“The song I’d turn into the national anthem is “Land of Confusion” by Genesis.” – Lord Buckethead, intergalactic space lord and parliamentary wannabe [NME]
President Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin have concluded their first, highly anticipated in-person meeting since the U.S. presidential election. The meeting, which was expected to last just 30 minutes, lasted two hours and 16 minutes, according to a senior adviser to U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.
“It’s an honor to be with you,” Trump said to President Putin at the beginning of their meeting. Awwwww!
“President Putin and I have been discussing various things. I think it’s going very well, we’ve had some very, very good talks,” Trump told reporters who were allowed into the room briefly. Trump added, “We look forward to a lot of very positive things happening for Russia, for the United States, and for everybody concerned.” Should everybody concerned be concerned or not just yet? Because with these two involved, we are talking the planet Earth level of concern.
Putin said beforehand that he was “delighted” to meet with Trump personally and hoped their meeting would “yield positive results.” The Russian president said while he and Trump have spoken over the phone – three times since Trump took office – such calls are “never enough.” That depends…
Before their high-stakes sit-down, the two leaders had a casual run-in this morning where they exchanged a handshake.
Handshakes in the Trumpworld deserve a separate paragraph or two.
The Guardian reports that Putin had intended it to be the briefest of handshakes, forgetting there is no such thing as a quick handshake with Donald Trump. The US president had thrust out a clammy right paw, grabbed hold of his arm with his left hand and then pumped it enthusiastically for rather longer than was comfortable.
By the time the two world leaders met for their bilateral meeting in the afternoon, Putin was better prepared. For the obligatory photo opportunity at the beginning of the talks, he and Trump were seated in adjacent armchairs with translators and officials to one side. Their body language could hardly have been worse. Trump was perched on the edge of his chair, trying to appear in control though just looking a bit needy. Putin sat back in his, determined to make little or no eye contact. The American president stuck out a hand, which Putin accepted. This time Trump kept his other hand by his side. There was not doubt in the room who the real boss was.
This week, The Hill has drawn attention to the fact that nearly six months in the office, President Trump still does not have an official portrait.
Typically, taking the new portrait photo that hangs in over 7,000 agencies and office buildings around the country is among the first orders of business for a new president. Once the photo is sent to the Government Printing Office, portraits are distributed via the General Services Administration, as well as a few other agencies, for hanging at entrances and lobbies, The Hill explains. The issue in the Trump administration is that the White House hasn’t sent a photo to GPO for printing. President Obama had his official photo taken a week before his inauguration, and the new portraits were released just weeks later. When he was re-elected, a new presidential photo was taken and posted around the country. Those portraits were taken down at noon on the day of Trump’s inauguration, and since then frames at federal offices around the country have remained empty.
This is just one indicator of the White House’s casual pace on ramping up the functions of a new administration. “It’s one of the very first thing’s that’s typically done, but then again, so is getting your political leaders in place,” said Max Stier, the president and CEO of Partnership for Public Service (PPS).
According to PPS, Trump is well behind his predecessors in staffing the government, having submitted just 197 people for executive branch, civilian, non-judicial positions. Of those, only 46 have been confirmed by the Senate. Under Obama, the numbers were 323 and 183, respectively, at the same point in his administration. “This is a symptom of a group of individuals who collectively don’t have much prior experience in the executive branch, and I think as a result they haven’t fully understood the existing process,” said Stier.
While the portrait’s absence is largely symbolic, it may have practical repercussions for an administration that has gone head-to-head with career bureaucrats, portraying them as Obama-era holdovers or members of the “deep state” determined to block the president’s agenda.
“The government’s career workforce is built to serve whoever is the political leader. It’s part of their DNA, and that presidential portrait is ubiquitous and symbolizes the existing leadership,” Stier said.
According to ABC, other offices have been happy to hang the unofficial portraits. The Pentagon mounted a Trump portrait at a special VIP entrance, while some local buildings, such as a county courthouse in Vinton, Iowa, simply printed and mounted their own. Hopefully, it was not a fake Time magazine cover, previously spotted on the walls in several Trump properties.
Big day today as Trump will soon sit down for his first meeting with his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin. The meeting will likely overshadow anything else that Trump does at the G-20 meeting in Hamburg, Germany.
What will Trump say about Russian meddling, if anything?
Trump previously said: “I agree, I think it was Russia — but I think it was probably other people and/or countries. And I see nothing wrong with that statement. Nobody really knows. Nobody really knows for sure.” Nobody knows is such a good strategy, if only he did not have the FBI, CIA and NSA, all very capable investigative organisations.
Who will be there?
The meeting will reportedly be a small one, including only Trump and Putin, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov, and two interpreters.
Assuming there are no last minute changes, that means there will be no place for Fiona Hill, a White House advisor who is more hawkish than some other Trump confidants when it comes to Russia. There has been speculation that some within the White House orbit were pushing for Hill to be included in the meeting, in part to counter suggestions that it would be an overly chummy affair.
What will the body language be like?
Trump and Putin’s meeting will last approximately 30 minutes and there is no suggestion that the duo will hold a news conference, or even answer any questions from reporters. But any footage of the two together will be closely scrutinized. Many of the president’s supporters expressed a view that a little coolness in the body language between him and Putin.
What will Putin do? (Oh, the suspense)
Substantive issues aside, plenty of people will be curious as to how Putin, a former KGB officer, will treat Trump. The Russian leader once brought his large black Labrador to a meeting with Merkel, who is afraid of dogs. So expect an anything-can-happen first meeting.
What will Trump-a-day be looking for?
Yesterday, en route to a potentially fractious G20 summit in Germany, U.S. President Donald Trump met with Polish President Andrzej Duda. The two leaders exchanged an extended handshake.
