Tuesday Reads

Good Afternoon!!

I’m very pleased to report that today’s top story isn’t about Trump or his Republican enablers. That’s a very good thing for me because I’ve reached peak Trump exhaustion once again. Today Nancy Pelosi leads the politics news.

Reuters: Pelosi arrives in Taiwan, voicing U.S. ‘solidarity’ as China fumes.

TAIPEI, Aug 2 (Reuters) – U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi arrived in Taiwan late on Tuesday on a trip she said was intended to express American solidarity with the Chinese-claimed island, the first such visit in 25 years and one that risks pushing relations between Washington and Beijing to a new low.

Pelosi and her delegation disembarked from a U.S. Air Force transport plan at Songshan Airport in downtown Taipei and were greeted by Taiwan’s foreign minister, Joseph Wu and Sandra Oudkirk, the top U.S. representative in Taiwan.

“Our congressional delegation’s visit to Taiwan honors America’s unwavering commitment to supporting Taiwan’s vibrant democracy,” Pelosi said in a statement shortly after landing. “America’s solidarity with the 23 million people of Taiwan is more important today than ever, as the world faces a choice between autocracy and democracy.” read more

China immediately condemned Pelosi’s visit, with the foreign ministry saying it seriously damages peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait, “has a severe impact on the political foundation of China-U.S. relations, and seriously infringes upon China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.” The ministry said it had lodged a strong protest with the United States.

Chinese warplanes buzzed the line dividing the Taiwan Strait on Tuesday before her arrival, and Chinese state media said People’s Liberation Army would hold exercises near Taiwan from Thursday through Sunday.

More info from CNN: 

Pelosi and the congressional delegation that accompanied her said in a statement on Tuesday that the visit “honors America’s unwavering commitment to supporting Taiwan’s vibrant democracy.”

“Our discussions with Taiwan leadership will focus on reaffirming our support for our partner and on promoting our shared interests, including advancing a free and open Indo-Pacific region,” the statement said. “America’s solidarity with the 23 million people of Taiwan is more important today than ever, as the world faces a choice between autocracy and democracy.”

Pelosi is traveling with House Foreign Affairs Chairman Gregory Meeks of New York, Veterans’ Affairs Chairman Mark Takano of California and Reps. Suzan DelBene of Washington state, Raja Krishnamoorthi of Illinois and Andy Kim of New Jersey.

The House speaker is expected to visit Taiwan’s presidential office and parliament on Wednesday morning (local time), a senior Taiwanese official told CNN. She will first visit the parliament before heading to the presidential office for a meeting with Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen, the official said….

The American Institute in Taiwan said Pelosi’s delegation will meet with senior Taiwanese leaders “to discuss US-Taiwan relations, peace and security, economic growth and trade, the Covid-19 pandemic, the climate crisis, human rights, democratic governance, and other significant issues of mutual interest,” the institute said in a statement.

Pelosi also wrote an op-ed explaining why she chose to go to Taiwan, despite criticism. You can read it at The Washington Post: Nancy Pelosi: Why I’m leading a congressional delegation to Taiwan.

Ayman al-Zawahiri

Ayman al-Zawahiri

Yesterday the White House announced the death of the leader of al-Qaeda in Afghanistan: U.S. kills al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri in drone strike in Kabul.

The United States has killed Ayman al-Zawahiri, the leader of al-Qaeda and one of the world’s most-wanted terrorists, who, alongside the group’s founder, Osama bin Laden, oversaw the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, President Biden announced Monday evening.

Zawahiri was killed in a CIA drone strike in Kabul over the weekend, according to U.S. officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive intelligence.

When U.S. forces withdrew from Afghanistan last August, Biden administration officials said they would retain capability for “over-the-horizon” attacks from elsewhere on terrorist forces inside Afghanistan. The attack against Zawahiri is the first known counterterrorism strike there since the withdrawal.

Speaking in a live television address from a balcony at the White House, Biden announced that days ago he had authorized a strike to kill Zawahiri. “Justice has been delivered, and this terrorist leader is no more,” Biden said.

The strike occurred at 9:48 p.m. Eastern time on Saturday, according to a senior administration official who briefed reporters on the operation. A drone fired two Hellfire missiles at Zawahiri as he stepped onto the balcony of a safe house in Kabul, where he had been living with members of his family, the official said.

