Trump points to Dems over failure of North Korea summit

President Trump on Sunday appeared to point blame at Democrats for the collapse of his negotiations with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un last week.

“For the Democrats to interview in open hearings a convicted liar & fraudster, at the same time as the very important Nuclear Summit with North Korea, is perhaps a new low in American politics and may have contributed to the “walk” Never done when a president is overseas. Shame!” Trump tweeted.

The president was referring to the testimony of his former personal attorney, Michael Cohen, which occurred simultaneously with his summit in Hanoi, Vietnam. 

Cohen testified before the House Oversight and Reform Committee, where he accused the president of lying to the public about hush money payments and floated the possibility of Trump’s collusion with Moscow.

Cohen was sentenced to prison last year after pleading guilty to financial crimes, campaign finance violations and lying to Congress. He sentence is set to begin on May 6.

While Cohen was on Capitol Hill, Trump was in Hanoi, at his second meeting with Kim.

Trump entered negotiations with the hope of securing a deal that involved North Korea denuclearizing, but talks ended abruptly without any type of deal, which Trump alludes to in his tweet. 

The president told reporters following the summit that the U.S. was not willing to fully lift sanctions in exchange for partial denuclearization, stating that “[s]ometimes you have to walk, and this was just one of those times.”

A North Korean official disputed that characterization of the country’s position adding that Kim “may have lost the will” to engage in future negotiations.

“This proposal was the biggest denuclearization measure we could take at the present stage in relations to [the] current level of confidence between the DPRK and the United States,” North Korea’s foreign minister said.

[The Hill]

Trump praises his Scottish golf course for its beauty and diplomatic links with UK

President Donald Trump’s seemingly out-of-the blue praise Saturday for his Aberdeen golf course in Scotland — and its purported contribution to British relations with the United States — comes only days after he was ordered to pay the legal fees in his losing effort to an offshore wind farm in sight of the course.

“Very proud of perhaps the greatest golf course anywhere in the world,” he tweeted. “Also, furthers U.K. relationship!”

Trump’s tweets — which reach 59 million people — will likely have less impact on the British foreign office than his golf business, although he says he has stepped down from running the Trump Organization to avoid potential conflict of interests.

Trump’s relations with locals near the Aberdeen course have long been strained. Environmental and planning authorities objected to plans for an additional 18-hole course as a threat to the delicate 14-mile sand dunes systems and sought to block a project to develop 550 luxury homes and lodges near the course.

The Herald Scotland newspaper said local critics view Trump as an “international pariah” with a brand so toxic it can only damage the reputation of Aberdeenshire. 

Trump, however, had his own concerns about disturbing the North Sea coastline when he strongly opposed the construction of 11 offshore turbines that he said would spoil the view from his course at Menie, about 9 miles north of Aberdeen.

“I am not thrilled — I want to see the ocean, I do not want to see windmills,” he said in 2006, according to the BBC.

In 2015, he lost that battle over the wind project, which began generating power last July. 

While losing on the merits of the case, Trump took a second hit last week when the Court of Session ruled that Trump International Golf Club Scotland Ltd. should also pay legal fees over the lawsuit, the BBC reports.

In his tweet, Trump, perhaps, was also touting the course as part of a current two-week recruitment drive to hire 100 additional staff for the resort.

The course, which Trump built from scratch on 1,800 acres in 2005, has proved to be a divisive force within the local community. Legal challenges have sought to block the development of the second course as well as the sprawling housing development nearby that was to include luxury homes and resort lodges. The Scotsman newspaper reported last week that the Trump Organization has quietly agreed to relocate some of the lodges.

Sarah Malone, executive vice-president of Trump International, told Scotland on Sunday that such readjustments are “standard practice” and that the organization is “entirely satisfied and confident in our plans.”

The Aberdeen course, one of Trump’s biggest investments, lost $4.5 million in 2017, its fourth consecutive year in the red, The Washington Post reported.

Trump, whose mother was born in Scotland, has proved a magnet for protesters when he visits his Scottish properties. Thousands of demonstrators turned out for Trump’s appearance at his other Scottish club, Turnberry, last July, including a paraglider bearing a banner that read “Trump well below par,” The Herald reports.

