Trump Blames ‘U.S. Foolishness’ for Poor Relations With Russia

In the lead-up to his meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, President Donald Trump took to Twitter Monday claiming U.S.-Russia relations have “NEVER been worse,” blaming the U.S. for damaging the bilateral relationship.

Amid an ongoing investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign, Trump blamed “many years of U.S. foolishness and stupidity” and what he called a “Rigged Witch Hunt” for worsening ties between the two countries.

Trump is due to meet one-on-one with Putin and interpreters in Helsinki, the capital of Finland, on Monday.

The meeting follows a tense NATO Summit last week, at which Trump antagonized U.S. allies by suggesting that other NATO countries weren’t contributing enough to defense spending.

The Justice Department announced the indictment of 12 Russian intelligence agents Friday for hacking the Democratic National Committee, Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign and state election systems, as part of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

[TIME]

“I think the European Union is a foe,” Trump says ahead of Putin meeting in Helsinki

Coming off a contentious NATO summit and a trip to the U.K. in which he seemed to undercut the government of America’s closest ally, President Trump took aim at another Western institution just days before his high-stakes meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

In an interview with “CBS Evening News” anchor Jeff Glor in Scotland on Saturday, President Trump named the European Union — comprising some of America’s oldest allies — when asked to identify his “biggest foe globally right now.”

“Well, I think we have a lot of foes. I think the European Union is a foe, what they do to us in trade. Now, you wouldn’t think of the European Union, but they’re a foe. Russia is foe in certain respects. China is a foe economically, certainly they are a foe. But that doesn’t mean they are bad. It doesn’t mean anything. It means that they are competitive,” Mr. Trump said at his golf club in Turnberry, Scotland.

“I respect the leaders of those countries. But, in a trade sense, they’ve really taken advantage of us and many of those countries are in NATO and they weren’t paying their bills,” he added.

On Sunday, British Prime Minister Theresa May told the BBC that Mr. Trump had encouraged her to “sue the EU” rather than negotiate over the U.K.’s departure from the bloc. May’s conservative government is deeply split over her handling of Brexit, and her hold on power was further weakened by Mr. Trump’s comments to a British tabloid that her approach had likely “killed” any chance of a new trade deal with the U.S. once Brexit is complete. (Mr. Trump tried to walk back his criticism in a joint press conference on Friday.)

At the summit of NATO allies in Brussels last week, Mr. Trump took a hard line toward member nations for failing to meet targeted defense spending goals. He claimed his tough stance had paid off in getting allies to spend more on defense, telling reporters on Thursday that members had “upped their commitments and I am very happy.”

The president kicked off the NATO summit by blasting Germany as “totally controlled” and “captive by Russia” over a natural gas pipeline project, known as the Nord Stream 2. The U.S. fears the deal could give Moscow greater leverage over Western Europe. In Saturday’s interview, the president reiterated the criticisms he made in Brussels.

“Germany made a pipeline deal with Russia. Where they’re going to be paying Russia billions and billions of dollars a year for energy, and I say that’s not good, that’s not fair. You’re supposed to be fighting for someone and then that someone gives billions of dollars to the one you’re, you know, guarding against. I think it’s ridiculous, so I let that be known also this time,” Mr. Trump told Glor. “I’ll tell you what, there’s a lot of anger at the fact that Germany is paying Russia billions of dollars. There’s a lot of anger. I also think it’s a very bad thing for Germany. Because it’s like, what, are they waving a white flag?”

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who grew up in communist East Germany, told reporters after the president’s comments in Brussels that she had “experienced myself how a part of Germany was controlled by the Soviet Union” and said her country today made “independent policies” and “independent decisions.

In the CBS News interview, Mr. Trump also continued to criticize the special counsel’s Russia investigation, saying it is having an impact on America’s standing in the world. “I think we’re greatly hampered by this whole witch hunt that’s going on in the United States,” the president said. “I think it hurts our relationship with Russia. I actually think it hurts our relationship with a lot of countries. I think it’s a disgrace what’s going on.”

Mr. Trump heads to Helsinki on Sunday ahead of his meeting with Putin on Monday. He told Glor he has “low expectations” for the summit. “Nothing bad is going to come out of it, and maybe some good will come out,” he said.

[CBS News]

Trump Declares ‘Much of Our News Media is Indeed the Enemy of the People’

President Donald Trump went after the media again this afternoon and once again used that “enemy of the people” line.

[Mediaite]

Trump on Whether He’ll Ask Putin to Extradite Indicted Russians: ‘I Might, I Hadn’t Thought of That’

President Donald Trump sat down for an interview with CBS Evening News anchor Jeff Glor and previewed his big summit with Vladimir Putin.