Read more at the WaPo.

At NBC News, Julia Ainsley and Jacob Soboroff report on a non-violent Biden success story: Biden administration task force reunites 400 migrant families separated under Trump.

The Biden administration has reunited 400 children with their parents after they were separated as migrants crossing the southern border under the Trump administration, said Michelle Brané, the executive director of the Family Reunification Task Force.

More than 5,000 families were separated under Trump’s 2018 “zero tolerance” policy and a 2017 pilot program and advocates estimate over 1,000 remain separated. Because the Trump administration did not keep records of which children were separated and where they were sent, the task force and lawyers working on behalf of separated families have had a difficult time identifying families to offer them the chance of reunification.

In the majority of recently reunited cases, Brané said, the parents were deported while the children remained in the U.S. Now, parents are given the opportunity to come to the U.S. on paid travel, bring other members of their family who are dependent on them, and live and work in the U.S. legally for three years.

Lawyers for the families have advocated for legal permanent status on behalf of separated families, but so far the Biden administration has not agreed to that provision.

Brané said the reunification also includes mental health services for families both before and after reunification. She said many of the families have suffered from profound mental health issues after their separation and counseling is often needed before they reunify. 

“You don’t want to just throw kids into an environment with a parent they may not have seen for five years,” Brané said. 

Click the link to read the rest.

Republicans are licking their wounds after the public reaction to their votes against health care for veterans exposed to burn pits. Politico: Senate GOP backtracks after veterans bill firestorm.

Senate Republicans are reversing course on a veterans health care bill, signaling they’ll now help it quickly move to President Joe Biden’s desk after weathering several days of intense criticism for delaying the legislation last week.

Republicans insist their decision to hold up the bill, which expands health care for veterans exposed to toxic substances while on active duty, was unrelated to the deal on party-line legislation that top Democrats struck last week. The GOP blocked the bill hours after Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) announced an agreement on a health care, climate and tax package — angering Republicans who thought the Democrats-only plan would be much narrower.

Regardless of their reasoning, the GOP was quickly forced to play defense against both Democrats and veterans’ advocates who were caught off-guard by Republican delaying tactics after the party greenlit a nearly identical bill in June.

Minority Leader Mitch McConnell declined to respond to a question Monday about why the legislation was held up.

“It will pass this week,” he said.

Other Republicans in Senate leadership struck a similar tone. Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) told POLITICO he would “expect it to pass” and Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), McConnell’s No. 2, echoed that at “some point this is going to pass and it will pass big.”

In another potential win for Democrats in Congress, Joe Manchin finally came through with something good. William Saletan at The Bulwark (link above):

Joe Manchin has rescued the Democratic agenda. After blocking President Biden’s Build Back Better plan for nearly a year—as well as subsequent, pared-down versions of the legislation—the West Virginia senator has reversed course. Last Thursday he endorsed a revised $400 billion package that focuses on health insurance subsidies, cutting the cost of prescription drugs, and funding new energy technologies to reduce carbon emissions.

With Manchin’s vote, the bill is likely to pass. But he isn’t just voting for it; he’s selling it. Over the weekend, he appeared on all five Sunday morning talk shows—a rare feat often referred to as a “full Ginsburg”—to make his case for the bill. It was an eye roll-worthy display of political spin. Here’s a summary of his talking points.

(Abridged–You’ll need to go to the Bulwark to read all the details.)

1. It’s not Build Back Better. It’s the Inflation Reduction Act.

The vast majority of the new bill comes from Biden’s BBB framework. Most Democrats liked BBB and would be happy to celebrate the passage of these elements of it. But Manchin, who represents a conservative state, doesn’t want to be associated with BBB. He doesn’t want to look like he’s saving the Democratic agenda. He wants to look like he’s killing it.

2. It’s not spending. It’s investment.

“I couldn’t get there with Build Back Better. It was $3.5 trillion of spending,” Manchin explained on CNN’s State of the Union. In contrast, he argued, the Inflation Reduction Act knocked “$3.5 trillion dollars of spending down to $400 billion of investment.” On Face the NationFox News Sunday, and This Week, he made the same pitch: BBB was a “spending bill,” but the IRA was an “investment bill.”

