Trump says he would accept dirt on political rivals from foreign governments

President Donald Trump says he would listen if a foreign government approached him with damaging information about a political rival — and wouldn’t necessarily report the contact to the FBI.

“I think you might want to listen, there isn’t anything wrong with listening,” Trump said in an interview with ABC News that aired on Wednesday.

“I think I’d want to hear it,” Trump went on, downplaying the idea such a move by another country would amount to election interference.

Trump and his 2016 campaign have come under intense scrutiny — and a special counsel investigation — for their contacts with Russians during the last presidential election.

Special counsel Robert Mueller detailed extensive contact between Trump campaign associates and Russians, but did not conclude there was a criminal conspiracy.

Asked Wednesday whether he would take opposition research being peddled by another government, Trump said he likely would.

“It’s not an interference, they have information — I think I’d take it,” Trump said. “If I thought there was something wrong, I’d go maybe to the FBI — if I thought there was something wrong.

“Still, Trump said he wouldn’t automatically report the foreign government’s actions to US law enforcement — something he says he’s never considered doing in his lifetime.

“I’ll tell you what, I’ve seen a lot of things over my life. I don’t think in my whole life I’ve ever called the FBI. In my whole life. You don’t call the FBI,” he said. “You throw somebody out of your office, you do whatever you do.”

“Life doesn’t work that way,” Trump said.

[CNN]

Trump Snaps at April Ryan Over Future Meeting With Putin: ‘You People are So Untrusting’

President Donald Trump went off on White House reporter April Ryan on Wednesday as he took questions from journalists in the Oval Office.

As Trump sat beside Polish President Andrzej Duda, he was asked about how Russia has denied a recent statement of his that they are supposedly withdrawing military forces from Venezuela.

“Well, let’s just see who’s right,” Trump said. “You’ll see in the end whose right okay? You just watch it. And we’ll see who’s right. Ultimately, I’m always right.”

After that, Ryan got in a question about who Trump expects to meet with at the upcoming G20 summit. When she tried to follow up by asking if he’ll be flanked by national security officials when he meets Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping, the president responded: “Well it’s probably easier because you people are so untrusting so it’s probably better.”

“Would you like to be in the room? I can imagine you would be,” Trump continued with visible agitation. “I think it’s probably easier if we have people in the room because you people don’t trust anything.”

[Mediaite]

Trump repeatedly flashes piece of paper he claims is part of secret Mexico deal

President Donald Trump continued to insist Tuesday that there is a secret component of his migration deal with Mexico, even flashing a piece of paper to reporters that he claimed spelled out the undisclosed portion.

“In here is the agreement,” Trump said, pulling the paper from a coat pocket and repeatedly holding it up as he spoke to reporters. “Right here is the agreement, it’s very simple. In here is everything you want to talk about, it’s right here,” he said, without opening it up.

“This is one page. This is one page of a very long and very good agreement for both Mexico and the United States,” Trump said.

“Without the tariffs, we would have had nothing,” the president said.

“Two weeks ago, I’ll tell you what we had: We had nothing. And the reason we had nothing is because Mexico felt that they didn’t have to give us anything. I don’t blame them. But this is actually ultimately going to be good for Mexico, too. And it’s good for the relationship of Mexico with us,” he continued.

Trump said he couldn’t show reporters what was on the paper. “I would love to do it, but you will freeze action it. You will stop it. You will analyze it, every single letter. You’ll see. But in here is the agreement.”

The president said that it’s his “option” as to whether the undisclosed agreement will go into effect.

“It’s not Mexico’s, but it will go into effect when Mexico tells me it’s okay to release,” Trump said, adding that first Mexico has to ratify whatever agreement they’ve made. “It goes into effect at my option.”

Washington Post photographer Jabin Botsford captured and tweeted a photo of the piece of paper, a portion of which can be read to say “the Government of Mexico will take all necessary steps under domestic law to bring the agreement into force with a view to ensuring that the agreement will enter into force within 45 days.”

Despite the president’s insistence that there is a secret deal, the Mexican government has denied that there are any undisclosed parts of the U.S.- Mexico deal.

