Trump demands credit for getting along with Kim Jong Un

President Donald Trump continued to defend his budding relationship with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on Monday, demanding credit for his role in making “initial steps toward a deal” by establishing a personal rapport with the young dictator during last week’s summit in Singapore.

“If President Obama (who got nowhere with North Korea and would have had to go to war with many millions of people being killed) had gotten along with North Korea and made the initial steps toward a deal that I have, the Fake News would have named him a national hero!” Trump tweeted.

Amid lingering skepticism over North Korea’s commitment to complete denuclearization in the wake of the Singapore summit, Trump has aggressively pushed the idea that Kim is sincere in his intentions and that the two leaders were able to develop a unique chemistry.

It’s a conviction South Korean officials share. South Korean Vice Foreign Minister Lim Sung-Nam said Monday in Washington that any diplomatic progress should be credited to the connection that Trump and Kim established through an “unprecedented top-down approach” to negotiations.

“The actors for this top-level diplomacy are completely different leaders as compared to the past,” Lim told an audience at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “Moreover, the personal chemistry between them has been unique as well.”

South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, asked about Trump’s praise for Kim, suggested the President is as willing to use carrots as he would be — if necessary — to use sticks. “If you try to play Trump or back out, there’s going to be a war and nobody wants war,” Graham told CNN.

Trump’s claims to a cozy relationship may reflect an effort to butter-up Kim “to make it easier to get a better deal,” Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio told CNN last week.

Indeed, the administration hopes that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo can build on that rapport to create substantial movement toward denuclearization.

But sources have told CNN that there is nothing to suggest that North Korea has begun destroying its missile launch sites, despite Trump’s repeated claims to the contrary and his declaration last week that the country is no longer a nuclear threat.

Harry Harris, Trump’s nominee to be ambassador to South Korea, said last week that North Korea continues to be a nuclear threat and that major military exercises should be paused to give Kim a chance to prove whether he is “serious.”

Trump announced in Singapore that the US would suspend “war games” with South Korea and Japan, taking Seoul, Tokyo, lawmakers and parts of the US military by surprise.

Additionally, several US defense officials said that, so far, there is no indication that Kim has made good on his promise to return the remains of prisoners of war and soldiers declared missing in action during the Korean War — something Trump has repeatedly said the two leaders agreed upon during their meeting.

These officials also cautioned that a lengthy DNA verification process would be needed when and if any remains are returned to the US.

In South Korea, however, the prism is different. Discussions center less on Trump’s achievements or lack of them, or his failures to live up to his own word, and more on the possibilities his summit opened up — in particular his new relationship with Kim.

While critics continue to suggest that Trump failed to secure concrete concessions from North Korea — including guarantees related to verifiable irreversible denuclearization and ending human rights abuses — South Korean officials have publicly credited the US President for facilitating the signing of the Panmunjom declaration and the Singapore statement, despite questions over specific terms.

“President Trump has made an unprecedented strategic decision to meet face-to-face with the leader of the DPRK,” Vice Foreign Minister Lim said, noting that Trump accounted for cultural considerations in dealing with Kim by showing him “due respect” and treating “him as a leader of a state.”

[CNN]

Roger Stone Met With Russian Who Wanted Trump to Pay for Dirt on Hillary Clinton

In a new report from The Washington Post Sunday, it was revealed Roger Stone, the infamous  political strategist and longtime friend of President Donald Trump, met with a Russian who offered him dirt on Hillary Clinton.

Stone told the Post  the meeting occurred in May 2016 when he spoke with a man who said his name was Henry Greenberg. According to the report, Greenberg was sporting a signature Make America Great Again hat and had a distinct Russian accent.

Upon offering up the information on Clinton, Trump’s then-challenger for the presidential seat, Greenberg allegedly told Stone he wanted $2 million from Trump in exchange.

However, Stone recalls having passed up on the payment, telling the man Trump wouldn’t shell out the cash.

