Trump fires back at criticism of Putin press conference

President Trump on Monday sought to quell criticism that he sided with Russian President Vladimir Putin over the U.S. intelligence community during a joint press conference earlier in the day.

In a tweet sent from Air Force One, Trump reiterated confidence in American intelligence officials, hours after he refused to say if he believes the U.S. intelligence community’s conclusion that Russia interfered in the 2016 election.

“As I said today and many times before, ‘I have GREAT confidence in MY intelligence people,'” Trump tweeted while flying back to Washington, D.C.

“However, I also recognize that in order to build a brighter future, we cannot exclusively focus on the past – as the world’s two largest nuclear powers, we must get along!” he added.

The tweet came amid broad backlash from media analysts and lawmakers on both sides of the aisle regarding Trump’s remarks in Helsinki. But he stopped short of saying whether he thinks Russia meddled in the 2016 election.

During the press conference with Putin, Trump was asked whether he believes his own intelligence community’s assessment that Russia interfered, or Putin’s denials.

“My people came to me… they said they think it’s Russia,” Trump said. “I have President Putin, he just said it’s not Russia. I will say this: I don’t see any reason why it would be” Russia, he said.

“But I have confidence in both parties,” he added.

The summit came three days after the Justice Department indicted 12 Russian nationals for their alleged roles in hacking the Democratic National Committee.

Putin said Monday that Trump raised the issue of election interference during their one-on-one meeting earlier in the day, but Trump did not press Putin or condemn the election meddling during the televised press conference.

Trump declared before the summit started that U.S. “foolishness” and special counsel Robert Mueller‘s probe were to blame for souring relations between the two countries.

During the press conference, he said he did not collude with Russia in the election. Trump also recounted his victory over Hillary Clinton and called Mueller’s investigation both “ridiculous” and a source of tension between the two countries.

Democrats called Trump’s performance “pathetic” and “disgraceful.”

On the Republican side, Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) said Trump “must appreciate that Russia is not our ally,” while Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) called the press conference “one of the most disgraceful performances by an American president in memory.”

[The Hill]

Reality

Trump also used the term “my intelligence,” instead of the United States intelligence, just like “my generals” and “my military,” showing a pattern of his belief they work for him and not for the good of the country.

Trump’s claim that NATO will boost defense spending disputed

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[CNBC]

Trump to Dems: If You Want to ‘Win’ SCOTUS, ‘Don’t Obstruct… WIN ELECTIONS!’

On Wednesday, President Donald Trump took to Twitter to tell Democrats that if they want to have a Supreme Court pick, they should “WIN ELECTIONS!”

“If the Democrats want to win Supreme Court and other Court picks, don’t Obstruct and Resist, but rather do it the good ol’ fashioned way, WIN ELECTIONS!,” Trump tweeted out.

Trump was, of course referring to the fact that Democrats have come forward in opposition of his new SCOTUS pick Brett Kavanaugh, a judge that may move SCOTUS sharply to the right.

“This will not happen without a fight,” New Jersey Sen. Cory Bookersaid to a rally crowd outside SCOTUS. “We who believe that a woman has the right to make her own medical decisions, we now must fight! Don’t tell me this battle is already lost — I don’t believe that.”

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand also tweeted out this:

However, Trump’s latest tweet ignores the very recent history of the case of one-time SCOTUS nominee Merrick Garland. Garland was nominated by Obama for the nation’s top court, however, his bid for the Supreme Court was quickly steamrolled by Sen. Mitch McConnelland his other cronies.

[Mediaite]

Reality

We did win elections, then Mitch stole a Supreme Court* pick through historic obstruction. We expect the Democrats to treat Kavanaugh as well as the GOP treated Merrick Garland.

U.S. Opposition to Breast-Feeding Resolution Stuns World Health Officials

A resolution to encourage breast-feeding was expected to be approved quickly and easily by the hundreds of government delegates who gathered this spring in Geneva for the United Nations-affiliated World Health Assembly.

