Mexican president fact-checks Trump then disputes him over border wall payment discussion

Donald Trump flew into a nation he has constantly berated during his campaign to meet President Enrique Peña Nieto and said they discussed a wall Trump has vowed to build on the US southern border, but not his demand that Mexico pay for it — an assertion the Mexican president later disputed.

“Who pays for the wall? We didn’t discuss,” Trump had said when asked by a reporter during a news conference following their meeting in Mexico City. “We did discuss the wall. We didn’t discuss payment of the wall. That’ll be for a later date.”

But Peña Nieto later claimed the two had discussed the wall and who would pay for it — and he had “made it clear” to Trump it wouldn’t be Mexico.

“At the start of the conversation with Donald Trump, I made it clear that Mexico will not pay for the wall,” Peña Nieto tweeted, after their meeting Wednesday.

He added that his conversation with the Republican nominee then moved on to other topics in a respectful fashion.

Jason Miller, Trump’s senior communications adviser, called the meeting “the first part of the discussion and a relationship builder” between the two men, after Peña Nieto tweeted.
“It was not a negotiation, and that would have been inappropriate. It is unsurprising that they hold two different views on this issue, and we look forward to continuing the conversation,” he said in a statement.

In subsequent interviews in Mexico, Peña Nieto reiterated his version of events. He told CNN affiliate Televisa in an interview late Wednesday some of the positions Trump has taken “are a threat to Mexico.”

He also told the outlet he was very clear with Trump about the subject of a wall at the border and insisted Mexico would not pay for it and he made Trump aware that the people of Mexico had been “very insulted.”

Peña Nieto, speaking alongside Trump during their joint appearance, twice stressed the “responsibility” he has to defend Mexican people around the world and said Trump has made “assertions that regrettably had hurt and have affected Mexicans.”

“The Mexican people have felt hurt by the comments that have been made. But I am sure that his genuine interest is to build a relationship that will give both of our society’s better welfare,” Peña Nieto said.

Trump apparently left his tough deal-making persona at home as he received a presidential-style news conference on foreign soil while on a high-risk trip to Mexico on Wednesday.

The visit appeared to be an attempt to bolster Trump’s credentials as a potential world leader, following searing attacks on his temperament by his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton. The spur-of-the-moment trip also came hours before Trump was due to deliver a speech in Arizona meant to clarify his murky immigration policy amid signs he is softening his prior promise to deport 11 million undocumented migrants.

Trump’s claim that they didn’t discuss who would pay for the wall — despite his call for Mexico to finance it being a central theme of his campaign and one he frequently uses to fire up his supporters — appeared to be a noteworthy omission from Wednesday’s conversation when he mentioned it at their joint appearance.

The cost is one that Peña Nieto has previously refused to shoulder, just one of many issues where the two men have clashed. Peña Nieto, who has previously compared Trump to Adolf Hitler, greeted him courteously and said he was committed to working with whomever Americans elect as their next president in November.

But turning the tables on Trump, he gave the billionaire an earful on trade, said illegal immigration from Mexico to the US peaked years ago and complained of the torrent of guns that he said crossed the border and worsened Mexico’s drug wars.

Nieto said in an interview late Wednesday that some of the positions Donald Trump has taken “are a threat to Mexico.” He told CNN affiliate Televisa that he made Trump aware that the people of Mexico had been “very insulted” by his comments.

Trump’s backers were left to defend his decision not to mention his demand that Mexico pay for the border wall after the visit. Maricopa County, Arizona, Sheriff Joe Arpaio told CNN’s Jake Tapper: “What difference does it make? The wall’s important no matter who pays.”

While Trump’s decision not to raise who would pay for the wall appeared to undercut his deal-making swagger, it could also reassure some wavering Republican voters who dislike Clinton but are not yet convinced Trump possesses the restraint and sobriety required of a US president.

The sight of Trump alongside the Mexican president provided the photo-op that the campaign appears to have banked on despite not knowing how the candidate would be received.

Still, the Clinton campaign came out swinging, accusing Trump of failing to make good on his pledge to make Mexico pay for the wall by not raising the issue.

“Donald Trump has made his outlandish policy of forcing Mexico to pay for his giant wall the centerpiece of his campaign. But at the first opportunity to make good on his offensive campaign promises, Trump choked,” Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta said in a statement.

“What we saw today from a man who claims to be the ultimate ‘deal maker’ is that he doesn’t have the courage to advocate for his campaign promises when he’s not in front of a friendly crowd,” Podesta said, before accusing Trump of wanting to build a costly wall at American taxpayers’ expense.

Podesta later added: “It turns out Trump didn’t just choke, he got beat in the room and lied about it.”

Peña Nieto began his remarks alongside Trump by saying the two held a constructive exchange of views even though “we might not agree on everything.”

He then launched into a detailed defense of US-Mexican trade and its benefit to both countries delivered by the North American Free Trade Agreement — a common punching bag for Trump on the campaign trail.

The Mexican leader told Trump that both the US and Mexico had benefited from NAFTA, saying more than six million US jobs rely on exports to Mexico.