Then there was this Handshake of the Year:
The White House had said Trump would use the stopover in Warsaw to showcase his commitment to the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, which he once called “obsolete”, bemoaning allies’ repeated failure to spend the recommended 2 percent of GDP on defense. Trump told a joint news conference with President Duda that it was “past time” for all countries in the alliance to “get going” on their financial obligations.
At the same press conference, Trump said “something” would have to be done about North Korea and called on nations to confront North Korea’s “very, very bad behavior.” He said he did not draw “red lines”, but that Washington was thinking about “severe things” in response to North Korea’s test-launch this week of an intercontinental ballistic missile with the potential to reach Alaska.
Please – please – please, don’t start the nuclear winter!
Trump also said that everyone is benefiting from a thriving U.S. economy, except for him. He bragged about recent stock market gains as he addressed a summit. He specifically said: “Personally I’ve picked up nothing. That’s all right. Everyone else is getting very rich. That’s ok, I’m very happy.”
Yet, yesterday, Walter Shaub, the leader of the federal government’s ethics office who previously criticised President Trump over the president’s business interests, submitted his resignation. Shaub told CBS News on Thursday evening that he doesn’t know whether Trump is profiting from his businesses, but that’s not the point. “I can’t know what their intention is. I know that the effect is that there’s an appearance that the businesses are profiting from his occupying the presidency. And appearance matters as much as reality, so even aside from whether or not that’s actually happening, we need to send a message to the world that the United States is going to have the gold standard for an ethics program in government, which is what we’ve always had,” Shaub said.
The party of German leader Angela Merkel has downgraded the US from a “friend” to a “partner” in another sign that relations between the two countries are in decline. The Christian Democratic Union describes the US as “our most important non-European partner” in its manifesto, published on Monday ahead of September’s federal elections
Top aides to President Trump are worried what Trump will say during his meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin when the two leaders meet at the upcoming G-20 summit, The New York Times reported. The first official meeting between Trump and Putin comes amid swirling accusations of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
There’s a fair amount of nervousness in the White House and at the State Department about this meeting and that two leaders will bond over their distrust of the media. “You don’t want to come out of there saying, ‘We’re friends, and the enemy is the deep state and the media,’” former Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul told the Times. “If it were somebody else other than Trump, you could imagine a tough conversation about Ukraine and election meddling, but that’s probably too optimistic,” he continued.
However, according to reports, one person in the White House isn’t worried at all: Trump himself. He reportedly has told aides he isn’t worried about the meeting and is more concerned about the optics of being scolded by German Chancellor Angela Merkel over his decision to exit the Paris climate agreement.
“I expect an Olympian level of macho posturing between Trump and Putin, who both understand the power of symbolism,” Derek Chollet, Executive Vice President for security and defence policy at The German Marshall Fund of the United States told the Times. “Putin will be very prepared for this meeting. He’s someone who is a master at manipulation.”
As Trump can’t be relied on to handle the official government business and adequately represent his nation, senior Trump administration officials have pressed for Fiona Hill — the National Security Council’s senior director for Europe and Russia — to be in the room during the highly anticipated meeting. If Hill is there, these officials believe, it will help avoid the perception that the president is too eager to cosy up to the Kremlin. The hope is to avoid a repeat of Trump’s last meeting with top Russian officials, during which he disclosed classified intelligence to two of the country’s top diplomats. Hill, who came to the White House from the Brookings Institution, previously served as the National Intelligence Council’s top intelligence officer for Russia and Eurasia. Her 2013 biography, Mr. Putin: Operative in the Kremlin, portrayed a corrupt and Machiavellian leader attempting to balance his various public personas in an effort to hang on to power. While Trump has repeatedly hailed the “strong” and “brilliant” Russian leader, Hill said she expected little change in longstanding U.S.-Russia tensions. “I think it will come down to what it’s always been,” she told The Atlantic in November, “where the Russians will get all giddy with expectations, and then they’ll be dashed, like, five minutes into the relationship because the U.S. and Russia just have a very hard time… being on the same page.”
In the meantime, Russian Ambassador to the United States Sergei Kislyak said that his country’s work with President Trump’s administration is “unfolding uneasily.” “There are always opportunities for positive turnarounds,” Kislyak told a Russian news outlet earlier this week. “What is needed is the resolve not to miss such opportunities. Let’s see what the U.S. will do for the meeting.” Kislyak described a new set of sanctions against Russia imposed by the U.S. last month for its interference in the 2016 election as “another headache.” “Sometimes, you are surprised at the ease with which the American establishment is ready to sacrifice normalcy in our relations,” Kislyak said.
Mr Ambassador, normalcy has largely been absent since 9 November 2016.
President Trump’s donation of his first-quarter salary will go toward a pair of projects at a preserved Civil War battlefield in Maryland. Trump’s $78,333.32 check accounted for his after-tax income between 20 January and the end of March. He asked specifically that it is used to maintain historic battlefields. Money will go toward restoring the exterior of Antietam’s Newcomer House and replacing a fence at the battlefield, 70 miles northwest of Washington, D.C. The battle was the bloodiest day in American military history, with more than 22,700 dead, wounded or missing after the fight, with Union soldiers making up the bulk of the casualties. The battle was regarded as a draw, but gave President Abraham Lincoln a strategic win that led days later to the Emancipation Proclamation. This donation aside, Trump is proposing a crippling $1.6 billion budget cut to US national parks, battlefields and other public lands.
Sometimes, in order to fly you have to lift others first. Treasure your friends, teachers, parents, lovers, and even complete strangers - everyone who has ever made an effort to push you up and out of your comfort zone, a sleepy area where nothing grows. And lift others whenever you can - someone else's star might be part of your galaxy.