And given the indictments handed down Friday against 12 Russian officers for hacking the Clinton campaign and the DNC, there have been many calls for Trump to call off the summit. Senator John McCain said it shouldn’t happen if Trump’s “not prepared to hold Putin accountable.”

Trump told Glor he believes in meetings, saying having meetings with Putin, Kim Jong Un, and Xi Jinping are good.

Of the Putin summit in particular, the President said, “Nothing bad’s going to come out of it, and maybe some good will come out. But I go in with low expectations, I’m not going in with high expectations. I don’t really––I don’t know what’s going to happen, but I can tell you what I’ll be asking for and we’ll see if something comes of it.”

[Mediaite]

Media

Trump Tweets Glowing Post-Summit Letter From Kim Jong Un…Which Doesn’t Mention Denuclearization

So Donald Trump had some contentious dealings with allies during the NATO summit this week in Brussels. But as far as his relationship with North Korea is concerned, it looks like the president believes things are going along just peachy.

Trump, on Thursday afternoon, tweeted out a letter he received from Kim Jong Un, along with a translated version. The note appears to have been sent on July 5 — based on a line within which states 24 days have passed since the summit in Singapore. Let’s have a look, shall we?

Kim refers to Trump as “your excellency” five times, praises the “improvement of relations” between the U.S. and North Korea, and expresses hope for a new future. It does not, however, give any mention to the end of North Korea’s nuclear program, nor the end of the country’s regular human rights abuses.

Ever since Trump’s summit with Kim in Singapore, critics have slammed the president for not doing more to challenge Kim, elevating a dictator on the global stage, and touting a pact the two leaders signed which doesn’t provide any solid agreement for a denuclearization plan. Recent evidence actually suggests that the rogue nation continues to build up their nuclear infrastructure.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo recently travelled to Pyongyang to move things forward, though the North Koreans said the talks were “regrettable” afterwards, and U.S. officials were snubbed today when they were supposed to meet with Kim’s representatives on the DMZ.

Trump Tweets Glowing Post-Summit Letter From Kim Jong Un…Which Doesn’t Mention Denuclearization

Trump’s claim that NATO will boost defense spending disputed

President Donald Trump closed out his chaotic two-day visit to NATO Thursday by declaring victory, claiming that member nations caved to his demands to significantly increase defense spending and reaffirming his commitment to the alliance.

But there were no immediate specifics on what he had achieved, and French President Emmanuel Macron quickly disputed Trump’s claim that NATO allies have agreed to boost defense spending beyond 2 percent of gross domestic product.

“The United States’ commitment to NATO remains very strong,” Trump told reporters at a surprise news conference following an emergency session of NATO members held to address his threats.

Trump had spent his time in Brussels berating members of the military alliance for failing to spend enough of their money on defense, accusing Europe of freeloading off the U.S. and raising doubts about whether he would come to members’ defense if they were attacked.

Trump said he made his anger clear to allies on Wednesday.

“Yesterday I let them know that I was extremely unhappy with what was happening,” Trump said, adding that, in response, European countries agreed to up their spending.

“They have substantially upped their commitment and now we’re very happy and have a very, very powerful, very, very strong NATO,” he said.

Trump did not specify which countries had committed to what, and it remained unclear whether any had changed their plans. He seemed to suggest a speeded-up timeline, saying nations would be “spending at a much faster clip.”

“Some are at 2 percent, others have agreed definitely to go to 2 percent, and some are going back to get the approval, and which they will get to go to 2 percent,” he said.

NATO countries in 2014 committed to spending 2 percent of their gross domestic products on defense within a decade. NATO has estimated that only 15 members, or just over half, will meet the benchmark by 2024 based on current trends.

Macron, in his own press conference, seemed to reject Trump’s claim that NATO powers had agreed to increases beyond previous targets. He said the allies had confirmed their intention to meet the goal of 2 percent by 2024 and no more.

The emergency session came amid reports that Trump had threatened to leave the alliance if allies didn’t immediately up their spending, but officials said no explicit threat was made.

“President Trump never at any moment, either in public or in private, threatened to withdraw from NATO,” Macron said.

Trump has taken an aggressive tone during the NATO summit, questioning the value of an alliance that has defined decades of American foreign policy, torching an ally and proposing a massive increase in European defense spending.

Earlier Thursday, Trump called out U.S. allies on Twitter, saying, “Presidents have been trying unsuccessfully for years to get Germany and other rich NATO Nations to pay more toward their protection from Russia.”

