Trump Goes After NATO, Germany Again While at Summit: ‘What Good’ Are They?

Donald Trump is once again attacking NATO…while at the NATO summit.

Let’s review.

The president received a lot of attention and criticism today when he started the summit with America’s allies in Brussels by attacking Germany in the middle of a photo-op. While Trump was expected to present his complaints that NATO’s member nations don’t contribute enough and make the U.S. cover the defense bill, he ended up going on a tangent over this international “delinquency,” and he also slammed the Germans over their energy dealings with Russia.

After Trump ranted that “Germany is totally controlled by Russia,” Chancellor Angela Merkel fired back by reminding him that she grew up while the Soviet Union occupied East Germany, so she has a pretty good idea of what it really means to be under Russia’s thumb. When the two world leaders spoke to reporters ahead of a meeting together, Trump tried to dial things back and play nice by touting the “tremendous relationship” their countries share.

That brings us to Trump’s tweet, so all in all, it looks like we’re right back where we started when the day began.

[Mediaite]

Trump Kicks Off NATO Summit With Breakfast Rant: ‘Germany Is A Captive Of Russia’

President Donald Trump on Wednesday kicked off what is shaping up to be a contentious NATO summit by lashing out at Germany, saying the country is “captive to Russia” because of a gas pipeline deal.

In a bilateral breakfast meeting with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, in front of reporters, Trump immediately launched into a tirade about the pipeline.

“It’s very sad when Germany makes a massive oil and gas deal with Russia where we’re supposed to be guarding against Russia and Germany goes out and pays billions and billions of dollars a year to Russia,” he said.

“If you look at it, Germany is a captive of Russia, because they supply ― they got rid of their coal plants, got rid of their nuclear, they’re getting so much of the oil and gas from Russia,” he added. “I think it’s something NATO has to look at.”

“Germany is totally controlled by Russia, cause they are getting 60 to 70 percent of their energy from Russia and a new pipeline,” he said.

Trump’s comments referred to Berlin’s support for the construction of the $12 billion Nord Stream 2 pipeline to bring gas across the Baltic Sea into the European continent. German Chancellor Angela Merkel has said that the project is merely commercial, but the U.S. and other European Union members believe the pipeline could be a geopolitical incursion by Russia.

Stoltenberg responded by emphasizing NATO’s unity.

“NATO is an an alliance of 29 nations and sometimes there are differences and different views and also some disagreements, and the gas pipeline from Russia to Germany is one issue where allies disagree,” said Stoltenberg.

Trump is in Brussels for the NATO summit on Wednesday and Thursday, then will spend Friday and the weekend on a working visit to the UK, then will meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki on Monday.

There are concerns that Trump will alienate NATO members ― traditional allies of the U.S. ― while cozying up to Putin.

Ahead of the NATO summit, Trump sent letters to allies Merkel, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Prime Minister Charles Michel of Belgium blasting them for not spending enough on defense ― an oft-repeated criticism of the alliance. Meanwhile, he told reporters on Tuesday that his meeting with Putin “may be the easiest of them all.”

Trump’s continued downplaying of Russian election interference has also deviated from broader international attitudes.

“Russia continues to say they had nothing to do with Meddling in our Election!,” he tweeted last month before tearing into the FBI and its former director James Comey. The U.S. intelligence community, backed by a Republican-led Senate panel, has definitively concluded that Kremlin meddled in the 2016 election to help Trump win.

Trump also called Putin “fine” in a fiery speech last week in which he also attacked European allies.

Back in the U.S., the Senate on Tuesday voted 97-2 on a motion of support for NATO.

“Unfortunately, this motion has become necessary because some of our closest allies have come to question the US commitment to collective self-defense. President Trump has at times called the alliance ‘obsolete.’ Our allies are starting to wonder whether they can rely on the United States to come to their defense in a crisis,” said Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.), who authored the nonbinding motion.

[Huffington Post]

Media

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[The New York Times]

Trump Dismisses Missed Deadline for Reuniting Migrant Families: The Solution is Come Here Legally

The Federal government is all but certain to miss Tuesday’s court-imposed deadline for reuniting migrant families (via Vox). But President Donald Trump is downplaying the blown deadline — and, in fact, pinning the blame on migrants.

Speaking outside the White House prior to leaving for the NATO summit in Brussels, the president sounded off against illegal immigration when asked about the missed deadline.

“I have a solution,” Trump said. “Tell people not to come to our country illegally. That’s the solution. Don’t come to our country illegally. Come like other people do, come legally.”

He added, “I’m saying this, very simply. We have laws. We have borders. Don’t come to our country illegally. It’s not a good thing.”

The president went on to again make the baseless, erroneous assertion that Democrats are advocating for open borders.