“You don’t understand Donald Trump,” Stone said, per his account in the Post. “He doesn’t pay for anything.”

Stone later received a text from Trump’s campaign adviser Michael Caputo, who had organized the meeting and wanted to know how it went.

“Wants big &$ for the info- waste of time,” Stone replied.

“The Russian way,” Caputo wrote back. “Anything at all insteresting?”

“No,” Stone said.

Both now say they believe the meeting was a setup and that Greenberg claimed he worked as an FBI informant, which the Post was able to verify through documentation.

The Post reports:

“Interviews and additional documents show that Greenberg has at times used the name Henry Oknyansky. Under that name, he claimed in a 2015 court filing related to his immigration status that he had provided information to the FBI for 17 years. He attached records showing that the government had granted him special permission to enter the United States because his presence represented a ‘significant public benefit.’”

[Mediaite]

Trump Reportedly Told G7 Leaders Crimea is Part of Russia Because They Speak Russian

A new report suggests that Donald Trump parroted Vladimir Putin last week when he spoke to his fellow world leaders about re-admiting Russia into the G7.

Trump bemoaned Putin’s absence throughout the international gathering, which added to the contentiousness as he spoke with foreign dignitaries in Toronto. Diplomatic sources told Buzzfeed that when when Trump engaged with world leaders over dinner, he spoke of how Crimea is Russian because so many people who live there speak the language.

From the report:

During the dinner, Trump also seemed to question why the G7 leaders were siding with Ukraine. The president told leaders that “Ukraine is one of the most corrupt countries in the world,” the source said.

Russia used to be part of the former G8, but they were expelled over the 2014 invasion of Ukraine and annexation of Crimea. Putin often justifies the intervention campaign by saying Russia had to protect the citizens living in the region.

Trump defended his comments in an interview last night, telling Fox New’s Bret Baier that if Putin was in Quebec, he could’ve asked him to pull Russia out of Syria and Ukraine as a “favor.” Baier reminded Trump why Russia was kicked out of the G8, though POTUS responded that Putin didn’t respect Barack Obama‘s leadership, even though the former president led the charge for Putin’s expulsion.

[Mediaite]

Trump Dodges When Confronted on Kim’s Brutality: ‘A Lot of Other People’ Have Done Bad Things Too

President Donald Trump sat down with Fox News’ Bret Baier for a one-on-one interview aboard Air Force One.

During the interview, the president praised “President for Life” Xi Jinping and pointed out North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

Trump also said he and the North Korean despot “understand each other.”

POTUS’s praise of Kim prompted Baier to ask why he would say such nice things about a “killer.”

“You were asked in the press conference a number of different times and in different ways about human rights and that you that call this relationship ‘really good’ and that he was ‘very talented person.’” Baier said.

Baier then continued on, “You call people sometimes killers. He is a killer. He’s executing people.”

Trump dodged trying to say North Korea was a “tough country” with “tough people.”

“You take it over from your father––I don’t care who you are, what you are, how much of an advantage you have. If you can do that at 27 years old, that’s one in 10,000 that could do that,” Trump claimed, continuing to praise Kim. “So he’s a very smart guy. He’s a great negotiator, but I think we understand each other.”

Baier then pressed further, adding, “He has still done some really bad things.”

“Yeah, but so have a lot of other people done some really bad things,” Trump said, dodging again. “I could go through a lot of nations where a lot of bad things were done.”

It is also not the first time Trump has dodged questions from Fox News about cozying up to a killer. In February 2017, Trump sat down for a pre-Super Bowl interview with Bill O’Reillywhere he was asked about how he could be so friendly with Russian President Vladimir Putindespite the fact that he, too, has blood on his hands.

Trump dodged back then too, telling O’Reilly: “There are a lot of killers. We’ve got a lot of killers. What, do you think our country’s so innocent?”