He complained the United States “pays tens of Billions of Dollars too much to subsidize Europe” and demanded that member nations meet their pledge to spend 2 percent of GDP on defense, which “must ultimately go to 4%!”

Under fire for his warm embrace of Russia’s Vladimir Putin, Trump on Wednesday also turned a harsh spotlight on Germany’s own ties to Russia, alleging that a natural gas pipeline venture with Moscow has left Angela Merkel’s government “totally controlled” and “captive” to Russia.

[CNBC]

Emails reveal alarm when Trump’s golf course gripes leaked

Days after Donald Trump was elected in 2016, a group of four British political figures met with him in Trump Tower in New York. They posted photos of themselves there beaming before a big golden door and, when they returned to Britain, one of them couldn’t help bragging to the BBC about the meeting in which they had discussed Trump’s dislike for windmills that could ruin the views from one of his Scottish golf courses.

Arron Banks, who donated an amount equivalent to more than $10 million to the Brexit cause, and his spokesman Andy Wigmore were among the first people to meet Trump after his election in November 2016 alongside Breitbart UK editor Raheem Kassam and Nigel Farage, the former chairman of the UK Independence Party (UKIP).

“He doesn’t like wind farms at all,” Wigmore told the BBC weeks after the meeting. “He says, ‘When I look out of my window and I see these wind mills it offends me.'” Wigmore added that the President-elect had asked him and his British counterparts at the meeting to campaign “about getting rid of wind farms in the way they currently stand.” He told a British newspaperthat Trump “kept returning” to the “issue of wind farms.”

British political operatives met with Russian ambassador days after Trump visit
The revelations led to further scrutiny of the President-elect’s potential business conflicts, and according to the emails, stoked Trump’s anger.

Wigmore’s comments, delivered with a smile, touched off a distressed email exchange, according to emails viewed by CNN. Some of Wigmore’s and Banks’ emails have recently been provided to congressional and parliamentary investigators looking into Russian interference in the United Kingdom and the US. CNN reported last month that Wigmore and Banks were also in regular contact with the Russian ambassador in London at the time.

In the emails, Kassam urged Wigmore to walk back his comments.

“WHY DID YOU GIVE THOSE QUOTES. This was a PRIVATE MEETING AND YOU HAVE F***** ALL OF US NOW,” Kassam emailed Wigmore.

Appearing to suggest over email they obfuscate the truth, Kassam wrote that Wigmore should issue a “full retraction immediately,” and claim the conversation with Trump about the windmills “never happened.”

UK investigates alleged Russian links to Brexit campaign
Kassam added, “We are going to have to distance ourselves from this. That conversation never took place and I’m afraid you have misremembered as a result of your overexcitement.”

A few weeks after their post-election Trump Tower meeting, Trump met with Farage at a party, according to an email sent by Banks to Wigmore and a colleague.

Banks wrote of Trump, “Apparently he’s still annoyed about the wind farm story (naughty boy andy) but I guess there’s not much we can do about that.”

For years before his election, Trump had publicly opposed the proposed Scottish wind farm that could be seen from a golf course he owns on Scotland’s east coast, even writing to a top Scottish official about the issue. Trump’s comments to the group, Wigmore suggested, were in part about that wind farm. Trump is expected to visit Turnberry, another golf course he owns on Scotland’s west coast, this week while he is in Europe for meetings with NATO and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Wind farms blowback

Wigmore’s November 2016 account of Trump’s disdain for wind farms, particularly those near his Scottish golf course, prompted a flurry of news reporting in the United States and drew further scrutiny about the President-elect’s potential conflicts of interest arising from his businesses.

When The New York Times asked Trump transition team spokeswoman Hope Hicks about the conversation in 2016, she said that the people involved denied that Trump had brought up the subject of wind farms.

But when the Times pointed out to Hicks Wigmore’s comments, she stopped responding.

At a later point in November 2016, Trump told the Times he “might have” brought up the topic of wind farms during the meeting.

The White House did not return CNN’s requests for comment about the newly revealed emails.

One of the emails from Kassam to Wigmore read, “You have to retract this in its entirety. What you have done is just activated the entire environmentalist lobby against the President‐elect. Your name is mud in the transition team right now and you need to issue a full retraction immediately. That you made that information up because you wanted to fill space in an interview and that you’re very sorry about it and that it never happened.”

How Europe’s populists are following the Steve Bannon playbook
Kassam told CNN, “The reason I got so mad at Andy (Wigmore) was because I think the President-elect literally mentioned wind farms once for a second, there was no sort of policy discussion about wind farms or anything like that.”