“I don’t think that commerce must be considered a zero sum game, so that only one wins and the other one loses,” he said, though added he was prepared to make the two-decades-old deal, which also includes Canada, better for both nations.

Trump was also told by his host that Mexicans deserve everybody’s respect wherever they are, in an apparent reference to the GOP nominee’s harsh rhetoric towards undocumented migrants.

Trump, who listened to his host’s long remarks with a somber look on his face while a woman stood beside him at the podium translating for him, said that Mexicans were “spectacular” people when it was his turn to talk.

But he laid bare disagreements between the two men when he said it was imperative to stop the “tremendous outflow” of jobs from the United States over the southern border, and that NAFTA had benefited Mexico more than the US. And he stood up for America’s right to build a “physical barrier or wall” on its territory to stop illegal immigration and drug traffickers. Trump warned that NAFTA would have to be renegotiated.

Trump’s calls for deporting all undocumented workers, labeling many Mexican immigrants “rapists” and “criminals,” and plan to build a wall along the border — that Mexico would pay for — have earned him withering criticism from Peña Nieto, as well as many independents and moderate Republicans.

But they are central pillars of his campaign, which has galvanized his white working class base behind his White House bid. Those most fervently opposed to immigration have pushed back against the rumored “softening” in his stance that he could articulate on Wednesday night.

Trump, speaking from prepared remarks, was far more measured than in his campaign trail appearances. Though he mostly stuck his positions on renegotiating NAFTA and halting illegal immigration, he was also conciliatory. He referred to illegal immigration from Central America rather than just from Mexico. He said a secure border barrier would benefit both nations. And he spoke of the flight of jobs not from the United States but from also from Mexico and Central America to overseas economies.

It is not unusual for presidential candidates to venture abroad during a campaign. Both Barack Obama and Mitt Romney made trips to bolster their foreign policy credentials in 2008 and 2012.

But Trump’s approach — like the rest of his campaign — is highly unorthodox. Presidential candidates do not typically show up in foreign capitals for talks with leaders without intense preparation and highly choreographed game plans. Often, the parameters of a meeting are settled in advance. This trip was announced Tuesday night.

In addition, they usually visit strong allies where they are assured of a warm reception that will make for positive media coverage rather than sitting down with a leader who has compared them to Hitler and has disparaged their policy proposals.

Trump’s style, however, is more impulsive and unpredictable. He had never before met a foreign leader in an official capacity. So his trip represented something of a risk. Even though the meeting with Peña Nieto was private, he has no control over how the Mexican leader will address the public and how his officials will brief journalists about it afterward.

The trip was also unusual for not including his traveling press corps and coming against the advice of US diplomats.

The campaign’s decision to travel to a foreign country — one rife with security risks for a candidate who has stoked tensions with his rhetoric on Mexican immigrants — without reporters following close behind marks an unprecedented moment in the coverage of major party presidential nominees.

In addition, staff at the US Embassy in Mexico advised the Trump campaign against making such a hastily arranged trip, suggesting it would be logistically difficult to organize on such short notice, according to a source familiar with the discussions.

(h/t CNN)

Trump Adviser’s Public Comments, Ties to Moscow Stir Unease in Both Parties

(Washington Post) – In early June, a little-known adviser to Donald Trump stunned a gathering of high-powered Washington foreign policy experts meeting with the visiting prime minister of India, going off topic with effusive praise for Russian President Vladimir Putin and Trump.

The adviser, Carter Page, hailed Putin as stronger and more reliable than President Obama, according to three people who were present at the closed-door meeting at Blair House — and then touted the positive effect a Trump presidency would have on U.S.-Russia relations.

A month later, Page dumbfounded foreign policy experts again by giving another speech harshly critical of U.S. policy — this time in Moscow.

The United States and other Western nations have “criticized these regions for continuing methods which were prevalent during the Cold War period,” Page said in a lecture at the New Economic School commencement. “Yet ironically, Washington and other Western capitals have impeded potential progress through their often hypocritical focus on ideas such as democratization, inequality, corruption and regime change.”

Page has an ambiguous role in Trump’s campaign. But since being named to the Republican nominee’s team in March, his stature within the foreign policy world has grown considerably, drawing alarm from more-established foreign policy experts who view him as having little real understanding about U.S.-Russia relations. Many also say that Page’s views may be compromised by his investment in Russian energy giant Gazprom.

Other foreign policy experts from both parties say they are distressed with Page for his criticism of sanctions, praise for Putin and his advisers, and his tepid response to what most U.S. policymakers see as Russian aggression.

“It scares me,” said David Kramer, who was responsible for Russia and Ukraine at the State Department during the George W. Bush administration. He called Page’s speech in Moscow and recent comments by Trump on the possibility of lifting sanctions against Moscow “deeply unsettling.”

Asked to comment on Page’s public statements and campaign role, Trump spokeswoman Hope Hicks said Page was an “informal foreign policy adviser” who “does not speak for Mr. Trump or the campaign.” Trump first named Page as one of a handful of his foreign policy advisers during a meeting at The Washington Post.