[Mediaite]

‘Insulting and ridiculous and ludicrous!’ Mike Pompeo blows up at reporter for asking basic question on Korea

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Wednesday exploded at an unidentified reporter who asked him a very basic question about verifying the destruction of North Korea’s nuclear arsenal.

Via Congressional Quarterly foreign policy reporter Rachel Oswald, a reporter questioning Pompeo about talks with North Korea asked him how he could make sure the country had committed to allowing inspectors in to verify denuclearization when there was nothing about verifying disarmament in the joint statement signed by both countries.

“I find that question insulting and ridiculous and, frankly, ludicrous,” Pompeo angrily responded. “I just have to be honest with you. It’s a game and one ought not play games with serious matters like this.”

The Trump administration has insisted that it wants North Korea to commit to the “complete, verifiable, irreversible denuclearization” of the Korean Peninsula. However, in the joint statement signed by the U.S. and North Korea, it only says that the country is committed to “working toward complete denuclearization.”

This distinction is important because it would give North Korea a loophole to argue that it does not need to allow inspectors into its facilities. What’s more, it could give North Korea the right to rebuild its nuclear weapons program even if it did actually go through with dismantling it.

[Raw Story]

Trump: I Won’t Admit It if the Kim Summit Turns Out to Be a Mistake, ‘I’ll Find Some Kind of an Excuse’

In what might’ve been an unusually frank moment with reporters, President Donald Trump said today that he’ll never admit it if it turns out his meeting with Kim Jong Un was a bad idea.

After Trump concluded his private meetings with Kim, he held a press conference in which he heaped praise on the “very talented” North Korean dictator. Trump also touted the document he and Kim signed regarding the future of their respective countries, even though the agreement doesn’t outline any specific framework for North Korea’s eventual denuclearization.

As Trump talked about why he trusts Kim to cooperate and disarm his country, he eventually made a candid admission — volunteering that even if he turns out to be wrong, he won’t say so.

“I may be wrong. I may stand before you in six months and say, ‘Hey, I was wrong.’ I don’t know that I’ll ever admit that, but I’ll find some kind of an excuse.”

[Mediaite]

Media

Trump: North Koreans love Kim

President Trump on Tuesday said the people of North Korea “love” the country’s leader Kim Jong Un despite previously condemning the regime’s human rights abuses.

“His country does love him,” Trump said in an interview with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos following the historic summit between Trump and Kim in Singapore.

Trump said “you see the fervor” the North Koreans have for their leader.

“They’re gonna put it together, and I think they’re going to end up with a very strong country, and a country which has people  — that they’re so hard working, so industrious,” Trump said.

Stephanopoulos, however, pressed Trump’s reversal from his previous criticism over the oppressive regime that’s been accused of multiple human rights abuses.

“You say his people love him,” Stephanopoulos retorted. “Just a few months ago you accused him of starving his people.”

Trump said in January during the State of the Union address that North Korea has “more brutally oppressed its people than any regime on Earth.”

Stephanopoulos pressed the issue, saying Kim is a brutal dictator who runs a police state with labor camps and forced starvation.

“He’s assassinated members of his own family,” Stephanopoulos added. “How do you trust a killer like that?”

Trump said he can only judge Kim based on his interactions with him.

“I mean, this is what we have, and this is where we are, and I can only tell you from my experience, and I met him, I’ve spoken with him, and I’ve met him,” Trump said.

Trump also noted that things can change in the relationship, saying, “Will I come back to you in a year and you’ll be interviewing me and I’ll say, ‘Gee, I made a mistake?’ That’s always possible.”

Trump said Kim “wants to do the right thing” and that begins with denuclearization.

“I mean, this is what we have, and this is where we are, and I can only tell you from my experience, and I met him, I’ve spoken with him, and I’ve met him,” Trump said.

Trump also noted that things can change in the relationship, saying, “Will I come back to you in a year and you’ll be interviewing me and I’ll say, ‘Gee, I made a mistake?’ That’s always possible.”

Trump said Kim “wants to do the right thing” and that begins with denuclearization.