3. It doesn’t raise taxes. It closes loopholes.

On Fox News Sunday, Manchin insisted that his bill’s establishment of a 15 percent minimum tax for billion-dollar companies—up from zero percent—wasn’t really a tax increase. “It does not raise taxes,” he told Bret Baier. “All we did was close loopholes.” Thirty seconds later, Manchin repeated, “We did not raise taxes. We’ve closed loopholes. . . . I made sure there was no tax increases in this whatsoever.

4. It’s not a green bill. It’s red, white, and blue.

In much of the United States, being “green” is poCpular. Restaurants, grocery stories, and retailers advertise it. But Manchin, who represents a coal state, seems to have decided that among his target audience, “green” is a dirty word. So he’s pointedly rejecting it.

“This is not a green deal. It’s not a Republican deal. It’s not a Democrat deal. It is a red, white, and blue deal,” Manchin declared on CNN. A few minutes later, he repeated: “It’s definitely not a green bill. This is a red, white, and blue bill.” On Fox, he delivered the same message: “It’s not a green bill. This is a red, white, and blue bill.

There are a few Trump investigation stories today. 

CNN: Retired DC cop who testified before January 6 committee says Trump ‘adamantly’ wanted to go to Capitol.

A retired Washington, DC, police officer who was part of Donald Trump’s motorcade on January 6, 2021, told CNN’s Don Lemon on Monday night that the then-President was adamant about going to the US Capitol as the riot unfolded.

The comments by Mark Robinson, who has testified to the January 6 committee, further corroborate key details first revealed by former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson, who spoke at length about Trump’s behaviorto the House select committee. Hutchinson said that she was told that Trump became “irate” when informed by security that he would not be going to the Capitol on January 6, because the situation was not secure.

Robinson was not physically with Trump on January 6. He was in the lead car of the motorcade and said that he learned Trump wanted to go to the Capitol through communications from the Secret Service.

“We’ve heard it several times while it was on the motorcade. I think during the speech, shortly thereafter, he had finished the speech, that the President was getting into the motorcade and he was upset. And he adamantly wanted to go to the Capitol,” Robinson told Lemon. “And even when we departed from the Ellipse it was repeated again. … It was a heated argument in the limo. And he wanted to definitely go to the Capitol.” [….]

“I think it would have probably encouraged more rioting. And (the rioters would have) felt supported. If the presidential motorcade came in support of them. So I think the insurrectionists probably would have felt as though they had the support of the President,” Robinson said.

More details at the CNN link.

Two more Trump investigation stories to check out:

Politico: Judge rejects Trump effort to toss lawsuits accusing him of Jan. 6 conspiracy.

The New York Times: Top Democrats, Alleging Cover-Up, Seek Testimony on Secret Service Texts.

I hope you all have a great Tuesday!


Lazy Saturday Reads: #tRump – Bull in a China Shop

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Good Afternoon!!

Yesterday I spent the afternoon and evening with my brother’s family–they invited me for a birthday dinner and family movie. Unsurprisingly, while I wasn’t paying attention for a few hours the president-elect did massive damage to U.S. foreign policy, overturning decades-long policies on China. And it appears this wasn’t about policy but about enriching the #tRump family business.

Ann Gearan at The Washington Post: Trump speaks with Taiwanese president, a major break with decades of U.S. policy on China

President-elect Donald Trump spoke Friday with Taiwan’s president, a major departure from decades of U.S. policy in Asia and a breach of diplomatic protocol with ramifications for the incoming president’s relations with China.

The call is the first known contact between a U.S. president or president-elect with a Taiwanese leader since before the United States broke diplomatic relations with the island in 1979. China considers Taiwan a province, and news of the official outreach by Trump is likely to infuriate the regional military and economic power.

The exchange is one of a string of unorthodox conversations with foreign leaders that Trump has held since his election. It comes at a particularly tense time between China and Taiwan, which earlier this year elected a president, ­­­Tsai Ing-wen, who has not endorsed the notion of a unified China. Her election angered Beijing to the point of cutting off all official communication with the island government.