[USA Today]

Trump claims Otto Warmbier comments were ‘misinterpreted’

President Trump on Friday claimed that he was “misinterpreted” when he said he took Kim Jong Un “at his word” when the dictator denied knowing what happened to US college student Otto Warmbier’s while he was in a North Korean prison.

“I never like being misinterpreted, but especially when it comes to Otto Warmbier and his great family. Remember, I got Otto out along with three others. The previous Administration did nothing, and he was taken on their watch,” Trump wrote on Twitter after increasing criticism of his acceptance of Kim’s denial.

“Of course I hold North Korea responsible for Otto’s mistreatment and death. Most important, Otto Warmbier will not have died in vain. Otto and his family have become a tremendous symbol of strong passion and strength, which will last for many years into the future. I love Otto and think of him often!” he continued, without mentioning Kim or his denial.

Earlier Friday, Warmbier’s parents directly blamed Kim for their son’s death and blasted his “evil regime.”

“We have been respectful during this summit process. Now we must speak out. Kim and his evil regime are responsible for the death of our son Otto,” Fred and Cindy Warmbier said in a scathing statement that rebuked Trump’s assertion.

“Kim and his evil regime are responsible for unimaginable cruelty and inhumanity. No excuses or lavish praise can change that,” added the couple, who were Trump’s guests at his 2018 State of the Union address.

The president drew criticism when he praised Kim’s leadership and said he believed the despot’s claims that he was unaware of how the 22-year-old college student from Ohio had been treated in a North Korean prison.

“Some really bad things happened to Otto — some really, really bad things. But he tells me that he didn’t know about it, and I will take him at his word,” Trump said during a press conference after his summit with Kim broke down.

“I really don’t think it was in his interest at all,” he said, adding that Kim felt “very badly” about the young man’s death.

[New York Post]

Trump Calls Kim Jong-un a ‘Real Leader’ in Hannity Interview

President Trump continued to sing Kim Jong-un’s praises in a new interview with Sean Hannity, calling the North Korean politician a “real leader,” among other compliments.

“He’s a character and he’s a real personality and he’s very smart. He’s sharp as you can be,” Trump told Hannity in a sit down interview on Thursday night. “He’s a real leader.”

The president immediately added Kim was “pretty mercurial” —  but that he didn’t “say that necessarily in a bad way.”

Trump’s comments follow his trip to Vietnam for a second in-person meeting with Kim. Talks of nuclear disarmament, according to The New York Times on Thursday, fizzled out over a disagreement on lifting stiff sanctions on North Korea.

“It was about the sanctions,” Trump said. “Basically they wanted the sanctions lifted in their entirety, but we couldn’t do that.”

On Thursday, Trump said he didn’t believe Kim knew about the treatment of American student Otto Warmbier, who was sentenced to 15 years hard labor in early 2016 on charges he stole a North Korean propaganda poster. Warmbier was returned to the U.S. in a comatose state in June 2017 and died shortly after. Kim, according to Trump, “felt very badly about” Warmbier’s death.

The Warmbier family, in a statement to MSNBC on Friday, responded to the president’s recent comments.

“We have been respectful during this summit process,” the family said.”Now we must speak out. Kim and his evil regime are responsible for the death of our son, Otto. Kim and his evil regime are responsible for unimaginable cruelty and inhumanity.”

The Warmbiers added:  “No excuses or lavish praise can change that.”

[The Wrap]

Trump defends Kim Jong Un over death of Otto Warmbier

President Trump on Thursday defended North Korean leader Kim Jong Un over the death of American college student Otto Warmbier, whose family says he was “brutally tortured” while imprisoned in North Korea and died in 2017 after being flown back to United States in a coma.

The president condemned the “brutality of the North Korean regime” following Warmbier’s death at 22 years old, but he took a softer stance toward Kim at the conclusion of their second summit.

“I don’t believe he would have allowed that to happen,” Trump said. “It just wasn’t to his advantage to allow that to happen.”

Trump said that he spoke to Kim about the death of Warmbier — whose family has called it a murder — and that Kim “feels badly about it.” He said the North Korea leader, who rules the country with an iron grip, knew about the case but learned about it only after the fact because, Trump suggested, “top leadership” might not have been involved.

