Trump defends abandoning the Kurds by saying they didn’t help the US in WWII

President Donald Trump on Wednesday defended his decision to abandon the Kurds to a Turkish military incursion in Syria by saying they didn’t help the US during World War II. 

This came amid reports that Turkish ground troops were crossing the border into Syria after air strikes that began earlier in the day.

“They didn’t help us in the Second World War; they didn’t help us with Normandy,” Trump said of the Kurds. He added, “With all of that being said, we like the Kurds.”

Earlier on Wednesday, Trump said in a statement released by the White House that he did not endorse the Turkish military operation and thought it was a “bad idea.” But he did not refer directly to the Kurds or signal any immediate response from the US to thwart Turkey’s actions. 

The Trump administration on Sunday abruptly announced the US was withdrawing troops stationed in northeastern Syria ahead of a Turkish operation.

The move has been broadly condemned in Washington, including by top congressional Republicans and former Trump administration officials, as many feel Trump paved the way for Turkey to go after key US allies. 

The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) bore the brunt of the US-led campaign against ISIS, losing about 11,000 fighters in the process.

Ahead of the Trump administration’s announcement, Kurdish forces had recently dismantled defensive positions along the Turkey-Syria border under assurances from the US it would not allow a Turkish assault. The SDF described Trump’s decision to withdraw troops as a “stab in the back” and made clear it felt betrayed by the US. 

[Business Insider]

White House press secretary says daily briefings aren’t coming back any time soon

White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said Monday that she is not likely to conduct a White House press briefing anytime in the near future, deriding the once-regular sessions as an act of “theater” for reporters seeking “to get famous” during the televised news conferences.

“Not right now,” Grisham told the hosts of “Fox & Friends,” when asked whether the White House will resume its daily press briefing, a longstanding practice under President Donald Trump’s predecessors.

“I mean, ultimately, if the president decides that it’s something we should do, we can do that, but right now he’s doing just fine,” she continued. “And to be honest, the briefings have become a lot of theater. And I think that a lot of reporters were doing it to get famous. I mean, yeah, they’re writing books now. I mean, they’re all getting famous off of this presidency. And so, I think it’s great what we’re doing now.”

Grisham, who has rarely participated in on-camera interviews since becoming press secretary in June, praised her boss as “his own best spokesperson” and claimed he is “the most accessible president in history, as all of the media knows” — citing Trump’s frequent informal gaggles with the White House press corps.

Grisham also suggested that reporters’ criticisms of the president’s previous press secretaries, Sean Spicer and Sarah Huckabee Sanders, played a role in Trump’s decision to discontinue the briefings.

“I think that it’s so important that, you know, the spokesperson for the president can adequately speak to his policies and get his message out there, and I think the president saw that that’s not what was happening,” she said. “It had become, again, theater, and they weren’t being good to his people. And he doesn’t like that. He’s very loyal to his people, and he put a stop to it.”

Spicer was widely mocked for his combative and sometimes stumbling performances during the daily White House news briefings, which memorably became a subject of parody by actress Melissa McCarthy on “Saturday Night Live.”

Sanders oversaw the end of the daily briefings amid mounting questions from journalists regarding her credibility. She opted to develop a regular presence on cable news programs, especially “Fox & Friends,” where she would bludgeon the president’s detractors.

Grisham has been largely reluctant to advocate on-air for the administration’s priorities, but she weighed in Monday on the controversy surrounding Trump’s summer conversation with Ukraine’s president that is quickly consuming the White House and Capitol Hill.

“The president made it very clear he did absolutely nothing wrong. This is just another reason for Democrats and for the media to attack and look for things that just aren’t there,” she said.

The Wall Street Journal initially reported on Friday that Trump urged newly elected Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy roughly eight times during a July 25 phone call to work with Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden’s son.

Trump confirmed Sunday that he discussed Biden, the front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination, during his call with Zelenskiy.

“The conversation I had was largely congratulatory, was largely corruption, all of the corruption taking place,” he told reporters outside the White House. “Was largely the fact that we don’t want our people, like Vice President Biden and his son, creating to the corruption already in the Ukraine.”

[Politico]

Trump fires John Bolton

President Donald Trump abruptly announced in a tweet Tuesday that he has asked national security adviser John Bolton to resign, noting that he “strongly disagreed with many” of Bolton’s suggestions “as did others in the administration.””I thank John very much for his service. I will be naming a new National Security Advisor next week,” Trump wrote.The tweet came just one hour after the White House press office said Bolton was scheduled to appear at a Tuesday press briefing alongside Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin.Asked during the briefing whether he and Mnuchin were surprised that Bolton was fired, given that he was supposed to appear alongside them, Pompeo said, “I’m never surprised.”Bolton tweeted minutes after Trump’s announcement, “I offered to resign last night and President Trump said, ‘Let’s talk about it tomorrow.'”

Bolton reiterated the point that it was he who offered to resign on Fox News Tuesday.Trump has plowed through an unprecedented number of national security professionals while multiple geopolitical crises have played out.The President has had three national security advisers — Bolton, Michael Flynn and H.R. McMaster. He has summarily fired a secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, by tweet after undercutting the former ExxonMobil CEO for months.