The open embrace of a controversial foreign leader is unusual for an adviser to a presidential candidate — and a break from a decades-old Republican tradition of tough stances­ toward Moscow.

Page, who worked in Moscow for Merrill Lynch a decade ago and who has said he is invested in Gazprom, joins other Trump advisers who have done business in Russia while advocating closer relations. Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, for example, has wooed investments from oligarchs linked to Putin and advised the now-toppled pro-Russian Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych.

Trump has also expressed admiration for Putin, questioned U.S. obligations to defend NATO allies and most recently — after hacked emails were released on the eve of the Democratic National Convention — asked for Russian help to find the deleted emails of presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. At the time he spoke, the FBI was investigating a break-in at the Democratic National Committee by alleged Russian hackers. Later, Trump said the request was made sarcastically.

While his comments have drawn derision from some quarters, friends of the 45-year-old Page say that he is knowledgeable about Russian affairs, and they profess astonishment that he has chosen to advise Trump.

Relationship with Gazprom

A graduate of the Naval Academy later posted as a Marine intelligence officer in Western Sahara, Page won a fellowship from the Council on Foreign Relations, where he wrote about Turkey’s role as a hub for oil and natural gas being taken by pipeline from the Caspian Sea region to Europe. After earning a degree from New York University’s business school, Page moved in 2004 to Moscow, where he worked for Merrill Lynch until 2007.

Page, who declined to comment for this article, has said in other media interviews that he also struck up a relationship with Gazprom. His Web biography says he was an adviser “on key transactions for Gazprom,” the Russian electric utility and other energy companies. In a two-hour interview with Bloomberg News in late March, he said he advised Gazprom on its largest deals, including buying a stake in an oil and natural gas field near Russia’s Sakhalin Island and the merging of two classes of Gazprom stock, one of which was restricted to foreigners and the other to Russians.

Page has offered that experience as one of his main areas of expertise, but his boss at Merrill Lynch at the time says that Page’s claims are exaggerated.

Sergey Aleksashenko, former deputy chairman of the Russian central bank and former chairman of Merrill Lynch Russia, says that Page did not play a key role at that time. “He was a vice president, and the job of vice president is not to organize deals but to execute,” Aleksashenko said.

He also said that no one at Merrill Lynch advised Gazprom on its purchase of Sakhalin oil and gas assets from a group led by Royal Dutch Shell, because the deal was driven by the Russian government, which strong-armed Shell by holding back environmental permits, complaining about the extent of local content and slowing Shell’s work to a crawl.

“Gazprom did not need any advice,” Aleksashenko said. “It was not a commercially driven transaction.”

Merrill Lynch was one of three firms that issued a fairness opinion on the price Gazprom eventually paid the Shell group.

Aleksashenko said when he heard that Trump named Page as an adviser, “I was laughing because he was never ready to discuss foreign policy.”

After he left Moscow, Page worked as chief operating officer of Merrill Lynch’s energy and power department in New York. Later, he set up Global Energy Capital, which is around the corner from Trump Tower. But he told Bloomberg News that he failed to raise money for a private-equity fund to buy assets in Turkmenistan. Instead, he says on his website that he advised others on investing in Russia and emerging markets.

Page’s position as a Trump adviser has catapulted him into the most prestigious policy events, such as a closed-door session co-chaired by former secretary of state Madeleine K. Albright and Republican consultant Vin Weber at Cambridge University in July. After his speech at the New Economic School in Moscow, Page spoke briefly with another speaker, Arkady Dvorkovich, who is a graduate of the school, deputy to Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev and now chairman of the Russian Railways board.

Page also went to the Republican National Convention, where he attended a session held by the International Republican Institute and a separate, sponsored foreign policy event.

Page has left a trail of blog posts on the Global Policy Journal that has traditional foreign policy experts scratching their heads. For example, on Feb. 10, 2015, he compared the 2015 National Security Strategy rationale for imposing sanctions on Russia to an 1850 publication offering slaveholders guidance on how to produce “the ideal slave.”

After the Obama administration added Rosneft Chairman Igor Sechin to its sanctions list in 2014, limiting Sechin’s ability to travel to the United States or do business with U.S. firms, Page praised the former deputy prime minister, considered one of Putin’s closest allies over the past 25 years. “Sechin has done more to advance U.S.-Russian relations than any individual in or out of government from either side of the Atlantic over the past decade,” Page wrote.

Another blog post on March 31, 2015, titled “ISIS Response Self-help Principles for Would-be Warriors of the West” approvingly cites Dale Carnegie’s classic “How to Win Friends and Influence People” as a strategy for dealing with the Islamic State.

Since being named as a member of the Trump team in March, Page’s background in Russia has raised questions about potential conflicts of interest.

During his interview with Bloomberg News, he said that he owns shares of Gazprom and that his stock portfolio had suffered since 2014, when the United States and Europe imposed economic sanctions on Russia after its annexation of the Crimean Peninsula.