“Outside of what I have just explained, there is no agreement,” Mexico’s Foreign Affairs Minister Marcelo Ebrard said on Monday.

[ABC News]

Trump praises Kim Jong Un, saying he received a ‘beautiful’ letter from him

Washington is seeking to rebuild momentum in stalled talks with Pyongyang, aimed at getting North Korea to dismantle its nuclear weapons program. Trump and Kim last met early this year in Hanoi but failed to reach a denuclearization agreement.

Trump hailed what he called a “beautiful” letter he received from Kim. “I think that something will happen that’s going to be very positive,” he said, while giving no details.

Trump, who has described previous correspondence from Kim as “beautiful letters,” said the most recent one was a “very warm, very nice letter.” He repeated that he believes North Korea has “tremendous potential.”

After exchanging insults and war-like rhetoric with Kim early in his presidency, Trump in the past year has repeatedly praised him. They have held two summits as Trump tries to convert what he feels is a warm personal relationship into a diplomatic breakthrough.

North Korean state media called on the United States earlier on Tuesday to “withdraw its hostile policy” toward Pyongyang or agreements made at their first summit in Singapore might become “a blank sheet of paper”.

Trump, speaking a day before the one-year anniversary of their landmark Singapore summit, did not rule out another meeting with Kim. He is due to travel to Japan and South Korea later this month.

Trump said Kim had thus far kept his promises not to test long-range ballistic missiles or conduct underground nuclear tests.

“He’s kept his word to me. That’s very important,” said Trump.

In May, North Korea conducted a “strike drill” for multiple launchers, firing tactical guided weapons in a military drill supervised by Kim.

Trump said at the time that those launches did not pose a problem in his eyes, although his advisers called them a violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions

[Reuters]

Trump says Kim has ‘kept his word’ hours after Bolton said he hasn’t

President Donald Trump said Tuesday that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has “kept his word” when it comes to nuclear and missile testing, contradicting his own national security adviser, John Bolton, who just hours earlier had accused Pyongyang of failing to follow through on its commitments.

Speaking to reporters on the South Lawn of the White House, Trump said he had received a warm letter from Kim before again downplaying North Korea’s latest test of a short-range ballistic missile — a move Bolton and acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan have said violated UN resolutions.

“He kept his word. There’s no nuclear testing. There’s no large, there’s no long-range missiles going up. The only things he’s set up were very short term, short range. That was just a test of short range. It’s a whole different deal, but he’s kept his word to me. That’s very important,” the President said.

Earlier Tuesday, Bolton had told the Wall Street Journal at a speaking event in Washington that North Korea is not complying with the terms agreed upon during Trump’s first summit with Kim, in Singapore last year.

“What they’ve said was that they’re not going to test ballistic missiles, intercontinental range ballistic missiles, or have nuclear tests. That’s continued. They’re doing a lot of other things that still indicate that they have not made a strategic decision to give up the pursuit of deliverable weapons, which is why we continue the maximum pressure campaign,” Bolton said.

In May, Bolton said that “there is no doubt” the tests violated the UN resolutions, something Shanahan has also said publicly.

But that conclusion is at odds with Trump’s own assertions.

“My people think it could have been a violation,” Trump said in May. “I view it differently.”

The President added that he thinks Kim could be a man “who wants to get attention,” but said there are no nuclear tests or long-range missiles being fired, something he again pointed out Tuesday.

Trump claims remains ‘keep coming back’

Trump also claimed Tuesday that the remains of US soldiers in North Korea “keep coming back,” despite the US Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency telling CNN in May that the effort was suspended due to a lack of communication from North Korean officials following the second summit between the two leaders, in Hanoi, Vietnam, earlier this year.

“We have a very good relationship together,” Trump said of Kim. “Now I can confirm it because of the letter I got yesterday, and I think something will happen that’s going to be very positive. But in the meantime, we have our hostages back, the remains keep coming back, we have a relationship.”

The return of American remains was part of the US-North Korea agreement reached during Kim and Trump’s Singapore summit.

Following the summit, North Korea handed over 55 cases of presumed remains of US service members killed during the 1950-53 Korean War.