“He tells me he didn’t know about it, and I take him at his word,” Trump said.

Richard Cullen, the attorney for Fred and Cindy Warmbier, who in December won a $501 million judgment against North Korea for the death of their son, said the couple probably will not say anything publicly about the president’s comment.

Trump’s defense of Kim mirrors his willingness to take the word of autocrats in other cases despite the findings of his own government or experts, particularly when confronting the leader is not what Trump sees as in his political interest.

Trump has not agreed with his intelligence community’s assessment that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman — the de facto leader of Saudi Arabia who has forged an alliance with the administration — ordered the assassination of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who was murdered inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul in October. Khashoggi, a Washington Post contributing columnist, was reportedly cut up with a bone saw, and messages later showed that the crown prince had plotted in the past to kill him. The Saudi government has blamed the operation on a rogue band of operatives who were sent to Istanbul to bring Khashoggi back to Saudi Arabia.

Trump has repeatedly said that the crown prince has denied any involvement in Khashoggi’s death while emphasizing his own view that preserving the United States’ relationship with Saudi Arabia is most important.

“Maybe he did and maybe he didn’t!” Trump said of whether Mohammed knew of the plan to kill Khashoggi. The remarks were included in an October news release defending his administration’s handling of the situation.

And Trump has sided with Russian President Vladimir Putin over his denial that Moscow interfered in the 2016 presidential election — even though the U.S. intelligence community has concluded that Russia did interfere as part of an effort to sow discord and help Trump.

“I have great confidence in my intelligence people, but I will tell you that President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today,” Trump said standing beside the Russian president during a joint news conference in Helsinki in July.

Trump’s remarks about Warmbier and Kim drew bipartisan criticism. Rick Santorum, a former Republican senator from Pennsylvania, said that Trump’s acceptance of Kim’s denial of responsibility was “reprehensible.”

“He gave cover, as you said, to a leader who knew very well what was going on with Otto Warmbier,” said Santorum on CNN, adding, “I am disappointed, to say the least, that he did it.”

Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.), chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, tweeted that Trump’s remark was “detestable.”

“Walking away from the summit was better than making a bad deal,” he wrote in a Thursday morning post. “It’s also the result of a poorly planned strategy. But accepting Kim’s denial of involvement in Warmbier’s death? Detestable, and harkens back to Trump’s duplicitous acceptances of denials from other dictators.”

Warmbier, a University of Virginia student from Ohio, was detained in Pyongyang after participating in an organized tour in December 2015 and was held for 17 months, after being charged with spying for the United States and being coerced into making an on-camera confession. His parents have stated that all the charges against him were untrue. Warmbier returned to his hometown of Cincinnati in a coma and died a few days later.

Trump said at the time that he was incensed by the death. He forged a relationship with the Warmbier family, even meeting with them in the Oval Office, and introduced them to a rousing ovation at his 2018 State of the Union address.

“We need only look at the depraved character of the North Korean regime to understand the nature of the nuclear threat,” he said, with Warmbier’s tearful family looking on as he described the regime’s grisly actions.

Fred Warmbier accompanied Vice President Pence as part of the U.S. delegation to the Opening Ceremony of the Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea, in February 2018.

In a statement announcing a lawsuit against the government of North Korea in April 2018, Warmbier said his son was “taken hostage, kept as a prisoner for political purposes, used as a pawn and singled out for exceptionally harsh and brutal treatment by Kim Jong Un. Kim and his regime have portrayed themselves as innocent, while they intentionally destroyed our son’s life.”

As his relationship has warmed with Kim, Trump has played down human rights abuses in North Korea and has infrequently brought up Otto Warmbier’s death.

Trump has said to advisers that human rights are not a key concern when negotiating with North Korea, and human rights advocatestold The Washington Post in December that they have lost momentum with the administration. 

At the end of his first summit with Kim in June in Singapore, when asked about Warmbier, Trump described his death as a turning point that helped lead to a ratcheting-down of tensions with Kim and a move toward negotiations over its nuclear program.

“I think without Otto this would not have happened,” he said. “Something happened from that day — it was a terrible thing. It was brutal. A lot of people started to focus on what was going on, including North Korea. I really think that Otto is someone who did not die in vain.”

