Trump-a-day

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:

https://twitter.com/number10cat/status/883040234686042113
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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.

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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


 

Trump-a-day

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.”


Image – courtesy of Daily Beast

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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.


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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.

Trump-a-day

Hello,

Today, we’ll start with good news (in the office, the aircon above my head finally broke down, so I am warm and happy. Power of thought).

Yesterday morning, as most mornings, I posted on Instagram. The picture taken from the Dome of St Paul’s Cathedral was featured by one of the most popular feeds in the world, @London, who took the opportunity to wish all Americans happy Independence Day.

At the time of writing, the picture has got many, many likes.

It feels surreal, but anyway, the best comment was from a New Yorker in her 20s, whose immediate goal in life is to get Twitter banned by Trump. Oh, the youth!

 

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Americans marked the 4th of July, the only day of the year America quotes the date the British way, in a variety of ways. Some got out their barbecues, others hit the beach, President Trump played golf, Ivanka Trump went to a party where half of the guests were liberal-minded Democrats, like George Soros, who cannot stand Ivanka’s father. CNN took the opportunity to make a gentle but important point to Donald Trump about his recent attacks on the media.

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Trump will be playing for high stakes when he meets Russian President Vladimir Putin during the G-20 summit in Hamburg, Germany, later this week. The encounter between the two men, the first since Trump became president, will be closely scrutinised in light of the allegations of Russian meddling in last year’s U.S. election — and because of the ongoing probes into whether there was any collusion between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin. It is far from certain that Trump will even bring up the issue of Russian interference. At a White House briefing last week, national security adviser H.R. McMaster insisted “there’s no specific agenda” for the meeting. Ah, good, Trump’s infamous verbal free styling it is then!

“It’s really going to be whatever the president wants to talk about,” McMaster said.

McMaster later clarified that Trump’s overall policy on Russia has three priorities: to “confront Russia’s destabilising behaviour,” to deter the Kremlin from unwelcome actions and “to foster areas of cooperation.” I think the first two points somewhat undermine the last and Trump will never pull these off, but what do I know, I am not a career diplomat. Oh, wait, neither is anyone in the current State Department.

“There is a dramatic, almost theatrical, aspect to this,” Republican strategist Matt Mackowiak said. “Drama” is the operative word in the White House these days.

Trump will also meet with German Chancellor Angela Merkel during the Hamburg event.

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A new online poll finds that Americans trust CNN, The Washington Post and The New York Times more than President Trump, Axios reported Tuesday. Amid Trump’s ongoing war against the press, trust is largely split among partisan lines, with 89 percent of Republicans viewing Trump as more trustworthy than CNN while 91 percent of Democrats think the opposite. Among all adults, trust for CNN is 7 points ahead of Trump.

The online poll by Survey Monkey was taken from June 29 to July 3 and surveyed 4,965 adults, with a margin of error of plus or minus 2.5 percentage points.

Expect tweeting.

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Following a White House commission’s request that states turn over voters’ full names, addresses, dates of birth, political parties, social security digits, and other personal data, dozens of U.S. states have registered their on-the-record objections.

CNN reported that 44 states have now refused a request by the Trump administration to provide certain information about registered voters, ranging from their criminal records to time spent abroad. A CNN inquiry into all 50 U.S. states found that state leaders and voting officials across the country have been fairly quick to respond to the request for voter data, sent last Wednesday by the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity – and, in most cases, to reject it.

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Notable tweets

Trump-a-day

 As US is celebrating the Independence Day (from Britain), today’s Trump-a-day selection is just a handful of reasons why the upcoming 1984 film should be renamed into 2017.


President Trump took to Twitter in the early hours of Tuesday to hit North Korea over conducting another ballistic missile test.

North Korea has just launched another missile. Does this guy have anything better to do with his life? Hard to believe that South Korea…..