Kassam said he wasn’t asking Wigmore to lie about the meeting when he asked him to retract his comments, but did want his colleague to walk-back the suggestion that there was a detailed conversation about wind farms

“Andy isn’t exactly Mr. Attention-to-detail,” Kassam added.

Speaking to CNN, Wigmore acknowledged he was taken aback by Trump’s reaction to his comments but said he didn’t regret the indiscretion.

“Donald Trump is a man who speaks his mind,” Wigmore said. “No one expected him to win in 2016 just as no one expected people to vote for Brexit. But they did.”

Wigmore, Farage and Banks all played leading roles in Britain’s vote to leave the European Union in June 2016, and later went on to campaign for Trump, attending numerous rallies and debates across the United States in the lead up to the 2016 presidential election.

A Russia revelation

The emails obtained by CNN, of which the details of some were first reported by The Observer and The Sunday Times newspapers in London, show that a few days after the men’s post-election meeting at Trump Tower, Wigmore and Banks met the Russian ambassador in London.

CNN reported in June that, at the time of the 2016 meeting, Wigmore and Banks, were in regular contact with Alexander Yakovenko, the Russian ambassador in London, as part of what became a pattern of regular contact with the embassy.

There is no evidence that the Trump campaign knew about the men’s ties to the Russian government.

Kassam told CNN he didn’t know two of the other men were meeting with Russian government officials at the time.

Wigmore and Banks’ contact with the Russian ambassador in London while campaigning for Brexit, and later the Trump campaign, has been a source of intrigue in the United Kingdom.

The men appeared before a British parliamentary committee last month where they downplayed their connections to the Russian government.

In a radio interview last month, when it was suggested to Banks that people would ask if the men were “reporting back” to the Russians, he responded, “Well, not really.”

Wigmore said the only thing they provided the ambassador with was a phone number for the Trump transition team after the ambassador asked if they knew how to get in contact with Trump.

Wigmore claimed the ambassador said he didn’t know how to contact the incoming administration.

Kassam said that although he was unaware that Banks and Wigmore had connections with the Russian ambassador in London, it didn’t surprise him, as he described both men as socialites “running around Mayfair,” an affluent neighborhood in central London, who’d take a meeting with anyone.

[CNN]

President Trump at NATO Presser: Putin is ‘Not My Enemy’, It’s Not About ‘Enemy’, ‘He’s Not My Enemy’

During his surprise press conference today at the end of the NATO summit in Brussels, President Trump was asked if he admires Vladimir Putin since he compliments the latter so often.

Trump called the Russian leader a “competitor” rather than a friend or enemy at the start of this week, so a reporter wanted to know if he thinks the two will get along well once they hold their meeting in the next few days. Trump said he doesn’t “know Putin well enough” even though they got along during previous meetings together, but he mostly deferred to the “competitor” label again.

“He’s representing Russia. I’m representing the United States. So, n a sense, we’re competitors. Not a question of friend or enemies. He’s not my enemy, and hopefully someday, maybe he’ll be a friend. It could happen, BUT I just don’t know him very well.”

Russia was a recurring subject of interest throughout the presser, so Trump was asked about matters such as whether Russia is a “security threat,” and whether he’ll ask Putin if Russia interfered with the 2016 election.

[Mediaite]

As Trump Criticizes NATO, E.U. Leader Warns: You ‘Won’t Have a Better Ally’

President Trump renewed his criticism of European allies on Tuesday and said he was most optimistic about meeting with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, as he departed for a summit meeting in Brussels that threatens to highlight acrimony within NATO.

Mr. Trump’s comments touched off a round of trans-Atlantic sniping with Donald Tusk, the president of the European Council, that was sure to start the NATO meeting on a tense note.

“The U.S. is spending many times more than any other country in order to protect them,” Mr. Trump said on Twitter of the other members of the Atlantic alliance, hours before Air Force One left for Belgium. “Not fair to the U.S. taxpayer.”

He complained anew about trade deficits with the European Union, and seemed to threaten to cut American military spending in a bid to compel other NATO members to increase theirs.

“NATO countries must pay MORE, the United States must pay LESS,” Mr. Trump said in a separate tweet. “Very Unfair!”

The complaints reflected the degree to which Mr. Trump is coming into the summit meeting focused on his anger with NATO and his conviction that the alliance exploits American largess to the detriment of the United States. That is a stark departure from previous American presidents of both parties, who have tended to regard the alliance as an invaluable force for collective defense that reflects shared values among its members.