“Now, with all of that being said, I can’t talk about — it doesn’t matter,” Trump added.

Trump said at a press conference following the summit that human rights abuses happen “in a lot of places” when he was asked if he would reverse his previous criticism of Kim’s regime.

“I believe it’s a rough situation over there,” Trump told reporters. “It’s rough in a lot of places, by the way, not just there.”

Trump blasts ‘haters & losers’ in typo-filled tweet from Singapore

President Trump addressed the “haters & losers” in a typo-filled tweet from Singapore ahead of his historic summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

“The fact that I am having a meeting is a major loss for the U.S., say the haters & losers,” Trump tweeted on Monday evening, just hours before the scheduled summit.

The president then addressed his successes with the rogue nuclear nation, proclaiming that the arrangement was a win for the US.

“We have our hostages, testing, research and all missle launches have stoped [sic],” he added. “And these pundits, who have called me wrong from the beginning, have nothing else they can say!”

Critics have charged that Trump meeting a dictator could send the wrong message on human rights and other issues — especially after the president’s contentious meeting at the G7 in Canada.

But Trump concluded, “We will be fine!”

[New York Post]

Trump blames Obama for Crimean annexation yet again

Amidst the furor of new trade tensions with the U.S.’s G7 partners, President Donald Trump let slip the latest in a series of criticisms leveled at former President Barack Obama for allegedly allowing Russia to invade Ukraine.

Obama, according to Trump, was “the one that let Crimea get away,” adding that his predecessor in the White House “allowed Russia to take Crimea. I may have had a much different attitude.”

While the criticism was pointed, it fits a prior pattern of Trump accusing Obama of emboldening Russia to invade Ukraine. Indeed, the criticism mirrors prior comments Trump has made vis-a-vis Obama and Crimea.

Now, added to those criticisms are Trump’s most recent comment on Crimea this weekend.

As the president said about Crimea, “it’s been done a long time.” It was unclear if the president was speaking specifically about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, or simply its claims in Crimea. However, in the context of calling to readmit Russia to the G7 — it had been the G8 until Moscow was expelled due to its actions in Ukraine — Trump’s comments appeared to hint that the White House was creeping closer to de jure recognition of Russia’s control of the Ukrainian peninsula.

Trump has insinuated in the past that he’d be open to recognizing Russia’s annexation outright, the first forced annexation in Europe since the outset of World War II. In 2015, Trump distanced the U.S. from the issue, saying the Russian invasion remains “Europe’s problem.”

A year later, Trump leaned even closer to outright recognition — even managing to lend credence to Russian propaganda points on the annexation, which was illegal according to Ukrainian law and which didn’t feature any legitimate election observers. (The peninsula’s indigenous Crimean Tatar population, which had been deported en masse from Crimea under Joseph Stalin, largely boycotted the vote.)

As Trump said in 2016, “The people of Crimea, from what I’ve heard, would rather be with Russia than where they were. And you have to look at that, also.” Around the same time, Trump added that as president he would be “looking at” recognition.

If Trump does eventually follow through on recognition, he will join a small club of despotic governments and client-states that have supported Russia in Crimea, from North Korea and Kazakhstan to Cuba and Venezuela.

[ThinkProgress]

Media

Trump calls for Russia to be reinstated to G-7, threatens allies on trade

President Trump on Friday said Russia should be readmitted to the Group of Seven leading economies, breaking with other world leaders who have insisted that Moscow remain ostracized after its 2014 annexation of Crimea.

“Now, I love our country. I have been Russia’s worst nightmare . . . . But with that being said, Russia should be in this meeting,” Trump said Friday as he left the White House. “Whether you like it or not, and it may not be politically correct, but we have a world to run . . . . They should let Russia come back in.”

Trump’s comments, made just hours before he arrived in Canada for the annual G-7 summit, have further scrambled talks with other leaders, most of whom were already fuming about the U.S. leader’s protectionist trade policies. But in a sign that European unity against Trump is cracking, new Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said he agreed with Trump and wanted Russia back in the fold.