“DPRK officials have not communicated with DPAA since the Hanoi summit,” Chuck Prichard, a spokesman for the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency, said in May.

“As a result, our efforts to communicate with the Korean People’s Army regarding the possible resumption of joint recovery operations for 2019 has been suspended,” he added.

‘I wouldn’t let that happen’

Trump would not confirm reports that Kim Jong Un’s half brother was a CIA asset Tuesday but said he would tell Kim that “would not happen under my auspice.”

“I saw the information about the CIA with respect to his brother or half brother and I would tell him that would not happen under my auspice, that’s for sure. I wouldn’t let that happen under my auspices,” he said when asked about details published by the Wall Street Journal.

The CIA operative claims are also described in a book by Washington Post reporter Anna Fifield published on Tuesday. “The Great Successor,” about Kim Jong Un, details meetings between Kim Jong Nam and his handlers in the two countries. The CIA has declined to comment to CNN.

When asked if the CIA was wrong to use Kim’s half-brother as an asset if it did indeed do so, Trump said: “I don’t know anything about that. I know this, that the relationship is such that that wouldn’t happen under my auspices, but I don’t know about that. Nobody knows.”

[CNN]

Trump promises not to use Kim Jong Un’s family members as CIA assets

President Donald Trump promised Tuesday not to use Kim Jong Un’s family members as intelligence assets, and reassured the North Korean dictator of his commitment to detente.

A report released Monday showed Kim’s half brother, Kim Jong Nam, met with Central Intelligence Agency contacts in Malaysia back in 2017 shortly before he was assassinated.

A Wall Street Journal story entitled “North Korean Leader’s Slain Half Brother Was A CIA Source” claims a “person knowledgeable about the matter” confirmed he was feeding intelligence to American officials.

Trump referred to his current relationship with Kim during an exchange with reporters outside Marine One Tuesday, saying he believes the two still have a strong relationship.

“I just received a beautiful letter from Kim Jong Un,” he said.

Speaking to the press pool, Trump said, “I think the relationship is very well, but I appreciated the letter. I saw the information about the CIA with regard to his brother or half brother, and I would tell him that would not happen under my auspices. I wouldn’t let that happen under my auspices.”

Kim Jong Nam was murdered in February of 2017 when two women smudged his face with VX nerve agent at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport.

In March, the Malaysian attorney general dropped the murder charge against Siti Aisyah, following high-level lobbying from Jakarta and Doan Thi Huong was released in May.

The two women have also been accused of conspiring with four North Koreans who prosecutors said have left the country, AP reported.

[Fox News]

Mexico Agreed to Take Border Actions Months Before Trump Announced Tariff Deal

 The deal to avert tariffs that President Trump announced with great fanfare on Friday night consists largely of actions that Mexico had already promised to take in prior discussions with the United States over the past several months, according to officials from both countries who are familiar with the negotiations.

Friday’s joint declaration says Mexico agreed to the “deployment of its National Guard throughout Mexico, giving priority to its southern border.” But the Mexican government had already pledged to do that in March during secret talks in Miami between Kirstjen Nielsen, then the secretary of homeland security, and Olga Sanchez, the Mexican secretary of the interior, the officials said.

The centerpiece of Mr. Trump’s deal was an expansion of a program to allow asylum-seekers to remain in Mexico while their legal cases proceed. But that arrangement was reached in December in a pair of painstakingly negotiated diplomatic notes that the two countries exchanged. Ms. Nielsen announced the Migrant Protection Protocols during a hearing of the House Judiciary Committee five days before Christmas.

And over the past week, negotiators failed to persuade Mexico to accept a “safe third country” treaty that would have given the United States the legal ability to reject asylum seekers if they had not sought refuge in Mexico first.

Mr. Trump hailed the agreement anyway on Saturday, writing on Twitter: “Everyone very excited about the new deal with Mexico!” He thanked the president of Mexico for “working so long and hard” on a plan to reduce the surge of migration into the United States.

It was unclear whether Mr. Trump believed that the agreement truly represented new and broader concessions, or whether the president understood the limits of the deal but accepted it as a face-saving way to escape from the political and economic consequences of imposing tariffs on Mexico, which he began threatening less than two weeks ago.