In his Moscow speech in July, Page suggested that investment was the key to better relations. He said the United States should provide Russia with “emerging technologies and potential capital market access contingent upon the U.S.’s refocus toward resolution of domestic challenges.” Russia would, in turn, approve “collaborative partnerships in the energy industry and other diversified sectors.”

“So many people who I know and have worked with have been so adversely affected by the sanctions policy,” Page told Bloomberg News. “There’s a lot of excitement in terms of the possibilities for creating a better situation.” While acknowledging his own investments in Russia, Page told Bloomberg News his work on the campaign was unlikely to help his portfolio.

All holdings in Russia by members of the Trump team should be fully disclosed, said Michael McFaul, a former U.S. ambassador to Russia under Obama who is now teaching at Stanford University.

‘Refreshing to Russian ears’

Trump is not the first national political figure to suggest improved relations with Russia; Obama and Clinton advocated a “reset” a few years ago, which they have since abandoned. Trump is also not alone in seeking more military spending from U.S. allies in Europe. But he is the first to cast doubt on NATO’s mutual defense commitment or to request help from Russia in undermining his opponent.

“I think what we are offering is a very clear, mature, adult, realistic view of the world,” said Sam Clovis, an Iowa talk-show host and former Senate candidate who backs Trump and makes the case for rethinking U.S. commitments around the globe.

The Republican platform committee at the party’s convention last month was one place Trump campaign aides have promoted that view, according to national security experts who were there. They said Trump campaign staffers weakened language that would have called for military support of Ukraine.

“It was troubling to me that they would want to water down language that supports a country that has been invaded by an aggressive neighbor,” said Rachel Hoff, a member of the platform committee.“I think the U.S. should properly come to Ukraine’s aid in that struggle. In the past, that would not be considered a controversial Republican position.”

Manafort denied on “Meet the Press” this week that the campaign had sought to alter platform language related to Russia. However, those present said they negotiated directly with people who worked for the campaign.

Democrats, however, have suggested something more sinister lies behind Trump’s unusual views on Russia. McFaul, who reviewed Page’s early July speech in Moscow, said he disagreed with the content and added that he knew of no precedent for a presidential campaign adviser publicly criticizing U.S. policy in a foreign capital. The ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, Adam B. Schiff (Calif.), has said that the Russian ties of Trump’s advisers show that the “Kremlin has tentacles into the Trump campaign.”

Meanwhile, in Moscow, all this is being watched closely.

“I think Donald Trump is a very interesting internal American phenomenon,” said Fyodor Lukyanov, editor of Russia in Global Affairs and chairman of the presidium of the Council on Foreign and Defense Policy. He said that in July, Page had not established contacts with the Kremlin and had only met with some university professors for informal coffees.

“I don’t think he has any direct support here,” Lukyanov said of Trump. “What he’s saying sounds very much refreshing to Russian ears. If he by chance were elected president, I think many people in Russia would love it.”

Media

Trump Tweets ISIS and Bad Economic Numbers are Obama’s Fault, Both Not True

Twitter

In his Twitter account, Donald Trump fired off a tweet blasting President Obama’s decision-making for causing ISIS and a horrible economy, claims that are as far from reality as one can get.

Reality

What was crazy about Trump’s claims, that we are seeing worst economic numbers since the Great Depression, is that there is no reading of any data that puts our economy at the same level of the Great Depression or even the Great Recession.

Also there was this little thing of the Labor Department’s monthly jobs and economic report released just a day after Trump’s tweet which shows a bright economic outlook. Whoops!

The Labor Department report said employers added 255,000 jobs in July continuing the longest streak of private-sector job growth, the unemployment rate remains below the natural rate at 4.9%, and the labor participation rate went up, all beating economic expectations. In response to the report the NASDAQ surged so high stocks are into record territory.

The jobs report was so good that usual critic Jeff Cox of NBC said “It’s hard to find anything bad, even for a skeptic.

The even crazier claim in Trump’s tweet was how “Obama gave us ISIS.” A quick history lesson, ISIS was formed in 1999 and greatly expanded in 2003 by former members of Saddam Hussein’s Ba’ath party who were out of a job after the George W. Bush-lead invasion of Iraq, which was based on faulty evidence. Donald Trump (as well as Fox News) can’t rewrite history here, Barack Obama was not a United States Senator until 2005, two years after the start of the invasion.

Fact is, over the past 2 years ISIS has been, losing ground, pushed out of key cities, and cut off from revenue producing oil fields. While ISIS still has the ability to inspire attacks in other countries, the multi-nation military response is working.

Finally, the “rise of Iran” may sound scary to some on first read, but as experts at think-tanks and NATO have argued, their rise is unsustainable, short lived, and a good thing as it will help towards stabilizing the Middle-East.

Trump Reportedly Asks Why US Can’t Use Nukes

Donald Trump asked a foreign policy expert advising him why the U.S. can’t use nuclear weapons, MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough said on the air, citing an unnamed source who claimed he had spoken with the GOP presidential nominee.

“Several months ago, a foreign policy expert on the international level went to advise Donald Trump. And three times [Trump] asked about the use of nuclear weapons. Three times he asked at one point if we had them why can’t we use them,” Scarborough said on his “Morning Joe” program.