U.S. intelligence officials believe Russia interfered in the 2016 election, and part of this year’s G-7 summit was supposed to focus on protecting democracies from foreign meddling. Special counsel Robert S. Mueller III is investigating Russian interference efforts, including whether Trump’s campaign colluded in any way with Russian officials, a probe that has become an obsession for the president.

Trump’s suggestion that Russia be readmitted to the G-7 was heavily criticized by political opponents back home, including Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), who said Trump was “turning our foreign policy into an international joke.”

“We need the president to be able to distinguish between our allies and adversaries, and to treat each accordingly,” Schumer said. “On issue after issue, he’s failed to do that.”

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) also spoke out against Trump’s suggestion, saying in a statement that “Vladimir Putin chose to make Russia unworthy of membership in the G-8 by invading Ukraine and annexing Crimea. Nothing he has done since then has changed that most obvious fact.”

McCain, the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, was among the first lawmakers to call for Russia’s ejection from the G-8.

In the past several months, Trump has pushed to completely overturn many of the post-World War II institutions put in place to strengthen global ties. These tensions have created immense strain ahead of the summit in Canada, with top leaders questioning if they are in the midst of a transformational disruption brought on by the United States.

“The rules-based international order is being challenged,” European Commission President Donald Tusk told reporters here. “Quite surprisingly, not by the usual suspects but by its main architect and guarantor, the U.S. … We will not stop trying to convince our American friends and President Trump that undermining this order makes no sense at all.”

In response to Trump’s proposal for Russia, Tusk said it would only make the group more divisive.

“For today, I think it’s much more important to convince our American partners to strengthen our format as guarantor of world order, than to look for something new, more challenging, more difficult,” he said.

Moscow didn’t rush to publicly embrace Trump’s pronouncement. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Russia preferred to emphasize “other formats” of international talks. Lawmaker Konstantin Kosachev, chairman of the foreign relations committee in Russia’s upper house of parliament, said the country should only rejoin the group on its own terms — “with sanctions removed and interests respected.”

“The G-8 needs Russia much more than Russia needs the G-8,” Kosachev said in a statement.

Some other members of the G-7, including the leaders of the United Kingdom, Germany and France, are unlikely to agree to Trump’s call for readmitting Russia, meaning the suggestion could further divide the group and make it even more ineffectual.

In an interview with Sky News on Friday, British Prime Minister Theresa May said it was important to “engage with Russia.”

But, she added, “Let’s remember why the G-8 became the G-7. And before discussions could begin on any of this, we would have to ensure Russia is amending its ways and taking a different route.”

A version of the G-7 or G-8 has existed since the 1970s, designed to try to build a consensus among world leaders to tackle global challenges.

Trump has sought to improve relations between the United States and Russia since taking office, though he has faced steep criticism from lawmakers in both parties for doing so. The U.S. government and other nations have imposed strict sanctions on Russia related to its annexation of Crimea from Ukraine.

Trump on Friday also reiterated his plans to take a tough stance on trade with U.S. allies at the summit, threatening again to withdraw from the North American Free Trade Agreement.

“We’re going to deal with the unfair trade practices . . . . We have to change it, and they understand it’s going to happen,” Trump said. “If we’re unable to make a deal, we’ll terminate NAFTA. We’ll make a better deal.”

The comments marked the latest in a string of declarations in recent days that have completely redirected the focus the G-7, an organization Trump has shown little regard for since taking office last year.

In an earlier Twitter post, Trump said the United States would emerge victorious if other nations refused to accede to his trade demands, suggesting that he plans to employ a take-it-or-leave-it bargaining position with other world leaders at the summit here.

“Looking forward to straightening out unfair Trade Deals with the G-7 countries,” Trump wrote. “If it doesn’t happen, we come out even better!”