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 4, 2017

….and Japan will put up with this much longer. Perhaps China will put a heavy move on North Korea and end this nonsense once and for all!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 4, 2017

The missile test and Trump’s tweets come shortly before Trump is expected to meet with Xi and other world leaders (including Putin) at the upcoming Group of 20 Summit in Hamburg, Germany, next week.

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Trump again sent the media into a fury over the weekend when he tweeted a doctored video showing him at a fake wrestling match body-slamming the CNN logo superimposed over the face of WWE president Vince McMahon from a few years ago during a Trump cameo. Reporters accused Trump of encouraging violence against the press. According to a running tally maintained by the Upshot, the president has insulted CNN more than 100 times on Twitter alone.

The relationship between the White House and the media is in shambles, with the daily press briefings devolving into shouting matches and airing of grievances. Both sides engage in stunts, grandstanding and political theatre meant to undermine or embarrass the other. The nasty turn has also been a boon to the media and the individual reporters who register acts of protest against the administration. “Ratings are part of it, but the media’s open contempt for this administration is part of it, too,” said Tim Graham, the director of media analysis at the conservative Media Research Center. “I imagine it will continue as long as the ratings keep going up.”

Trump isn’t changing. This is how he’s going to act in his spare time and he’ll attack the media at least a few times per week for the rest of his time in office. From Friday morning until Sunday night, eight of Trump’s 14 tweets were about the Fourth Estate.

Does Trump’s anti-CNN tweet violate Twitter’s terms? This is the “hateful conduct” policy https://t.co/1oCoXPNNulhttps://t.co/AhEu7Hwn12

— Brian Stelter (@brianstelter) July 2, 2017

 


Twitter not surprisingly said it didn’t.

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The Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity — formed by President Trump to investigate his widely debunked claim that millions of illegal votes cost him the popular vote in November’s election — sent letters last week to the 50 secretaries of state across the country requesting information about voters. The letter asked for names, addresses, birth dates and party affiliations of registered voters in each state. It also sought felony convictions, military statuses, the last four digits of Social Security numbers and voting records dating back to 2006. Scary what they can do with this information…

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Multiple FBI staffers reportedly sported T-shirts that read “Comey is my homey” to a Family Day event on Monday, offering support for ousted FBI Director James Comey, whom President Trump fired earlier this year. The back of the shirts featured a quote attributed to Comey: “We choose to do good for a living.”

An FBI spokesperson said the annual Family Day event can showcase divisions in the agency, as well as giving families of agency employees a chance to visit the bureau.

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A top Justice Department official who serves as a corporate compliance watchdog has left her job, saying she felt she could no longer force companies to comply with the government’s ethics laws when members of the administration she works for have conducted themselves in a manner that she claims would not be not tolerated.

Hui Chen had served in the department’s compliance counsel office from November 2015 until she resigned in June, breaking her silence in a LinkedIn post last week highlighted by The International Business Times, which points to the Trump administration’s behaviour as the reason for her job change. “To sit across the table from companies and question how committed they were to ethics and compliance felt not only hypocritical, but very much like shuffling the deck chair on the Titanic,” Chen wrote.

Before her resignation, Chen had posted tweets or retweeted articles that were considered critical of Trump. ”For those who truly care about ‪#ethics, ignoring our current ‪#conductatthetop requires abandonment of conscience,” she tweeted last month.

Chen said management in her office tried to silence her from publicly speaking out against the White House.

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The purge of government employees that have scientific expertise continues. Last Friday, the last three members of the White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) closed the door to their office for the final time. “Science division out. Mic drop,” one of the employees tweeted. All three staff members were holdovers from the Obama administration. Under his leadership, the OSTP had nine employees that were the executive branch’s brain trust on issues like STEM education, biotechnology, and crisis response. According to CBS News, there is no one working in that division of the OSTP now and no clear indication that replacements will be chosen. One hallmark of this administration’s term has been to leave thousands of federal government positions empty. Areas that Trump isn’t particularly interested in have been left to atrophy. He has no interest in getting along with other countries or using soft power, so the State Department is languishing. He has no interest in science or protecting the environment so the EPA is avoiding staffing and eliminating over 1,200 jobs. The EPAs Board of Scientific Counsellors will be down to 11 members by 1 September. Just a few months ago there were 68 members on the board.