Scarborough made the Trump comments during an interview with former Director of Central Intelligence and ex-National Security Agency Director Michael Hayden, who mentioned he knows of no peers that is advising Donald Trump.

Scarborough then asked a hypothetical question to Hayden about how quickly nuclear weapons could be deployed if a president were to give approval.

“It’s scenario dependent, but the system is designed for speed and decisiveness. It’s not designed to debate the decision,” Hayden said.

Hayden was CIA director from 2006 to 2009 during the George W. Bush presidency. He was the National Security Agency director from 1999 to 2005, spanning the presidencies of Bill Clinton and George W. Bush.

CNBC and others reached out to the Trump campaign via email and was awaiting a response.

(h/t Yahoo)

Reality

Donald Trump has repeatedly said he would not take nuclear weapons off the table, even going so far as using them on allies in Europe.

Media

Trump: Incorrectly States Putin is ‘Not Gonna Go Into Ukraine’

Donald Trump said in an interview Sunday that Russian President Vladimir Putin isn’t going to go into Ukraine, even though the Russian military has intervened in the nation’s affairs since 2014.

“He’s not going into Ukraine, OK, just so you understand. He’s not gonna go into Ukraine, all right? You can mark it down. You can put it down,” Trump said Sunday on ABC’s “This Week.” Host George Stephanopoulos pushed back, saying, “Well, he’s already there, isn’t he?”

“OK, well, he’s there in a certain way,” Trump responded.

“But I’m not there. You have [President] Obama there. And, frankly, that whole part of the world is a mess under Obama, with all the strength that you’re talking about and all of the power of NATO and all of this.”

(h/t The Hill)

Reality

Ukraine isn’t part of the NATO coalition, so US soldiers would have no legal right to show up on their sovereign lands to fight and defend against Russian troops, risking a much larger conflict.

Instead President Obama, along with European countries, enacted sanctions against Russia. The sanctions have been very effective, which contributed to the collapse of the Russian ruble and the 2014–15 Russian financial crisis.

The result being the Minsk and Minsk II diplomatic agreements where Russia agreed to pull their military out of Ukraine.

Media

Trump to Look at Recognizing Crimea as Russian Territory

Donald Trump said that, if he is elected president, he would consider recognizing Crimea as Russian territory and lifting the sanctions against Russia.

Donald Trump said he would consider recognizing Crimea as Russian territory and lifting the sanctions against the country if he’s elected president.

At a wide-ranging news conference, Trump said he “would be looking into that” when asked about his stance on Crimea and Russia.

In February 2014, pro-Russian gunmen took over government buildings in Simferopol, Crimea’s capital, and held a referendum in March of that year in which an overwhelming majority of voters said they wanted to rejoin Russia. Then Russian President Vladimir Putin took advantage of a popular revolt which toppled Kiev’s pro-Russian government and annexed the territory shortly thereafter.

The United States, along with the European Union, has refused to recognize the annexation or the referendum legitimizing it, and has enforced sanctions on Russian state banks and corporations.

Trump’s comments on Crimea came during the same news conference that he suggested Russia hack Hillary Clinton’s email server to “find the 30,000 emails that are missing.” The remark has been harshly criticized, and the Clinton campaign said it has now become a national security issue.

(h/t Politico, The Atlantic)

Reality

Donald Trump has been making a lot of pro-Russian stances.

Media

Links

CSPAN video of exact question.

Trump Threatens To Pull The U.S. Out Of The World Trade Organization

Donald Trump on Sunday threatened to pull the United States out of the World Trade Organization (WTO) if his plan to tax imports of U.S. companies that move their operations abroad is foiled.

The Republican presidential nominee called the international trade body a “disaster” and ratcheted up his anti-trade criticism in calling for the punishment of U.S. firms that move overseas.

He also doubled down on his push to either renegotiate or withdraw the United States from all of their global agreements, including the North American Free Trade Agreement and the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership.

“There will be a tax to be paid,” Trump told Chuck Todd in an interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

Trump has vowed to impose tariffs — in the range of 15 percent to 35 percent — on companies like Indiana-based Carrier, which is moving its operations to Mexico.

“If they’re going to fire all their people, move their plant to Mexico, build air conditioners, and think they’re going to sell those air conditioners to the United States, there’s going to be a tax,” he said.

When Todd said the import-tariff plan wouldn’t pass muster at the WTO, Trump said that is “even better.”

“Then we’re going to renegotiate or we’re going to pull out,” he said.

“These trade deals are a disaster,” he said. “You know, the World Trade Organization is a disaster.”

When Todd told Trump that his plan would rattle the world economy much like Great Britain’s exit from the European Union has done, the New York businessman didn’t retreat from his hard-line trade stance.

“We’re going to do it. We’re going to do it,” Trump said.

Ed Gerwin, a trade policy analyst with the Progressive Policy Institute, said Trump’s latest trade ideas, “even by his standards, are insane.”

“They would bring about unprecedented global economic chaos, plunge the U.S. into recession and destroy millions of good jobs,” Gerwin said. “They’d make Brexit look like an English garden party.”