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It is not clear whether Trump intends a more formal shift in U.S. relations with Taiwan or China. On the call, Trump and Tsai congratulated each other on winning their elections, a statement from Trump’s transition office said….

A statement from the Taiwanese president’s office said the call lasted more than 10 minutes and included discussion of economic development and national security, and about “strengthening bilateral relations.”

Trump claimed the call was initiated by Taiwan’s president, but that was a lie, NBC News reports:

BEIJING — A phone call between Donald Trump and Taiwan’s leader that risks damaging relations between the U.S. and China was pre-arranged, a top Taiwanese official told NBC News on Saturday.

Trump — who lambasted China throughout the election campaign and promised to slap 45 percent tariffs on Chinese goods — tweeted that Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen had called him.

“Maintaining good relations with the United States is as important as maintaining good relations across the Taiwan Strait,” Taiwanese presidential spokesman Alex Huang told NBC News. “Both are in line with Taiwan’s national interest.”

He added that the call had not been a surprise.

Apparently the call was carefully planned and scheduled by Trump staffers. It was also reported that bomb-thrower John Bolton was seen at Trump tower yesterday. Could he have helped instigate this?

After the media reported foreign policy experts’ heads exploding, Trump defensively tweeted again.

China was apparently on the phone with the White House right after the news broke, and they have now filed a complaint with the U.S. about this breach of diplomacy. The Guardian:

China has lodged “solemn representations” with the US over a call between the president-elect, Donald Trump, and Taiwan’s leader, Tsai Ing-wen.

Trump looked to have sparked a potentially damaging diplomatic row with Beijing on Friday after speaking to the Taiwanese president on the telephone….

The US closed its embassy in Taiwan – a democratically ruled island which Beijing regards as a breakaway province – in the late 1970s after the historic rapprochement between Beijing and Washington that stemmed from Richard Nixon’s 1972 trip to China.

Since then the US has adhered to the “One China” principle, which officially considers the independently governed island to be part of the same single Chinese nation as the mainland.

Geng Shuang, a spokesman for China’s foreign ministry, said in a statement on Saturday: “It must be pointed out that there is only one China in the world and Taiwan is an inseparable part of Chinese territory. The government of the People’s Republic of China is the sole legitimate government representing China.”

Geng added: “This is a fact that is generally recognised by the international community.”

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#tRrump is a real bull in a china shop, so to speak. But what was his real goal in talking to Taiwan? Think Progress: Trump’s unusual phone call is great for his business, dangerous for America.

Trump is mixing his business with the presidency. Today was a stark illustration that the combination is extremely dangerous — to Americans and the world.

The Financial Times, citing three sources, reports that Trump called Tsai Ying-wen, the president of Taiwan, on Friday. The call is a symbolic breach of the United States’ “One China” policy, which recognizes Beijing as the only government and which has been in place since 1972.

The call will antagonize China and risks “opening up a major diplomatic dispute with China before he has even been inaugurated.”

The incident is raising eyebrows because the Trump Organization, in which Trump plans to maintain ownership as president, is actively seeking new business opportunities in Taiwan. The Shanghaiist reported on the Trump Organization’s interest last month:

A representative from the Trump Organization paid a visit to Taoyuan in September, expressing interest in the city’s Aerotropolis, a large-scale urban development project aimed at capitalizing on Taoyuan’s status as a transport hub for East Asia, Taiwan News reports.With the review process for the Aerotropolis still underway, Taoyuan’s mayor referred to the subject of the meeting as mere investment speculation. Other reports indicate that Eric Trump, the president-elect’s second son and executive vice president of the Trump Organization, will be coming to Taoyuan later this year to discuss the potential business opportunity.

#tRump is trying to turn our country into a wholly owned subsidiary of the #tRump organization.

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In just the past couple of days, Trump has bumbled through bizarre phone calls with Pakistan’s prime minister Nawaz Sharif and Philippine strongman Rodrigo Duterte. Do you supposed #tRump even knows that China, Pakistan and sworn enemy India have nukes?

The Atlantic: Lessons From Trump’s ‘Fantastic’ Phone Call to Pakistan.

This week, the U.S. president-elect spoke with the Pakistani prime minister and, according to the Pakistani government’s account of the conversation, delivered the following message: Everything is awesome. It was, arguably, the most surprising presidential phone call since George H.W. Bush got pranked by that pretend Iranian president.