Based on decades of research, the resolution says that mother’s milk is healthiest for children and countries should strive to limit the inaccurate or misleading marketing of breast milk substitutes.

Then the United States delegation, embracing the interests of infant formula manufacturers, upended the deliberations.

American officials sought to water down the resolution by removing language that called on governments to “protect, promote and support breast-feeding” and another passage that called on policymakers to restrict the promotion of food products that many experts say can have deleterious effects on young children.

When that failed, they turned to threats, according to diplomats and government officials who took part in the discussions. Ecuador, which had planned to introduce the measure, was the first to find itself in the cross hairs.

The Americans were blunt: If Ecuador refused to drop the resolution, Washington would unleash punishing trade measures and withdraw crucial military aid. The Ecuadorean government quickly acquiesced.

The showdown over the issue was recounted by more than a dozen participants from several countries, many of whom requested anonymity because they feared retaliation from the United States.

Health advocates scrambled to find another sponsor for the resolution, but at least a dozen countries, most of them poor nations in Africa and Latin America, backed off, citing fears of retaliation, according to officials from Uruguay, Mexico and the United States.

“We were astonished, appalled and also saddened,” said Patti Rundall, the policy director of the British advocacy group Baby Milk Action, who has attended meetings of the assembly, the decision-making body of the World Health Organization, since the late 1980s.

“What happened was tantamount to blackmail, with the U.S. holding the world hostage and trying to overturn nearly 40 years of consensus on best way to protect infant and young child health,” she said.

In the end, the Americans’ efforts were mostly unsuccessful. It was the Russians who ultimately stepped in to introduce the measure — and the Americans did not threaten them.

The State Department declined to respond to questions, saying it could not discuss private diplomatic conversations. The Department of Health and Human Services, the lead agency in the effort to modify the resolution, explained the decision to contest the resolution’s wording but said H.H.S. was not involved in threatening Ecuador.

“The resolution as originally drafted placed unnecessary hurdles for mothers seeking to provide nutrition to their children,” an H.H.S. spokesman said in an email. “We recognize not all women are able to breast-feed for a variety of reasons. These women should have the choice and access to alternatives for the health of their babies, and not be stigmatized for the ways in which they are able to do so.” The spokesman asked to remain anonymous in order to speak more freely.

Although lobbyists from the baby food industry attended the meetings in Geneva, health advocates said they saw no direct evidence that they played a role in Washington’s strong-arm tactics. The $70 billion industry, which is dominated by a handful of American and European companies, has seen sales flatten in wealthy countries in recent years, as more women embrace breast-feeding. Overall, global sales are expected to rise by 4 percent in 2018, according to Euromonitor, with most of that growth occurring in developing nations.

The intensity of the administration’s opposition to the breast-feeding resolution stunned public health officials and foreign diplomats, who described it as a marked contrast to the Obama administration, which largely supported W.H.O.’s longstanding policy of encouraging breast-feeding.

During the deliberations, some American delegates even suggested the United States might cut its contribution the W.H.O., several negotiators said.

Washington is the single largest contributor to the health organization, providing $845 million, or roughly 15 percent of its budget, last year.

The confrontation was the latest example of the Trump administration siding with corporate interests on numerous public health and environmental issues.

In talks to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement, the Americans have been pushing for language that would limit the ability of Canada, Mexico and the United States to put warning labels on junk food and sugary beverages, according to a draft of the proposal reviewed by The New York Times.

During the same Geneva meeting where the breast-feeding resolution was debated, the United States succeeded in removing statements supporting soda taxes from a document that advises countries grappling with soaring rates of obesity.

The Americans also sought, unsuccessfully, to thwart a W.H.O. effort aimed at helping poor countries obtain access to lifesaving medicines. Washington, supporting the pharmaceutical industry, has long resisted calls to modify patent laws as a way of increasing drug availability in the developing world, but health advocates say the Trump administration has ratcheted up its opposition to such efforts.