Gerwin called Trump’s trade proposals “not only wrongheaded, but they’d be a bureaucratic nightmare.”

“Withdrawing from the WTO would turn the U.S. into the economic equivalent of North Korea — walled off from the global economy,” Gerwin said.

He added that any move to exit the trade body would allow 160 countries to “immediately slap high tariffs and other trade barriers on U.S. exports, putting at risk the millions of good jobs that depend on U.S. exports.”

A WTO exit also runs counter to Trump’s plans to punish China for trade violations, a big focus of the trade arm of his campaign, Gerwin noted.

“Withdrawing from the WTO would also cut the U.S. off from the WTO dispute settlement process, which the U.S. has used with considerable success to get China to change unfair trade practices,” he said.

“All of this is deeply ironic, given that Trump also says he wants to be tougher on China trade and given that Trump also says that he’d eliminate foreign duties on products like U.S. beef the day he gets into office,” he added.

Trade experts argue that raising taxes on companies or countries that Trump deems as violators of trade rules would only hurt U.S. consumers by pushing up prices on imported goods.

The comments created an instant backlash from trade experts on Twitter.

Scott Lincicome, a trade attorney, wrote: “I know trade is complicated, boring, & politically toxic, but Trump’s WTO threat is the econ equivalent of his NATO comments, maybe worse.”

In another tweet he said: “And, of course, withdrawing the US from the WTO would very likely collapse the global economy, crippling US biz, workers, consumers (esp poor).”

(h/t The Hill)

Reality

As president, Trump could not be able to create these tariffs by himself. Article I, Section 8, Clause 1 of the United States Constitution, authorizes Congress to levy taxes. Most of Trump’s threatened tariffs would violate decades of binding trade deals negotiated by previous administrations and agreed to by previous Congresses. However rather than looking into the legality, we will instead explore Trumps question who should care if there is a trade war.

Trump proposed a 35% tariff on American companies who outsource manufacturing outside of the United States and then ship the products for sale back home. A tariff is a tax on an imported good that is passed on to consumers, both individual and businesses. That’s right, you the consumer will pay Trump’s 35% tax which means you will pay more for the products you buy every day.

For example Forbes estimates Trump’s tariff plan would cost American consumers an extra $6 billion dollars per year just on Apple iPhones alone.

Media

Trump: France and Germany May Face More Screening After Terror Attacks

Donald Trump said Sunday he would subject people from France, among other countries, to “extreme vetting” as they seek to enter the United States, a move he says is necessary to deter terror attacks.

The GOP presidential nominee, in an interview that aired Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” was asked if his proposal might mean that ultimately far fewer people from overseas would be allowed into the U.S.

“Maybe we get to that point,” Trump replied, adding: “We have to be smart and we have to be vigilant and we have to be strong.”

For months Trump has called for a temporary ban on foreign Muslims seeking to enter the United States and criticized the Obama administration for continuing to admit refugees from Syria. In his speech Thursday night at the Republican National Convention, he said the U.S. “must immediately suspend immigration from any nation that has been compromised by terrorism until such time as proven vetting mechanisms have been put in place” — notably leaving out any reference to Muslims or to Syria, Iraq and other Mideast nations.

In the NBC interview, Trump noted “specific problems” in Germany and France — both countries have been rocked by fatal attacks in public places in recent weeks — and “Meet the Press” host Chuck Todd asked if his proposal would limit immigration from France. “They’ve been compromised by terrorism,” Todd said.

Trump replied: “They have totally been. And you know why? It’s their own fault. Because they allowed people to come into their territory.” He then called for “extreme vetting” and said: “We have to have tough, we’re going to have tough standards. … If a person can’t prove what they have to be able to prove, they’re not coming into this country.”

(h/t Fox News, Yahoo)

Media

Trump Remarks on NATO Trigger Alarm Bells in Europe

Donald Trump set off alarm bells in European capitals after suggesting he might not honor the core tenet of the NATO military alliance.

Trump said the U.S. would not necessarily defend new NATO members in the Baltics in the event of Russian attack if he were elected to the White House.

He told The New York Times in an interview published Thursday that doing so would depend on whether those countries had “fulfilled their obligations to us” in terms of their financial contributions to the alliance.

“You can’t forget the bills,” Trump told the paper. “They have an obligation to make payments. Many NATO nations are not making payments, are not making what they’re supposed to make. That’s a big thing. You can’t say forget that.”

(h/t NBC News)

Reality

NATO is not just a defensive military alliance against a Russia that looks to expand, but it is also a projection of American influence in Europe. Some, like Trump, may take NATO for granted now but just 2 years prior Russia invaded and annexed Crimea from southern Ukraine.

Trump’s comments were perceived by some analysts as carte blanche for Russia to intimidate NATO allies and a potential harbinger of the alliance’s collapse, which would be a global crisis, were Trump to be elected.

NATO’s treaty states that an attack on one member state constitutes an attack on all, a principle enshrined in Article 5 of the alliance’s treaty.