On Thursday, Trump jumped in when an American journalist asked Kim about his human rights record, saying they would discuss it privately.

“You’ve got a lot of people,” Trump said of North Korea during Thursday’s news conference. “Big country, a lot of people. And in those prisons and those camps, you’ve got a lot of people. And some really bad things happened to Otto. . . . But [Kim] tells me he didn’t know about it.”

[Washington Post]

White House press corps abruptly ordered out of hotel ahead of North Korea summit

The White House press corps was being evicted from its dedicated workspace for the summit here between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un — possibly to make room for the North Korean head of state.

The Vietnamese Ministry of Foreign Affairs tweeted late Monday night that the White House press corps would be relocated from its planned staging ground at the Melia Hotel — including a 200-seat ballroom and stand-up spots for broadcast reporters — to an international media center.

“You must go now! This way,” a Vietnamese security officer barked at members of the press corps in the hotel lobby Wednesday morning.

The forced move was highly unusual because the White House had approved of and supported the use of the space by media who cover the president.

Foreign press have been reporting that Kim would stay at the Melia, and the hotel let guests were made aware over the weekend that a “head of state” would be staying there.

It was not immediately clear who made the decision to boot the White House reporters: North Korea, Vietnam, the U.S. or a combination of those governments.

[NBC News]

Trump Tweets on North Korea, ‘My Friend Kim Jong Un’ Ahead of Summit

Ahead of his summit with Kim Jong Un in Vietnam, President Donald Trump touted the “AWESOME” potential for North Korea if they denuclearize.

“The potential is AWESOME, a great opportunity, like almost none other in history, for my friend Kim Jong Un,” the President tweeted.

He also swiped at Democrats for not being able to do “it” while Barack Obama was president:

Trump Cabinet Member Literally Bans a Word Because He Can’t Explain it to Trump

Trump U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer — a cabinet-level official — tried repeatedly to explain what a “Memorandum of Understanding” is to Trump before finally giving up and promising never to use the term again, all during a nationally-televised photo op.

During remarks in the Oval Office prior to a meeting with Vice Premier Liu He of China Friday, Trump was asked about Memoranda of Understanding (MOUs) between China and the United States, and Trump told reporters “I don’t like MOUs because they don’t mean anything. To me, they don’t mean anything. I think you’re better off just going into a document. I was never a fan of an MOU.”

“An MOU is a contract,” Lighthizer explained, adding that “It’s the way trade agreements are generally used,” that “It’s an actual contract between the two parties,” that “A memorandum of understanding is a binding agreement between two people,” and that “It’s detailed; it covers everything in great detail.”

“It’s just called a memorandum of understanding,” Lighthizer explained again, for a fifth and sixth time. “That’s a legal term. It’s a contract.”

Moments later, Trump said “I disagree. I think that a memorandum of understanding is not a contract to the extent that we want. We’re going to have — we’re doing a memorandum of understanding that will be put into a final contract, I assume. But, to me, the final contract is really the thing, Bob — and I think you mean that, too — is really the thing that means something.”

Trump again told Lighthizer that an MOU “doesn’t mean very much,” and asked, “how long will it take to put that into a final, binding contract?”

“From now on, we’re not using the word ‘memorandum of understanding’ anymore,” Lighthizer said, to laughter from the room. “We’re going to the term ‘trade agreement.’ All right? No more. We’ll never use the term again.”

“Good,” Trump said.

“We’ll have the same document,” Lighthizer added. “It’s going to be called a ‘trade agreement.’ We’re never going to use ‘MOU’ again.”

And so the MOU goes out, not with a bang, but with a whimper. Here’s hoping nobody ever tries to explain “Bill of Rights” to Trump.

Watch the video above, from The White House.

[Mediaite]

Trump hints at a softer stance on Huawei in a bizarre ‘6G’ tweet

President Donald Trump sent a pair of bizarre tweets Thursday morning mentioning a “6G” wireless network and seemingly hinting that he could take a softer stance on Chinese telecom company Huawei.

The tweets rang as odd because 6G technology doesn’t exist. U.S. telecom companies are barely on the cusp of 5G wireless networks, and they’re facing stiff competition to build it before Chinese companies.

