opposite effect of an actual exercise of the pardon. The message of the dangle was sufficiently clear: hang in there and keep fighting (do not cut a deal with the special counsel) because you will be pardoned before you spend a day in jail. The President and his lawyer’s hope would have been that with the threat of jail eliminated, neither former aid would feel compelled to plead guilty and cooperate with Mueller to reduce his sentence. But, since they were not actually pardoned or not yet anyway, they still kept their Fifth Amendment privileges, and so Mueller could not simply demand they testify before the Grand Jury. In this way, the dangle could operate to stop any cooperation from Flynn and Manafort, who could then be pardoned later if and when they were indicted or even after their cases went through pretrial, trial and appeal. Indeed, you also have to put yourself back at the time these events all took place: before Manafort was indicted and Flynn pleaded guilty. That’s when the dangle could work its magic.
Because a pardon dangle is secret and seeks to discourage cooperation with an ongoing investigation without public scrutiny or consequences, it should be analyzed differently than a pardon when it comes to an obstruction case.
Former U.S. Attorney Harry Littman at The Washington Post: We may know why Paul Manafort has kept quiet. But his bet is still risky.
Manafort’s refusal to cooperate can’t be driven by a rational calculation that he has any reasonable chance of escaping conviction, multimillion-dollar legal fees and a prison sentence that will result in years behind bars.
The indictments against him lay out an overwhelming case of money laundering in particular. The meticulously gathered evidence will be as clear for the jury as a laundry detergent commercial: The jury will see the dirty money go in and the clean money come out. To the extent there had been a small risk, inherent in paper-driven chases, that the jury could become bored at the accounting presentation and tune out, Mueller now has a narrator for the trial in Manafort’s co-conspirator Rick Gates.
So is hoping for a Trump pardon a good bet for Manafort?
…the Times story does not definitively solve the Manafort mystery. First, Dowd’s reported overture, particularly if done with the president’s knowledge or consent, could have constituted a conspiracy to obstruct justice, a separate impeachable offense. That presumably is why the story includes a categorical denial from Dowd that he ever discussed pardons for the president’s former advisers with lawyers. For Dowd, the conduct would be putting his license at risk.Second, Manafort surely recognizes that he can’t fully count on Trump, both because the president is a habitual liar and because the political dynamic is subject to such extreme and violent turns. (Of course, under this hypothesis, Manafort retains the valuable insurance policy of spilling the goods if Trump double-crosses him, leaving both huge losers in a real-life prisoners dilemma.)
Third, Manafort could still be required to testify after any pardon, when he would no longer be in federal jeopardy. Undoubtedly, the plan would be for him to deny assurances of a pardon from Trump. Still, were Mueller to catch him in a lie, the special counsel would surely come down on him.
Finally, it is likely that in the event of a pardon for federal crimes, which is all Trump can provide, some state attorneys general, such as New York’s Eric T. Schneiderman, would prosecute Manafort for financial crimes under their potent state statutes.
Maybe Manafort figures a possible pardon is a better bet than hoping Putin doesn’t send his goons to shut him (Manafort) up for good.
A few more pardon stories:
Bloomberg: Pardon Talk Could Put Trump Lawyer in Hot Water.
The Washington Post: This overlooked part of the Constitution could stop Trump from abusing his pardon power.
Another big story broke late yesterday. Trump fired Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin. Today Shulkin is speaking out, claiming he was fired because he opposed privatizing the VA. Shulkin spoke to NPR’s Morning Edition:
Fired Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin tells NPR’s Morning Edition that political forces in the Trump administration want to privatize the VA — and that he was standing in the way.
“There are many political appointees in the VA that believe that we are moving in the wrong direction or weren’t moving fast enough toward privatizing the VA,” he said. “I think that it’s essential for national security and for the country that we honor our commitment by having a strong VA. I was not against reforming VA, but I was against privatization.”
Those political forces may be why Shulkin says he wasn’t allowed to speak out to defend himself against an ethics controversy over use of funds on a trip to Europe that he says was overhyped and intended to weaken him.
“This was completely mischaracterized,” Shulkin said. “There was nothing improper about this trip, and I was not allowed to put up an official statement or to even respond to this by the White House. … I think this was really just being used in a political context to try to make sure that I wasn’t as effective as a leader moving forward.”
Shulkin argued his case in an op-ed at The New York Times: David J. Shulkin: Privatizing the V.A. Will Hurt Veterans.
That’s a lot of news, but I’ve barely touched on everything that’s happening. Here’s a shocking Trump corruption story that broke at The Guardian this morning: FBI looked into Trump plans to build hotel in Latvia with Putin supporter.
In 2010, a small group of businessmen including a wealthy Russian supporter of Vladimir Putin began working on plans to build a glitzy hotel and entertainment complex with Donald Trump in Riga, the capital of Latvia.
A senior Trump executive visited the city to scout for locations. Trump and his daughter Ivanka spent hours at Trump Tower with the Russian, Igor Krutoy, who also knows compatriots involved in arranging a fateful meeting at the same building during the 2016 US election campaign.
Then the Latvian government’s anti-corruption bureau began asking questions.
The Guardian has learned that talks with Trump’s company were abandoned after Krutoy and another of the businessmen were questioned by Latvian authorities as part of a major criminal inquiry there – and that the FBI later looked into Trump’s interactions with them at Latvia’s request.
Those involved deny that the inquiry was to blame for the deal’s collapse.
Latvia asked the US for assistance in 2014 and received a response from the FBI the following year, according to a source familiar with the process. Latvian investigators also examined secret recordings in which Trump was mentioned by a suspect.
This means the FBI looked into Trump’s efforts to do business deals in the former Soviet Union earlier than was widely known. Robert Mueller, the special counsel, is now investigating other Trump dealings with Russians as part of his wide-ranging criminal inquiry into alleged collusion between Moscow and members of Trump’s 2016 campaign team.
The Riga developers saw their potential partner in New York as a ticket to lucrative western revenues.
This shit just never ends. I haven’t even touched on the North Korea news or the Bolton mess or the fact that Trump wants to put his personal physician in charge of the VA. More headlines to check out:
The Washington Post: Who is Trump’s new Veterans Affairs pick, Ronny Jackson?
The Washington Post: Three big questions about a Trump-Kim summit.
Talking Points Memo: WSJ: Kushner Has Phoned Bolton For Advice In The Past Year.
The Daily Beast: ICE Now Detaining Pregnant Women, Thanks to Trump Order.