[The New York Times]

Trump repeats inaccurate claim that Reagan didn’t win Wisconsin

President Trump repeated on Thursday his inaccurate claim that former President Ronald Reagan didn’t win the state of Wisconsin during his presidential elections.

“Take Wisconsin, I just left Wisconsin,” Trump said at a campaign rally in Montana.

“Reagan had his big win. He won every state except one, the great state of Wisconsin,” Trump said. “I won Wisconsin, first time since Dwight Eisenhower in 1952.”

Reagan won the state in both 1980 and 1984. Minnesota was the only state that Reagan did not win in the 1984 election.

Eisenhower also won the state in his reelection in 1956. Former President Richard Nixon also won the state multiple times between Eisenhower’s and Trump’s elections.

Wisconsin is traditionally a blue state, but Trump narrowly picked it up in the 2016 election.

Hillary Clinton‘s lack of campaigning in Wisconsin has been widely cited as to why she lost the state.

Trump made a similar remark during an event in Wisconsin last week.

“And I won Wisconsin. And I like Wisconsin a lot but we won Wisconsin. And Ronald Reagan, remember, Wisconsin was the state that Ronald Reagan did not win,” Trump said at the time.

[The Hill]

Trump on Democrats’ Calls to Abolish ICE: ‘They’re Going to Get Beaten So Badly’ in Elections

In a Fox News interview that aired Sunday, President Donald Trump bashed amplified calls from the left to abolish Immigration and Customs Enforcement, predicting they would lead to a major triumph for the right in the midterm elections.

“I hope they keep thinking about it because they’re going to get beaten so badly,” he told host Maria Bartiromo. “These are the guys that go in and take MS-13 and they take them out because they are much tougher than MS-13 like by a factor of 10… You get rid of ICE, you’re going to have a country that you’re going to be afraid to walk out of your house. I love that issue if they’re actually going to do that.”

As more Democrats continue demanding the dissolution of ICE, Trump believes the fallout of such an action would be an invitation for chaos.

“You are going to have a country that’s crime ridden,” he said, adding that ICE and border patrol are “incredible patriots” and “the job they have is so dangerous.”

Trump also claimed that Democrats are advocating for open borders, a line he routinely repeats to link the party to that platform despite the fact that it does not hold that position.

“That’s going to be their platform,” he said. “Open borders which equals crime. I think they will never win another election.”

[Mediaite]

Trump Lied About Parents Of Korean War Vets, Now He’s Lying About Returned Bodies

Having already invented “thousands” of parents who begged him to bring home the bodies of their Korean War veteran children, President Donald Trump is now inventing hundreds of such repatriations that haven’t actually happened.

The return of the remains of American service members who were killed in that war has become a major “victory” Trump likes to claim from his June 12 meeting in Singapore with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un.

“It was the last thing I asked,” he told a gathering of Nevada Republicans on Saturday. “I said, ‘Do you mind, would I be able to get the remains back of all those great heroes from so many years ago?’ And he said, ‘I will do that.’ And you probably read, they have already done 200 people. Which is so great.”

On Monday, Trump told a rally audience in South Carolina: “We’re getting the remains of our great heroes back.”

The only problem: No remains have yet been returned, and it is unclear when that might happen. “We have not yet physically received them,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told the Senate Appropriations Committee on Wednesday, but said that he is “optimistic” it would take place “in the not-too-distant future.”

That explanation was not sufficient for Iraq War veteran Will Fischer, with the progressive veterans group VoteVets.

“It’s beyond the pale to lie about remains of fallen service persons already being returned, when they, in fact, haven’t been,” Fischer said. “Remains like these aren’t some prize, where you can make up some big fish stories. These are troops who died in war, and whose families have had no closure. He disrespected Gold Star families during the campaign, and he’s doing it now.”