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Iran is holding a weeklong “Trumpism” cartoon contest and exhibition to mock the U.S. president.


The first-prize winner, who received a $1,500 award, depicted President Trump drooling on books while sporting a jacket made of dollar bills, The Associated Press reported Monday. Hadi Asad said he wanted his cartoon to point out the “money-mindedness and war monger nature” of the president. “I wanted to show Trump while trampling symbols of culture,” Asadi told the AP.


Individuals from 74 countries participated in the exhibit that opened on Monday, including 1,614 Iranian cartoons and four American works. That is a lot of Trumpisms. Hopefully, they will publish a book and buying it will not be a sanctions violation. 

Trump-a-day

Yesterday, the President of the United States had his latest Twitter-storm. 

 
On Thursday morning, the anchors of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski apparently triggered Trump’s defence reflex by joking about a report that he hung fake Time magazine covers on the walls of his properties.


Trump has known the two anchors, personally and professionally, for years. The pair, who are engaged to be married, said Trump even offered at a meeting in January to officiate their wedding. For someone who claims to not watch the TV show, Trump blew things out of proportion and once again showed his true self (not that we did not know that he is a misogynistic bully, who can’t take criticism or a joke, because of his ego and a crystal dream of being universally loved and admired.)

Brzezinski responded to Trump’s tweets with a Tweet of her own


For those who do not remember, in a 2015 column, Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter detailed how Trump responds to criticism about his fingers. “Just to drive him a little bit crazy, I took to referring to him as a ‘short-fingered vulgarian’ in the pages of Spy magazine.” Carter wrote that Trump had responded with photos highlighting the length of his fingers. On a numerous occasions, Trump also insisted that he has ‘beautiful hands.’

MSNBC’s PR rep tweeted


In a rare moment of unity, nearly the entire national media, including the often pro-Trump Fox News, condemned the tweet.


On the Fox show, “Outnumbered,” the four female co-hosts blasted the tweet, saying it was beneath the dignity of the office. The “one lucky guy” on the show that day happened to be former Governor Mike Huckabee, the father of White House deputy press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders. Though he defended Trump hitting back at his detractors (for telling the truth), he noted that Sanders was not defending “what he said, she just defended the right to fight back.”


Republican lawmakers jumped on Trump’s comments, with one saying the insults were “beneath the dignity” of the office. House Speaker Paul Ryan was asked about the president’s tweet. “Obviously, I don’t see that as an appropriate comment,” Ryan said. “What we’re trying to do around here is improve the tone and the civility of the debate. And this obviously doesn’t help do that.” Amen.

 

The White House offered an unapologetic defence of Trump’s tweets during a contentious televised press briefing. Spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders was grilled over whether Trump’s inflammatory tweet was beneath the dignity of the presidency, fuelled a hostile political environment and set a bad example of how women should be treated by powerful men. She responded by defending Trump and berating reporters for ignoring the president’s policy agenda on taxes, healthcare and infrastructure.

“The only person I see a war on is this president and everybody that works for him,” she said. “I don’t think you can expect someone to be personally attacked, day after day, minute by minute, and sit back. The American people elected a fighter.” Nope, they elected a bully.

Sanders said Trump shows the dignity of his office “every day in the decisions he’s making, the focus and the priorities he’s laid out in his agenda. She pushed aside the notion that Trump’s tweets were sexist or a bad example for how to treat women. “Everybody wants to make this an attack on a woman — what about the constant attacks that he receives or the rest of us?” she said. “I’m a woman, I’ve been attacked by that show multiple times, but I don’t cry foul because of it.” When another reporter followed up by asking if Sanders felt that the tweet set a good example for her children, she deflected by saying that God is the “one perfect role model.”


That’s it until Monday.

Have a good weekend.