“Democrats want open borders and they don’t mind crime,” Trump said. “We want no crime and we want borders where borders mean something. All right? And, remember this, without borders, you do not have a country.”

[Mediaite]

Trump suggests NATO members reimburse US for defense costs

President Trump on Tuesday suggested countries that haven’t made their full contributions to fund the North Atlantic Treaty Organization should reimburse the U.S., further stoking his feud with members of the alliance as he travels to Brussels to meet with NATO leaders.

“Many countries in NATO, which we are expected to defend, are not only short of their current commitment of 2% (which is low), but are also delinquent for many years in payments that have not been made. Will they reimburse the U.S.?” Trump tweeted.

The president sent the tweet as he traveled on Air Force One to Belgium, where he will take part in the annual NATO summit with other world leaders that is scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday.

Trump has long been critical of what he views as the U.S. taking on a disproportionate burden in funding NATO, but he has ratcheted up those complaints in the days leading up to the summit.

NATO members agreed in 2014 to move toward spending at least 2 percent of their respective gross domestic product (GDP) on defense by 2024.

Trump reportedly wrote to German Chancellor Angela Merkel and other NATO allies last month to chastise them for failing to live up to their spending obligations. He further warned that the U.S. could alter its military deployments if nothing changes.

On Tuesday morning, just before he was set to depart for Brussels, Trump tweeted that the funding burden was unfair to American taxpayers, adding that other countries should pay more and the U.S. should pay less for NATO.

Trump went on to tell reporters on the White House lawn that he believes he’ll be able to “work something out” with other member countries.

“NATO has not treated us fairly but I think we’ll work something out. We pay far too much and they pay far too little,” Trump said. “But we will work it out and all countries will be happy.”

[The Hill]

Trump fires warning shot at allies before leaving for NATO meeting: ‘US must pay less — very unfair!’

President Donald Trump railed against NATO allies before boarding Air Force One for the annual meeting in Europe.

The president has ramped up his complaints about the decades-old alliance in recent weeks, and he fired off two tweets early Tuesday before departing for the meeting with allied leaders.

“Getting ready to leave for Europe. First meeting – NATO,” the president tweeted. “The U.S. is spending many times more than any other country in order to protect them. Not fair to the U.S. taxpayer. On top of that we lose $151 Billion on Trade with the European Union. Charge us big Tariffs (& Barriers)!”

Trump will also visit Great Britain and then Helsinki, Finland, for a private, one-on-one-meeting with Russian president Vladimir Putin, whose country’s most important strategic goal is the weakening of NATO.

“NATO countries must pay MORE, the United States must pay LESS. Very Unfair!” Trump tweeted.

[Raw Story]

Trump attacks NYT over breastfeeding story

President Donald Trump on Monday attacked a New York Times story that reported how his administration attempted to weaken a World Health Assembly resolution to promote breastfeeding, saying women shouldn’t be denied access to formula.

The president’s tweet was spillover from a feud over a proposed breastfeeding resolution earlier this year at the WHA, the decision-making body of the World Health Organization. The U.S. opposed the resolution so strongly it threatened trade measures against the country that introduced it, according to the Times.

“The failing NY Times Fake News story today about breast feeding must be called out. The U.S. strongly supports breast feeding but we don’t believe women should be denied access to formula. Many women need this option because of malnutrition and poverty,” Trump said in a tweet.

According to the Times, the resolution was written to encourage breastfeeding and to limit “inaccurate or misleading” marketing for breast milk substitutes. The resolution, introduced by Ecuador, did not bar the use of formula.

When attempts to soften language in the resolution were unsuccessful, the U.S. stunned the global community by threatening retaliatory trade measures against Ecuador and the withdrawal of military aid, according to the Times report.

Ecuador backed off, as did a number of countries that said they feared the same retaliation. The resolution was later introduced by Russia. At that point, the U.S. did not fight back, the Times noted.

The lead agency involved in the resolution negotiations, the Department of Health and Human Services, denies the U.S. made any trade sanction-related threats. HHS spokesperson Caitlin Oakley touted the country’s “long history” of support for breastfeeding in a statement Monday afternoon.

“Recent reporting attempts to portray the U.S. position at the recent World Health Assembly as ‘anti-breastfeeding’ are patently false,” Oakley said. “The United States was fighting to protect women’s abilities to make the best choices for the nutrition of their babies. Many women are not able to breastfeed for a variety of reasons, these women should not be stigmatized; they should be equally supported with information and access to alternatives for the health of themselves and their babies.”

The Times defended its reporting in a tweet to the president, and provided a link to the story in question.

“Our report is accurate. You can read it here,” the Times said.