[Huffington Post]

Trump calls Rep. Joe Crowley a ‘slovenly man’ who ‘got his ass kicked’

President Donald Trump mocked the No. 4 House Democrat, Rep. Joe Crowley of New York, for losing in a primary to 28-year-old first-time candidate Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on Tuesday.

“A slovenly man named Joe Crowley got his ass kicked by a young woman who had a lot of energy,” Trump said. “She had a lot of energy. I guess he didn’t see it. They couldn’t find him.”

Trump was speaking at a campaign rally in Fargo, North Dakota, Wednesday night. He was promoting Rep. Kevin Cramer, a North Dakota Republican, in his challenge to Democratic Sen. Heidi Heitkamp.

The President also begged Democrats to keep Rep. Nancy Pelosi of California on as House minority leader and he highlighted Rep. Maxine Waters of California, who recently urged activists to publicly confront Trump officials.

“Please keep Maxine Waters on the air as your face and your mouthpiece for the Democrat party,” Trump said.

[CNN]

Trump throws wrench in GOP immigration push, says Republicans are “wasting their time”

President Trump threw a wrench in Republicans’ efforts to pass sweeping immigration legislation soon. He tweeted Friday that Republicans should “stop wasting their time” on immigration and wait until after November’s midterm elections to pass anything.

House Republicans on Thursday delayed a vote on their compromise immigration bill until next week. They had hoped to pass legislation that would not only fund border security, but provide legislative solutions to Mr. Trump’s decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and to family separations at the border.

As CBS News’ Paula Reid has reported, Mr. Trump’s executive order to halt the separation of children from their parents at the southern border is a temporary fix — it effectively only prevents family separations for 20 days. The Justice Department has asked a federal judge to remove a 20-day legal limit on detaining families together.

[CBS News]

Trump: North Korea ‘total denuclearization’ started; officials see no new moves

U.S. President Donald Trump said on Thursday North Korea was blowing up four of its big test sites and that a process of “total denuclearization … has already started,” but officials said there was no such evidence since a landmark summit last week.

Trump said at a Cabinet meeting in the White House that “They’ve stopped the sending of missiles, including ballistic missiles. They’re destroying their engine site. They’re blowing it up. They’ve already blown up one of their big test sites, in fact it’s actually four of their big test sites.

“And the big thing is it will be a total denuclearization, which has already started taking place.”

It was not immediately clear which North Korean test sites Trump was referring to and U.S. officials familiar with current intelligence on North Korea’s nuclear and missile test sites said there was no evidence of new moves to dismantle any sites since Trump met North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on June 12.

The officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, speculated Trump might have been referring to explosions last month that North Korea said were to destroy tunnels at the Punggye-ri nuclear test site and the dismantling of a medium-range ballistic missile test stand at Iha-ri, also in May.

There had been contact with North Korean officials since the summit, the U.S. State Department said.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo “will be meeting with them and talking with them at the earliest possible date” to implement what was agreed in Singapore, spokeswoman Heather Nauert told reporters, without providing further details.

Asked on Wednesday if North Korea had done anything toward denuclearization since the summit, U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told reporters: “No, I’m not aware of that … obviously, it’s the very front end of a process. The detailed negotiations have not begun. I wouldn’t expect that at this point.”

Mattis sat next to Trump at Thursday’s Cabinet meeting.

The Pentagon did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Trump’s latest remarks. There also was no immediate response from the White House.

The U.S.-based North Korea monitoring group 38 North said in an analysis at the end of last week there had been no sign of any activity toward dismantling of any missile test site.

Trump, who has been leading an international drive to press North Korea to abandon development of nuclear missiles capable of reaching the United States, told reporters after the June 12 summit that Kim had pledged to dismantle one of his missile installations.

A U.S. official said on Wednesday that the site Trump referred to then was the Sohae Satellite Launching Ground, a major facility in the western part of the country that has been used for testing engines for long-range missiles.

[Reuters]

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