Having threatened Mexico with an escalating series of tariffs — starting at 5 percent and growing to 25 percent — the president faced enormous criticism from global leaders, business executives, Republican and Democratic lawmakers, and members of his own staff that he risked disrupting a critical marketplace.

After nine days of uncertainty, Mr. Trump backed down and accepted Mexico’s promises.

Officials involved with talks said they began in earnest last Sunday, when Kevin K. McAleenan, the acting secretary of homeland security, met over dinner with Mexico’s foreign minister. One senior government official, who was not authorized to speak publicly about the closed-door negotiations that took place over several days, insisted that the Mexicans agreed to move faster and more aggressively to deter migrants than they ever have before.

Their promise to deploy up to 6,000 national guard troops was larger than their previous pledge. And the Mexican agreement to accelerate the Migrant Protection Protocols could help reduce what Mr. Trump calls “catch and release” of migrants in the United States by giving the country a greater ability to make asylum-seekers wait in Mexico.

But there remains deep skepticism among some American officials — and even Mr. Trump himself — about whether the Mexicans have agreed to do enough, whether they will follow through on their promises, and whether, even if they do, that will reduce the flow of migrants at the southwestern border.

In addition, the Migrant Protection Protocols already face legal challenges by immigrant rights groups who say they violate the migrants’ right to lawyers. A federal judge blocked the Trump administration from implementing the plan, but an appeals court later said it could move forward while the legal challenge proceeds.

During a phone call Friday evening when he was briefed on the agreement, Mr. Trump quizzed his lawyers, diplomats and immigration officials about whether they thought the deal would work. His aides said yes, but admitted that they were also realistic that the surge of immigration might continue.

“We’ll see if it works,” the president told them, approving the deal before sending out his tweet announcing it.

On Saturday, Mike Pompeo, the secretary of state, said the government looked forward to reducing illegal immigration and making the border “strong and secure” by working with Mexico to fulfill the agreement.

Mr. Trump’s decision to use trade as a bludgeon against Mexico was driven in part by his obsession with stopping what he falsely calls an invasion of the country and in part by a desire to satisfy his core supporters, many of who have grown angry at his inability to build his promised border wall.

Many of his top advisers, including those who oversee his political and economic agendas, were opposed to the tariff threat. But the president’s ire is regularly stoked by the daily reports he receives on how many migrants have crossed the border in the previous 24 hours.

Mr. Trump’s top immigration officials had repeatedly warned the president that results from their work to curb the flow of migrants might not be evident until July, and urged patience.

But that effort became more difficult in May, when the numbers spiked to the highest levels of his presidency. During the week of May 24, 5,800 migrants — the highest ever for one day — crossed on a single day. That was quickly followed by a group of 1,036 migrants who were caught on surveillance cameras crossing the border en masse.

Mr. Trump later tweeted out the video, and the tariff threat soon followed.

Throughout the week’s negotiations, officials on both sides worried about what Mr. Trump would be willing to accept in exchange for pulling back on his tariff threat. That question hung over the talks, which were led one day by Vice President Mike Pence and included Mr. Pompeo and Mr. McAleenan.

Mexican officials opened the negotiations with the offer to deploy their new national guard troops against migrants, using a PowerPoint presentation to show their American counterparts that doing so would be a breakthrough in their ability to stop migrants from flowing north through Mexico, often in buses.

In fact, Mexican officials had already made the same promise months earlier when Ms Nielsen met in Miami with Ms. Sanchez and aides to Marcelo Ebrard, the Mexican foreign minister. The purpose of the meeting, according to people familiar with it, was to press the Mexicans to act faster.

Ms. Sanchez also told Ms. Nielsen that the Mexican government’s new national guard, which had been created just a month earlier to combat drugs and crime, would be redirected to the border with Guatemala, the entry point for most of the Central American migrants.

At the time, Ms. Nielsen and the other American negotiators referred to the Mexican promise as the “third border” plan because the Mexicans proposed creating a line of troops around the southern part of their country to keep migrants from moving north.