[Politico]

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 calls on Twitter to boot NY Times and Washington Post since they are banning ‘fake accounts’

President Donald Trump on Saturday again lashed out at his enemies in the media in a Twitter rant where he urged the company to delete the accounts of The New York Times and Washington Post.

“Twitter is getting rid of fake accounts at a record pace. Will that include the Failing New York Times and propaganda machine for Amazon, the Washington Post, who constantly quote anonymous sources that, in my opinion, don’t exist,” Trump wrote.

The president, whose businesses have repeatedly declared bankruptcy, also predicted that both newspapers would be, “out of business in 7 years!”

The company has been repeatedly urged to ban President Trump for violating the company’s terms of service.

In January, the social media company updated its policies to protect President Trump’s account.

“Blocking a world leader from Twitter or removing their controversial Tweets, would hide important information people should be able to see and debate,” Twitter claimed.

Two days later, demonstrators gathered at the company’s San Francisco headquarters to protest the announcement.

The protesters projected criticism on the facade of Twitter’s building, with messages stating Chief Executive Office Jack Dorsey is “complicit” and asking the question, “would Twitter ban Hitler?”

[Raw Story]

Trump Mocks the #MeToo Movement During Montana Rally

Donald Trump, whom more than a dozen women have accused of sexual misconduct, has made no secret of his distaste for the #MeToo movement, defending both longtime pal Roger Ailes and ex-Fox mega-host Bill O’Reilly against charges of sexual misconduct (Ailes he called a “very, very good person,” while of O’Reilly he said, “I don’t think Bill did anything wrong.”). But in February, the president made his position on #MeToo even more explicit: the day after defending former staff secretary Rob Porter, who resigned amid allegations of domestic abuse from two of his ex-wives, Trump tweeted that “lives are being shattered and destroyed” by “mere” allegations. “He says he’s innocent, and I think you have to remember that,” Trump said the day prior. “He said very strongly . . . that he’s innocent.” The comments inspired a wave of disquiet among those inclined to support women in speaking out about harassment and abuse. And on Thursday, the president revived his rhetoric during a bizarre rally in Montana ostensibly intended to stoke support for the state’s Republican Senate candidate.

Riffing on his nickname for Senator Elizabeth Warren, whose Native American heritage he has repeatedly questioned, Trump—who made no mention of the hasty same-day resignation of E.P.A. chief Scott Pruitt—told the crowd, “I want to apologize. Pocahontas, I apologize to you . . . to you I apologize. To the fake Pocahontas, I won’t apologize.”

He went on to suggest that if Warren won the 2020 Democratic primary, he would dare her to take an ancestry test during a televised debate. “We’ll take that little kit and say, we have to do it gently because we are in the #MeToo generation, so we have to be very gentle. And we will very gently take that kit, and we will slowly toss it” to Warren, “hoping it doesn’t hit her and injure her arm.” Trump added that he’d give $1 million to charity if the test “shows [Warren is] an Indian . . . I have a feeling,” he said, “she will say no.”

Nor did Trump confine himself to insulting a potential Democratic opponent—during the same speech, he also claimed that Democratic Rep. Maxine Waters had an I.Q. in the “mid-60s,” lobbed derogatory criticisms at journalists, and vouched for Russian President Vladimir Putin. After the rally, Warren fired back with a tweet, writing, “Hey, @realDonaldTrump: While you obsess over my genes, your Admin is conducting DNA tests on little kids because you ripped them from their mamas & you are too incompetent to reunite them in time to meet a court order. Maybe you should focus on fixing the lives you’re destroying.”

The president’s particular strain of misogyny has been on display for much of this week—earlier on Thursday, Trump told reporters that he doesn’t believe allegations that G.O.P. Rep. Jim Jordan knew about the sexual abuse of student athletes while he was a coach at Ohio State University. (Jordan himself has denied them.) “I don’t believe them at all,” Trump said of Jordan’s accusers, adding that he believes in Jordan’s innocence “100 percent”. Thursday also happened to be the day the White House officially hired Bill Shine, the former Fox News co-president who allegedly covered for Ailes for years. In making such statements, Trump seems to be indicating that no line of attack is off-limits—a tactic that successfully set him apart from a crowded Republican field in 2016.

He’s also setting a deeply toxic precedent for the 2020 presidential race—particularly if he faces off against another woman. And though this strategy is likely to appeal to his base, potentially deepening the gulf between people who believe women when they say they’ve been forced to endure sexual harassment and people who don’t, it is not without risk for Republicans. Not only could it further galvanize Democrats, but it could also alienate women voters who, according to a poll published on Friday, have a disproportionately negative view of the president: just 32 percent of women approve of his job performance, compared to 51 percent of men.

[Vanity Fair]

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