Trump doesn’t name China or Huawei, but that’s likely what he’s referencing. Chinese companies are at the forefront of 5G technology, and the Trump administration resumed trade talks with Chinese negotiators Thursday. Both nations face a March 1 deadline to reach a deal, although Trump has indicated he could back off of it.

Meanwhile, Trump has reportedly been preparing an executive order to ban Huawei and ZTE from operating in the U.S., which would grant U.S. companies a little more cushion to build their own 5G networks. Now it seems Trump could be reconsidering a ban on Chinese telecoms.

It’s unclear whether a potential ban on Huawei and ZTE would factor into negotiations, but such an executive order would likely invite some bad blood between the world’s two largest economies.

The U.S. and other countries have long feared Huawei’s equipment could be used for spying.

TPG Telecom dropped plans to use Huawei equipment in Australia, which banned the use of Huawei’s equipment. New Zealand and Japan have similar prohibitions in place. The U.K. hasn’t made a decision either way, but the Royal United Services Institute, a defense think tank, warned earlier this month that allowing Huawei equipment could be “naive” and “irresponsible.”

Germany has considered similar measures, but said earlier this month that it isn’t ready to ban Huawei and that it will allow all 5G equipment vendors in the country.

U.S. carriers AT&T and Verizon are still activating fledgling 5G networks in select cities, and T-Mobile and Sprint plan to launch theirs later this year. Most experts think it will take until at least 2020 for 5G to become widespread.

Samsung just announced the first phone that will run on the faster network, but it won’t launch until the second quarter of this year.

Trump’s reference to nonexistent “6G” might just be an indication he wants technology to be running full speed ahead, but it’s not something that anyone will be able to use in the near future.

The White House did not respond to a request for comment.

[CNBC]

Reality

At the time of this tweet there is no white paper on 6G. Trump is showing again his complete lack of understanding of technology.

Trump warns Europe he will free ISIS fighters if allies won’t prosecute them

President Donald Trump threatened Sunday to release hundreds of Islamic State fighters being held in Syria if allies in Europe don’t agree to take custody of the militants.

“The United States is asking Britain, France, Germany and other European allies to take back over 800 ISIS fighters that we captured in Syria and put them on trial,” Trump said in a late-night tweet. “The Caliphate is ready to fall. The alternative is not a good one in that we will be forced to release them.”

Trump, who intends to pull U.S. troops out of northern Syria, said the likely destination for the militants would be European countries. “The U.S. does not want to watch as these ISIS fighters permeate Europe, which is where they are expected to go,” Trump said.

During the civil war in Syria, hundreds of militants flooded into the country, many coming from Europe to join ISIS’ ranks. It’s unclear how many of the militants Trump is referring to are actually European citizens.

Trump’s comments come as global leaders wrap up three days of security talks in Munich, where the conflict in Syria was among the agenda items.

James Jeffrey, the U.S.’s special representative on Syria issues, said in Munich that the U.S. will leave northeastern Syria, but the troop pullout will not be abrupt.

“It will be an orderly step-by-step withdraw,”Jeffrey said without offering a timeline.

In December, Trump called for a complete withdraw of U.S. forces in the country. And on Saturday, Vice President Mike Pence reiterated that the U.S. still plans to wind down the mission in Syria.

Still, the U.S. said it intends to keep its coalition together and wants allies to play a larger role in the broader campaign to root out ISIS elements.

Jeffrey said there are hundreds of ISIS cells scattered throughout the region. U.S. air power will remain ready to respond when needed, he said.

Trump has essentially declared victory over the group, which has been forced out of all its former strongholds in Iraq and Syria. But there remain concerns that ISIS could regroup if the U.S. pulls out. Trump said the time has come for other countries to pick up the slack.

“We do so much, and spend so much – Time for others to step up and do the job that they are so capable of doing. We are pulling back after 100% Caliphate victory!,” Trump tweeted.

[Stars and Stripes]

Reality

Trump promised in the campaign he had a secret plan to defeat ISIS in 90 days. Instead:

1. 90 days came and went.

2. Said you’ll have a plan soon.

3. Your plan was to give the generals 90 days to formulate a plan.

4. Their plan was Obama’s strategy.

5. You take credit for #winning.

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