Mexicans had begun to follow the plan, but not quickly enough for the Trump administration, which said that only about 1,000 Mexican national guard troops were in place by May.

Friday’s agreement with Mexico states that the two countries “will immediately expand” the Migrant Protection Protocols across the entire southern border. To date, migrants have been returned at only three of the busiest ports of entry.

But officials familiar with the program said Saturday that the arrangement struck by the two countries last December always envisioned that it would expand along the entire border. What kept that from happening, they said, was the commitment of resources by both countries.

In the United States, migrants must see immigration judges before they can be sent to wait in Mexico, and a shortage of judges slowed the process. The Mexican government also dragged its feet on providing the shelter, health care, job benefits and basic care that would allow the United States to send the migrants over.

The new deal reiterates that Mexico will provide the “jobs, health care and education” needed to allow the program to expand. But the speed with which the United States can send more migrants to wait in Mexico will still depend on how quickly the government follows through on that promise.

Perhaps the clearest indication that both sides recognize that the deal might prove insufficient is contained in a section of Friday’s agreement titled “Further Action.”

One official familiar with the negotiations said the section was intended to be a serious warning to the Mexican government that Mr. Trump would be paying close attention to the daily reports he received about the number of migrants crossing the border. The official said that if the numbers failed to change — quickly — the president’s anger would bring the parties back to the negotiating table.

“The tariff threat is not gone,” the official said. “It’s suspended.”

[The New York Times]

Trump admin tells U.S. embassies they can’t fly pride flag on flagpoles

The Trump administration is rejecting requests from U.S. embassies to fly the rainbow pride flag on embassy flagpoles during June, LGBTQ Pride Month, three American diplomats told NBC News.

The U.S. embassies in Israel, Germany, Brazil and Latvia are among those that have requested permission from Trump’s State Department to fly the pride flag on their flagpoles and have been denied, diplomats said.

Although the pride flag can and is being flown elsewhere on embassy grounds, including inside embassies and on exterior walls, the decision not to allow it on the official flagpole stands in contrast to President Donald Trump’s claim to be a leader in supporting LGBTQ rights overseas. Trump’s administration has announced a campaign to decriminalize homosexuality overseas and this month issued a tweet and formal statement to “celebrate LGBT Pride Month and recognize the outstanding contributions LGBT people have made.”

The denials to U.S. embassies have come from the office of the State Department’s undersecretary for management, Brian Bulatao, a longtime associate of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo who also worked for him at the CIA. Under State Department policy, embassies that want to fly the flag on their flagpoles are expected to obtain permission from Washington.

During the Obama administration, the government granted blanket permission to embassies overseas to fly the pride flag during June. This year, U.S. diplomats said, embassies were told they can display the pride flag in other places, including inside embassies, but that requests to fly it on the flagpole must be specifically approved. No approvals have been granted.

The denial to the U.S. Embassy in Berlin is particularly jarring because the ambassador to Germany, Richard Grenell, is spearheading an administration push to end the criminalization of homosexuality in roughly 70 countries that still outlaw it, as NBC News first reported in February. Grenell, the most senior openly gay person in Trump’s administration, has secured support for that campaign from both Trump and Vice President Mike Pence.

“The President’s recognition of Pride Month and his tweet encouraging our decriminalization campaign gives me even more pride to once again march in the Berlin Pride parade, hang a huge banner on the side of the Embassy recognizing our pride, host multiple events at the Embassy and the residence, and fly the gay pride flag,” Grenell said Friday in a statement to NBC News.

Asked specifically whether the embassy will fly the flag on its flagpole outside the building, just steps from the iconic Brandenburg Gate, embassy spokesman Joseph Giordono-Scholz said only: “The pride flag will be on as many places as it can at the Embassy.”

In Germany, pride celebrations continue into the month of July for a European LGBTQ event known as Christopher Street Day that occurs on different days in various parts of Europe.

Numerous embassies are displaying the pride flag this month in other ways, including the U.S. Embassy in Seoul, South Korea, which put up a large rainbow banner on the side of the building. It’s unclear whether other embassies may be flying the flag on their flagpoles without having sought permission from Washington.