Pakistan, Donald Trump reportedly told Nawaz Sharif, is a “fantastic” country full of “fantastic” people that he “would love” to visit as president. Sharif was described as “terrific.” Pakistanis “are one of the most intelligent people,” Trump allegedly added. “I am ready and willing to play any role that you want me to play to address and find solutions to the outstanding problems.” ….

Like their problems with India?

It’s unclear how accurate the Pakistani government’s record of the discussion is, though the language does have a Trumpian ring to it (Trump’s transition team released a much more subdued summary of the call). But what’s surprising about the account is how disconnected it is from the current state of affairs. Everything is not awesome in U.S.-Pakistan relations. The two countries are the bitterest of friends. They have long clashed over the haven that terrorist groups have found in Pakistan and over U.S. efforts, including drone strikes and the raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound, to kill those terrorists. Pakistan, a nation with a growing arsenal of nuclear weapons, is the archenemy of India, another nuclear-armed state and a critical U.S. ally. U.S. officials see Pakistan—with its weak political institutions and suspected government support for militant groups in Afghanistan and the contested territory of Kashmir—as an alarming source of regional instability. The suspicion is mutual: Just a fifth of Pakistanis have a favorable view of the United States. Trump himself has argued that Pakistan “is probably the most dangerous” country in the world, and that India needs to serve as “the check” to it.

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The reports also provoked a caustic response from the Indian government, which opposes U.S. mediation in its border dispute with Pakistan. “We look forward to the president-elect helping Pakistan address the most outstanding of its outstanding issues: terrorism,” a spokesman for the Ministry of External Affairs said. And, ultimately, they forced Pakistani officials to backpedal after initially publicizing the conversation. “Our relationship with the United States is not about personalities—it is about institutions,” a spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs clarified. In other words, a brief, breezy conversation had real reverberations on the subcontinent.One lesson of the phone call is that words matter, especially in international relations where information is patchy, things get lost in translation, rhetoric is often interpreted as policy, and a government’s credibility is only as good as its word. (Think of all the people in the United States puzzling over what policies Trump will pursue as president; now imagine trying to do that from Islamabad or New Delhi.)

 

And now Pakistan is sending an envoy to meet with the #tRump bumblers. The Indian Express reports:

Pakistan has decided to send an envoy to the US to hold meetings with Donald Trump’s transition team, two days after a “productive” telephonic conversation between Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and the President-elect. Pakistani Prime Minister’s special assistant for foreign affairs Tariq Fatemi will visit the US this weekend to meet officials of the Trump transition team.

Fatemi’s meeting with officials of Trump transition team was confirmed by Jalil Abbas Jilani, Pakistan’s Ambassador to the US. “Besides meeting members of the transition team, Fatemi will meet officials of the outgoing Obama administration,” said Jilani.

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Huffington Post: Donald Trump Praises Philippines Deadly Drug War And Invites Leader To White House.

U.S. President-elect Donald Trump praised Philippines leader Rodrigo Duterte for his war on drugs that has left thousands dead, Duterte said on Saturday after the two held a phone conversation in which Trump also invited Duterte the White House.

“He was quite sensitive also to our worry about drugs. And he wishes me well … in my campaign and he said that … we are doing it as a sovereign nation, the right way,” Duterte said in a statement. Duterte has conducted a severe crackdown on drugs in the country, where police and vigilante groups have killed thousands.

Trump’s brief chat with the firebrand Philippine president follows a period of uncertainty about one of Washington’s most important Asian alliances, stoked by Duterte’s hostility towards President Barack Obama and repeated threats to sever decades-old defense ties.

The call lasted just over seven minutes, Duterte’s special advisor, Christopher Go, said in a text message to media, which gave few details. Trump’s transition team had no immediate comment.

So #tRump is on the record supporting mass murder now. Awesome.

Two more links to check out:

The New York Times: How Trump’s Calls to World Leaders Are Upsetting Decades of Diplomacy.

The Washington Post: Donald Trump keeps confirming fears about his diplomatic skills.

Isn’t there anyone who can do something about this monster before he destroys our country and/or blows up the world? We are so screwed.

What stories are you following today?