“If Trump wants to put conditions through Article 5, he would endanger the whole alliance,” said Beyza Unal, a fellow at the London-based Chatham House think tank.

Sarah Lain, a fellow at the Royal United Services Institute, agreed. She said that Article 5 is the “core” of NATO’s defense strategy.

“The suggestion that Trump may consider abandoning a guarantee of protection to fellow NATO countries would in some ways indeed make NATO obsolete,” Lain told NBC News in an email.

Responses

In an interview with the New York Times, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell called Trump’s comments a “rookie mistake.”

“I am willing to kind of chalk it up to a rookie mistake,” he said. “I don’t think there is anybody he would choose to be secretary of defense or secretary of state who would have a different view from my own.”

Two additional Senate Republicans, neither of whom is attending this week’s Republican National Convention, condemned his comments, suggesting Congress would not follow his lead on the issue if he is commander-in-chief.

“As [Russian President Vladimir] Putin revives Soviet-style aggression and the threat of violent Islam looms over European and American cities, the United States stands with our NATO allies,” Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., one of the most vocal elected officials in the never-Trump movement, said in a statement.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., one of Trump’s former Republican primary opponents, accused him of appeasing the Russian president with his assertions.

“I can only imagine how our allies in NATO, particularly the Balkan states, must feel after reading these comments from Mr. Trump. I’m 100 percent certain how Russian President Putin feels — he’s a very happy man,” Graham said.

“If Mr. Trump is serious about wanting to be commander-in-chief, he needs to better understand the job, which is to provide leadership for the United States and the free world,” Graham continued, also calling for Trump to “correct” his statements during his prime-time address Thursday evening.

Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Illinois, a former Air Force pilot, told ABC News he was deeply disturbed by Trump’s comments about NATO.

“To protect American first you have to have strong alliances,” he said. “This alliance has prevented 60 years of war.”

Trump’s comments, Kinzinger added, were “ridiculous and reckless,” and suggest that Trump doesn’t understand foreign policy.

Members of the Democratic Party also slammed Trump’s remarks, accusing him of friendliness with the same unsavory leaders with whom Republicans have accused President Barack Obama of being too conciliatory.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest noted that Republicans have long accused Obama of going on a “global apology tour.”

“I guess that means that there is some irony associated with the case that’s being made by the Republican nominee at this point,” Earnest said.

Hillary Clinton’s campaign condemned Trump’s remarks, also accusing him of cozying up to Putin.

“Over the course of this campaign, Trump has displayed a bizarre and occasionally obsequious fascination with Russia’s strongman, Vladimir Putin. And he has policy positions — and advisers — to match,” Clinton senior policy adviser Jake Sullivan said, citing a Washington Post report that Trump staffers persuaded convention delegates to strip language from the GOP platform that would have called for “providing lethal defensive weapons” to the Ukrainian military.

The White House has declined to provide Ukraine with lethal weapons, but mainstream Republicans have long called for the president to do so.

“Just this week, we learned that the Trump campaign went to great lengths to remove a plank from the GOP platform about aid to Ukraine that would have offended Putin, bucking a strongly held position within his own party … It is fair to assume that Vladimir Putin is rooting for a Trump presidency.”

Kingzinger, who isn’t sure if he’ll support Trump and has frequently criticized Trump’s foreign policy pronouncements, called the platform change “curious for sure.”

Although NATO does not frequently comment on issues related to member nations’ domestic politics, Jens Stoltenberg, NATO’s secretary-general, weighed in on Trump’s comments, defending European allies’ contributions to NATO while avoiding commenting on the election directly.

“European allies are also stepping up,” he said. “For the first time in many years, defense spending among European allies and Canada rose last year.”

Secretary of State John Kerry was also pulled in to the fracas Thursday, fielding a question about Trump’s comments at a press conference at the State Department.

Prefacing his comments by saying he wasn’t making a statement about the presidential race, Kerry said he would restate American policy towards NATO.

“This administration, like every administration Republican and Democrat alike since 1949, remains fully committed to the NATO alliance and to our security commitments under Article 5, which is absolutely bedrock to our membership and to our partnership with NATO.”

Trump was also questioned about Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s response to the failed military coup, and told the New York Times that the United States has “a lot of problems.”

“Our nominee is making the same arguments you hear in Russian propaganda and that you hear from left-wing liberals,” Kinzinger said of Trump’s criticisms.

Links

Quick history of NATO.

Why is NATO still needed, even after the downfall of the Soviet Union?

Trump Changes Republican Platform From Helping Ukraine against Russia, Spurring Outrage

For decades, Republican doctrine has viewed Russia as a power to mistrust. But in Donald Trump’s GOP, Moscow’s sins seem to matter less.

The platform written at the GOP convention in Cleveland this week eliminated references to arming Ukraine in its fight with Russia, which seized the Crimean Peninsula in 2014 and has supported separatists in eastern Ukraine.

Many in the party’s foreign policy establishment are outraged.

They note that Trump’s campaign manager, Paul Manafort, had worked as a consultant for the now-ousted pro-Russian government in Ukraine.