The State Department in Washington did not immediately respond to requests for comment, nor did the U.S. embassies in Jerusalem and Brasilia. The U.S. Embassy in Riga, Latvia, referred questions about the flag to the State Department.

The denials by Washington have alarmed U.S. diplomats serving around the world who are LGBTQ, with several raising the issue this week in a private group chat for members of Gays and Lesbians in Foreign Affairs Agencies, known as GLIFAA, several of the group’s members told NBC News. The board of GLIFAA did not respond to a request for comment.

After the publication of this story, the advocacy group GLAAD, tweeted, “Remember last week when President Donald Trump was pretending to celebrate Pride Month?”

Trump’s public declarations of support for LGBTQ rights have been sharply criticized by rights groups who say his record since taking office tells a different story.

Earlier this month, a Trump administration rule took effect barring transgender people who have undergone a gender transition or been diagnosed with gender dysphoria from enlisting in the U.S. military. In the U.K. this week, Trump defended that policy by saying that transgender people “take massive amounts of drugs,” apparently referring to hormones.

His administration has also rolled back Obama administration rules designed to prevent health care discrimination against transgender people. And human rights groups have expressed concern that a new Commission on Unalienable Rights announced by the State Department this month to guide U.S. human rights policy, which emphasizes “our nation’s founding principles of natural law and natural rights,” is designed to de-emphasize efforts to protect LGBTQ people and woman.

The news comes as pride celebrations are set to take place in Washington over the weekend, with WorldPride taking place in the U.S. for the first time this year, throughout June in New York.

[NBC News]

Mexico Never Agreed to Farm Deal With U.S., Contradicting Trump

President Donald Trump boasted of “large” agricultural sales to Mexico as part of a deal reached Friday on border security and illegal immigration that averted the threat of U.S. tariffs, but the deal as released had none, and three Mexican officials say they’re not aware of any side accord.

Trump told his 61 million Twitter followers in an all-caps message that Mexico had agreed to “immediately begin buying large quantities of agricultural product from our great patriot farmers.”

But the communique issued late Friday by the State Department — the U.S.-Mexico Joint Declaration — made no mention of agricultural trade as part of the agreement.

The State Department didn’t respond to an inquiry made through its press department. The White House declined to comment or offer proof to back up Trump’s tweet. The Mexican foreign ministry’s press office declined to comment.

Mexico is already a large buyer of U.S. farm goods, including corn, soybeans, pork and dairy products. It had given no indication of attempting to find alternative suppliers during the one-week standoff over Trump’s proposed steep tariffs on Mexican goods.

Increasing Mexico’s purchases from the U.S. wasn’t discussed during the three days of talks in Washington that led up to Friday’s agreement, said the three people with knowledge of the deliberations who weren’t authorized to speak publicly.

Mexico has no state-owned agricultural conglomerate to buy food products or handle distribution, or a government program that could buy farm equipment for delivery to producers.

Trump earlier on Friday suggested the talks were covering trade in agriculture, and not just border security issues as members of his administration had said — and that the State Department communique listed. If a deal was made, Trump said at the time, “they will begin purchasing Farm & Agricultural products at very high levels.”

Trump on Saturday was fund-raising on the back of the Mexican agreement. His campaign sent out a “donate now” email that read in part, “Art of the Deal! Mexico has agreed to help END ILLEGAL IMMIGRATION. Promises Made. Promises Kept.”

Farm states, among the strongest of Trump’s supporters, have been hit hard by the president’s trade war against China, and the threat of additional action against Mexico had some farm-state senators up in arms. The president is expected to travel to the heartland to hold a private fund-raiser in West Des Moines on Tuesday.

[Bloomberg]

Trump likens Irish border to wall between US and Mexico

Donald Trump has started his visit to Ireland by comparing its post-Brexit border with Northern Ireland to the US border with Mexico, along which he wants to build a permanent wall.

Trump, sitting next to a visibly uncomfortable taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, waded into the Brexit debate minutes after Air Force One touched down at Shannon airport on Wednesday afternoon.