Mr. Trump’s remarks exacerbated concerns that he may torpedo the meeting that begins on Wednesday, and with it, the alliance’s efforts to show unity and solidarity in the face of global threats, including from Russia.

“Frankly, Putin may be the easiest of them all — who would think?” Mr. Trump said of his discussions over the next week, which include the NATO gathering, a working visit on Friday with Prime Minister Theresa May of Britain, whose government is in turmoil; and his first summit meeting with the Russian president on Monday in Helsinki, Finland.

Mr. Trump’s tweets prompted a tart retort from Mr. Tusk, who answered back on Twitter saying that Europe was a friend worth protecting, unlike other countries with which Mr. Trump has cultivated relationships.

“Dear @realDonaldTrump,” Mr. Tusk wrote. “US doesn’t have and won’t have a better ally than EU. We spend on defense much more than Russia and as much as China. I hope you have no doubt this is an investment in our security, which cannot be said with confidence about Russian & Chinese spending.”

In comments following the signing of a joint European Union-NATO declaration, Mr. Tusk said he wanted to address Mr. Trump’s near-daily criticism of Europe and complaints that countries are “living off the U.S.”

“Appreciate your allies,” Mr. Tusk said. “After all, you don’t have that many.”

Mr. Tusk, the president of the body that represents leaders of European Union member states, many of which are also in NATO, has a history of publicly challenging Mr. Trump, at a time when many foreign leaders are wary of the American president but reluctant to criticize him openly.

Last month, he said that Mr. Trump’s politics had put trans-Atlantic relations “under tremendous pressure” and warned Europeans to prepare for darker times. In May, he tweeted that Mr. Trump’s decisions could prompt the question, “With friends like that, who needs enemies.”

On Tuesday, as he left the White House for the short helicopter ride to Andrews Air Force Base to begin his trip to Europe, Mr. Trump seemed unmoved by Mr. Tusk’s latest pushback.

“Well, we do have a lot of allies, but we cannot be taken advantage of,” the president said, when asked about Mr. Tusk’s comments. “We’re being taken advantage of by the European Union.

“We lost $151 billion last year on trade, and on top of that we spend at least 70 percent for NATO, and frankly it helps them a lot more than it helps us. So we’ll see what happens.”

[The New York Times]

Citing ‘our handshake,’ Trump says he remains confident in Kim Jong Un’s pledge to denuclearize North Korea

President Trump on Monday expressed confidence that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un would make good on pledges to denuclearize, despite contentious rhetoric coming out of the country after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s visit over the weekend.

In a tweet, Trump cited an agreement that he and Kim signed during last month’s summit in Singapore and said “our handshake” was even more important to his assessment of Kim’s commitment.

“I have confidence that Kim Jong Un will honor the contract we signed &, even more importantly, our handshake,” Trump wrote. “We agreed to the denuclearization of North Korea.”

As Pompeo left the North Korean capital Saturday, he told reporters that the trip had been “productive” and that progress had been made on a number of issues that required follow-up after the June 12 meeting between Trump and Kim.

However, the North Korean Foreign Ministry later released a lengthy statement that criticized the U.S. focus on nuclear weapons. “The U.S. side came up only with its unilateral and gangster-like demand for denuclearization,” the North Korean statement said.

On Sunday, Pompeo sharply disputed that, saying the regime’s criticism of U.S. negotiators during his two-day visit to Pyongyang was unfounded.

“If those requests were gangster-like, the world is a gangster,” said Pompeo, noting that U.S. demands for North Korea to denuclearize were supported by a consensus among U.N. Security Council members.

Speaking to reporters in Tokyo, Pompeo insisted that Pyongyang did not have an issue with the idea of complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization despite the North Korean Foreign Ministry singling out the phrase in its statement.

In his Monday tweet, Trump also raised concerns about China’s commitment to denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, suggesting it could have waned because of a trade war that has broken out between the United States and China.

“China, on the other hand, may be exerting negative pressure on a deal because of our posture on Chinese Trade-Hope Not!” Trump wrote.

Trump has drawn criticism from Democrats and even some Republicans for declaring victory in the wake of a summit that produced only a brief declaration with a striking lack of detail about the path forward.

In tweets that began as he returned to the United States, Trump declared America’s “biggest and most dangerous problem” all but resolved. And he said the deal he struck with Kim meant there was “no longer a Nuclear Threat from North Korea,” and that “everybody can now feel much safer.”

Analysts have cautioned of a difficult road ahead given decades of hostility, unkept promises, and the widespread belief, shared by U.S. intelligence agencies, that North Korea would never give up the nuclear weapons it sought for so long.

[The Washington Post]

1 2 3 4 5 11