Trump’s investments in hotels, golf courses and other business interests overseas already have raised concerns of potential conflicts of interest with U.S. policy if he is elected.

Originally, the GOP platform was to call for providing Ukraine with weapons in addition to the substantial non-lethal aid the U.S. already provides, according to congressional reports.

After Trump surrogates reportedly intervened, the final passage supports “providing appropriate assistance” to Ukraine, but doesn’t mention providing arms to the government in Kiev.

Charlie Black, a longtime Republican strategist, said the change was “most unusual.”

“Virtually every Republican in Congress voted to provide defensive arms to Ukraine and they still support it,” said Black, now chairman of Prime Policy Group, a government relations firm.  “This puts the platform on the side of the Obama administration and its weak response to Russian aggression in Ukraine.”

Although Obama’s advisors have debated whether to provide weapons to help Kiev battle the Russian-backed forces, the president has declined to do so.

The war has largely stalemated over the past year. Moreover, Ukraine is not a member of NATO and the U.S. has no treaty obligations to help defend it.

White House aides fear that sending U.S. arms into the war would further inflame tensions with Moscow.

That may be Trump’s worry as well.

He has lavished praise on Russian President Vladimir Putin, seen as an autocratic bully in much of the world, and welcomed Putin’s quasi-endorsement of his candidacy. Trump apparently admires Putin’s strongman image and willingness to crush opponents, dissidents and critical journalists.

Manafort also had a direct interest in Ukraine.

As a crisis public relations manager, Manafort had clients that included the Russian-backed president of Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovich, who was driven from power in 2014 amid corruption scandals and violent demonstrations. He fled to Russia.

Manafort worked on Yanukovich’s election campaign in 2009. Yanukovich’s opponent, Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, had hired Jeff Link, a Democratic strategist from Iowa.

Link says the Yanukovich campaign was virulently anti-West, anti-NATO and pro-Russia.

“What I kept thinking about was how Manafort and his team were supposed to be the Reagan guys, Reagan who stood up to the Soviet Union,” Link said in a telephone interview. “And now here they were working for Putin’s candidate for Ukraine.”

Manafort was asked about the GOP platform language on Ukraine during a news conference in Cleveland, but he deflected the question, saying only that the worlds needs a “strong U.S. presence.”

As with Ukraine, Trump’s foreign policy positions are more isolationist that Republicans traditionally embrace.

He doubled-down on that approach Wednesday when he told the New York Times he would not necessarily defend fellow NATO members in the Baltic region if they are threatened Russia.

Trump also said he would not call on authoritarian leaders, like the president of Turkey, to respect the rule of law and human rights as they crack down on opponents.

Those represent sharp departures from U.S. policy and recent GOP positions and sparked immediate concerns that Trump would abandon treaty commitments to allies.

Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who is not attending the convention in his home state, was among the Republicans who slammed Trump’s comments.

“We think NATO doesn’t matter? Are we kidding?” Kasich said to the International Republican Institute. He vowed to support arming Ukraine “as long as I’m breathing” and said changing the platform was “a terrible mistake.”

Paul Saunders, executive director of the Washington-based Center for the National Interest, said a wing of the GOP has always sought to avoid international conflicts absent a direct U.S. interest.

He noted that Reagan and President Nixon, two Republicans who were toughest on Moscow during the Cold War, ultimately negotiated with the Soviet Union.

But Trump’s proposals suggested a clear break to their strategy.

“This is certainly a very significant change,” Saunders said, “and clearly reflects a very different approach to foreign policy.”

(h/t Los Angeles Times)

Reality

First we require a little context.

Ukraine gained independence after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 and has since veered between seeking closer integration with Western Europe and being drawn into the orbit of Russia, which sees its interests as threatened by a Western-leaning Ukraine.

During this time however, Russians never thought of Ukrainians as a separate entity from them, but considered them as fellow Russians. And Moscow loved having a pro-Russian country acting as a buffer between Russia and western NATO countries.

However inside Ukraine massive corruption was the status quo, from the bottom of the government to the very top.

Then Ukraine became gripped by unrest when President Viktor Yanukovych refused to sign an association agreement with the European Union in 2013. An organized political movement known as ‘Euromaidan‘ demanded closer ties with the European Union, and the ousting of Yanukovych. This movement was ultimately successful, culminating in the February 2014 revolution, which removed Yanukovych and his government. However, some people in largely Russophone eastern and southern Ukraine, the traditional bases of support for Yanukovych and his Party of the Regions, did not approve of the revolution, and began to protest in favor of closer ties with Russia. Various demonstrations were held in Crimea in favor of leaving Ukraine and accession to the Russian Federation, leading to the 2014 Crimean crisis and the continued Russian military intervention in Ukraine.

Several times Ukraine has attempted to join NATO membership, and has either been voted down from NATO members or from pro-Russian opposition in Ukraine.

One of the key foreign policy positions on both Republican and Democratic platforms was a stronger and pro-western Ukraine. That is until Donald Trump.

Make no mistake, Donald Trump has taken a very pro-Russian stance on Ukraine.

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