“I think it will all work out very well, and also for you with your wall, your border,” he said at a joint press conference. “I mean, we have a border situation in the United States, and you have one over here. But I hear it’s going to work out very well here.”

Varadkar interjected that Ireland wished to avoid a border or a wall, a keystone of Irish government policy.

“I think you do, I think you do,” Trump said. “The way it works now is good, you want to try and to keep it that way. I know that’s a big point of contention with respect to Brexit. I’m sure it’s going to work out very well. I know they’re focused very heavily on it.”

In London on Tuesday Trump met the Brexiter politicians Nigel Farage, Iain Duncan Smith and Owen Paterson, all of whom have played down the idea that the border between Ireland and Northern Ireland will be a problem after the UK leaves the EU.

Trump echoed their confidence in Shannon. “There are a lot of good minds thinking about how to do it and it’s going to be just fine. It ultimately could even be very, very good for Ireland. The border will work out.”

The Irish government has mounted an intense, three-year diplomatic effort arguing the opposite, that Brexit threatens peace and prosperity on the island of Ireland.

The US president’s comments were an awkward start to what is expected to be a low-key end to his visit to Europe, with much of his time spent at his golf and hotel resort in Doonbeg, County Clare. From Shannon airport he took a short helicopter ride to his resort on the Atlantic coast.

Addressing the media after Trump’s departure, Varadkar said he explained the history of the border and the Troubles in their private meeting. “We talked Brexit. President Trump shares our objective to keep the border open.” He said Trump had not elaborated on why he thought Brexit could benefit Ireland.

The two leaders also discussed trade, visas and taxes paid by US corporations with operations in Ireland.

The Irish president, Michael D Higgins, made an unexpected intervention on the eve of the visit by calling Trump’s policy on the climate emergency “regressive and pernicious”, a critique protesters will echo at rallies in Shannon and Dublin.

Trump told reporters he was unaware of Higgins’ comments and reiterated that the US had enjoyed cleaner air and water since he became president, a claim he also made in London.

After three days of pomp, pageantry and politics during his state visit to Britain, Trump and his entourage, which includes his wife, Melania, and his four adult children, will be mostly out of the public gaze in the remote, windswept landscape of Loop Head peninsula.

On Thursday, Trump will travel to France for D-day commemorations before returning to Doonbeg, where he is due to play a round of golf on Friday before flying home.

The Irish police deployed 1,500 uniformed officers plus 500 members of specialised units, including divers and armed and air support, to secure Shannon airport and Doonbeg.

Trump’s 162-hectare (400 acre) resort was in lockdown and closed to the public. Newly installed surveillance cameras with night-vision capability fed images to a police control room.

Roads to the adjacent village of Doonbeg remained open. Locals have erected US flags and expressed hope Trump would visit one of their pubs, despite him being teetotal.

The resort employs more than 300 people during summer and is an economic lifeline for the region. Fr Joe Haugh, the parish priest, said: “The people are 99.9% behind him.”

Elsewhere, there were protests by individuals and groups opposed to the US president’s record on the environment and the rights of women, immigrants, ethnic minorities and LGBT people.

Demonstrators set up a “peace camp” outside Shannon airport, and the Trump blimp used by protesters in London was due to appear at a rally in Dublin on Thursday.

The visit has created a political and diplomatic challenge for the Irish government. Trump is not popular in Ireland. Varadkar reportedly asked to have the meeting at Shannon airport, a neutral venue, rather than in Trump’s resort.

The hosts, however, are keen to lobby the US president over trade, visas for Irish workers and support for the peace process. They also want to explain the potential impact of Brexit on the border and try to placate Trump over Ireland’s low-tax regime and use of Huawei technology in the new 5G network.

Simon Coveney, the Irish foreign minister, sought a delicate balance when asked about Higgins’ criticism of Trump’s climate policies. The Irish president caught the mood of the Irish people quite well, he told RTÉ, but regressive was “a better adjective” than pernicious.

The hosts will be hoping Trump does not broach a source of personal irritation. Environmental objections have stalled a sea barrier he wishes to build to protect his resort from erosion. The US president has described the battle as an “unpleasant experience”.

[The Guardian]

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