Thursday evening, when tensions between Trump and French President Emmanuel Macron and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau appeared to be boiling over, the U.S. leader vowed to impose new tariffs and other economic penalties against Canada and the European Union if they did not allow more U.S. imports into their countries.

“Take down your tariffs & barriers or we will more than match you!” he wrote on Twitter. He did not specify what products he could target.

Trump effectively upended the two-day G-7 summit even before it began by raising the prospect of refusing to sign on to a joint statement with other leaders asserting commonly shared principles and values.

On Friday morning, a planned bilateral meeting between Trump and Macron was postponed, the White House said, because Trump was running behind. Aides said they were working to reschedule what is expected to be a tense meeting later in the day.

Macron, Trudeau and other world leaders spent much of 2017 tiptoeing around the new U.S. president, aware of his “America First” agenda but hoping to draw him closer to multinational organizations that they believe can best address global issues. But in recent weeks, there have been signs that world leaders have scrapped that approach and now plan to deal with Trump in a more adversarial way, particularly after the White House announced it would begin imposing tariffs on steel and aluminum imports from U.S. allies beginning in June.

Macron on Thursday said Trump was isolating the United States and suggested that foreign leaders might simply wait until Trump’s time in the White House has concluded before reengaging with the United States. Trump, meanwhile, said Trudeau was acting “indignant” and attacked the United States’ northern neighbor in a series of Twitter posts, focusing in part on Canadian dairy policy.

Trump is now engaged in a series of trade wars with numerous countries in Europe, North America and Asia, which could affect the flow of hundreds of billions of dollars in goods, including automobiles, agricultural products and technology. He wants Europe and Japan to lower tariffs on imports of automobiles. He wants China to buy more agriculture and energy products from the United States. He is pushing Mexican leaders for a range of changes to NAFTA, and he wants that entire pact to expire after five years.

His view is that other countries have imposed unfair tariffs limiting U.S. imports for decades but that the United States has unwittingly allowed those countries to bring low-cost goods into the country, hurting American companies and workers.

Foreign leaders are aware of the shaky ground Trump is on when he levels these trade threats, as a growing number of congressional Republicans have expressed outrage, and some are trying to intervene to strip away his powers. So far, Trump has held these lawmakers, including Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), at bay, but U.S. business groups — worried about the prospect of higher costs driven by Trump’s trade threats — are pushing Congress to act.

Trump is also scheduled to meet with Trudeau on Friday, and then he will leave the summit early Saturday, an unexpected schedule revision that will pull him out of discussions on climate change.

The United States is the world’s largest economy, giving Trump outsized influence with any decisions he makes to restructure trade relationships. Foreign leaders face difficult decisions over whether to agree to some of Trump’s trade demands to preserve relationships or refuse and risk Trump’s ire. The U.S. president, in his first 16 months in office, has made clear that few allies will be spared from his demands.

The G-7 and the newer, larger G-20 have had limited success in recent decades forming coalitions and resolving world issues, but they do strive to provide a forum for discussions. Trump has rejected many international forums, and during the G-7 summit in Italy last year he rode a golf cart behind the other six leaders as they walked down the street.

Still, the attacks Trump leveled at his allies this week have raised the notion for many that Trump is completely rejecting this model.

“Trump’s willingness to walk away from the key elements of the postwar international governance system suggest a major disruption is coming,” said Eswar Prasad, a trade expert and professor at Cornell University.

The Kremlin, meanwhile, appears to be enjoying an “I told you so” moment as it watches Trump’s escalating conflict with America’s closest allies. Putin has long spoken about the dangers of a world dominated by the United States, and on Thursday he said that with Trump’s metals tariffs, Europeans were getting their comeuppance for showing excessive deference to Washington — and getting a taste of the way the United States has long treated Russia.

“Our partners probably thought that these counterproductive policies would never affect them,” Putin said in his annual televised call-in show. “No one wanted to listen, and no one wanted to do anything to stop these tendencies. Here we are.”

[Washington Post]

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