Secretary of Defense James Mattis resigned, reportedly in frustration over Trump’s decision to pull out of Syria.The President has also churned through two Homeland Security secretaries, John Kelly and Kirstjen Nielsen, and a National Security Agency director, Mike Rogers. He’s lost a deputy national security adviser, K.T. McFarland and an ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley. Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats and his deputy, Sue Gordon, left their posts last month.Bolton’s departure comes as tensions with Iran are escalating in the Persian Gulf, North Korea continues to develop its weapons capabilities, arms control experts are warning of a potential nuclear arms race with Russia and trade tensions with China are intensifying, while Trump is discussing a drawdown of forces in Afghanistan.White House deputy press secretary Hogan Gidley told reporters that Charles Kupperman is the acting national security adviser.

“John Bolton’s priorities and policies just don’t line up with the President’s and any sitting president has the right to put someone in that position that can carry out his agenda. That became no longer tenable so the President made a change,” Gidley told reporters.He claimed there was “no one issue” that led to Bolton’s firing, and referred reporters to the forthcoming briefing for more information.Yet, Bolton’s ouster was so sudden that the now-former National Security Adviser even led a meeting of top administration officials, known as a principals committee meeting, Tuesday morning prior to Trump’s tweet, a source familiar told CNN.The source said the meeting went on as planned and there was no indication that Bolton’s firing was imminent.

[CNN]

Trump says he won’t debate primary opponents

President Trump on Monday indicated he would not be willing to debate the Republicans seeking to run against him in a primary for the party’s 2020 nomination.

“They’re all at less than 1 percent. I guess it’s a publicity stunt,” Trump told reporters as he left the White House for North Carolina.

“To be honest, I’m not looking to give them any credibility,” he added.

Former Rep. Joe Walsh (Ill.), former Rep. Mark Sanford (S.C.) and former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld have each announced campaigns against Trump.

The Arizona Republican Party earlier Monday canceled its 2020 presidential primary contest, joining the GOP in South Carolina and Kansas. Nevada may follow suit as the Republican Party seeks to clear Trump’s path to reelection.

Trump defended the decisions, saying those states “don’t want to waste their money.”

The move to cancel a primary is not unprecedented. The Arizona Democratic Party did not have primaries in 2012 and 1996, when former Presidents Obama and Clinton, respectively, were running for reelection.

[The Hill]

John Bolton Reportedly ‘Sidelined’ by Trump Admin on Afghanistan: Has ‘Irritated’ POTUS

White House national security adviser John Bolton is apparently being “sidelined” by the Trump administration on Afghanistan amid discussions of a potential peace deal.

There’s been some reporting this year about the hawkish Bolton losing some standing with President Donald Trump. The Washington Post said earlier this year Trump was “frustrated” with Bolton on Iran, while the New York Times saidTrump “makes no secret” of his dislike of Bolton in private.

Now the Post reveals that Bolton — who’s opposing the peace deal being worked out — has essentially been sidelined on Afghanistan policy, to the point where he was not allowed to view the draft agreement by himself when he requested it:

His opposition to the diplomatic effort in Afghanistan has irritated President Trump, these officials said, and led aides to leave the National Security Council out of sensitive discussions about the agreement…

In a recent standoff, Bolton asked for a copy of the draft agreement the United States is trying to strike with the Taliban. But the U.S. envoy leading the negotiations, Zalmay Khalilzad, denied the request, saying Bolton could read the agreement in the presence of a senior official but not leave with it in hand, U.S. officials said. One official said the incident infuriated Bolton while another downplayed it, saying the draft was eventually sent to the National Security Council staff.

One anonymous senior administration official said Bolton’s team “has a reputation for losing and leaking.” Bolton responded in a statement saying, “I categorically deny leaks by me or anyone authorized to speak to the press. Those alleging such leaks should look in the mirror.”

You can read the full report here.

[Mediaite]

Trump says he wanted to give himself Medal of Honor

President Donald Trump claimed to laughter on Wednesday that he sought to give himself a Medal of Honor, but decided not to after being counseled against the move by aides.

The offhand remark from the president came during his address to the 75th annual national convention of American Veterans, a volunteer-led veterans service organization also known as AMVETS.

At the event in Louisville, Kentucky, Trump singled out for praise WWII veteran and Medal of Honor recipient Woody Williams.

“Thank you, Woody. You’re looking good, Woody. Woody’s looking good,” Trump said.

“That was a big day, Medal of Honor. Nothing like the Medal of Honor,” he continued. “I wanted one, but they told me I don’t qualify, Woody. I said, ‘Can I give it to myself anyway?’ They said, ‘I don’t think that’s a good idea.’”

Amid scattered chuckles, Trump concluded: “Great, great people. These are great, great men and women that get congressional Medal of Honor. Thank you, Woody.”

The president’s assessment that he should receive the nation’s highest award for acts of military valor followed his statement earlier Wednesday afternoon that he is “the chosen one” in relation to his administration’s trade conflict with China — a proclamation he turned to the sky to deliver.

Trump never served in the military and was granted five draft deferments — four for college and one for bone spurs in his heel.

[Politico]

Trump on guns: ‘We do have a lot of background checks right now’

President Donald Trumpon Sunday emphasized a need for the country to focus on “a very big mental health problem” in the wake of two mass shootings in one weekend that left 32 people dead earlier this month as he appeared to defend current US gun control measures, stating “we do have a lot of background checks right now.”

“It’s the people that pull the trigger, not the gun that pulls the trigger so we have a very, very big mental health problem and Congress is working on various things and I will be looking at it,” Trump told reporters on the tarmac before heading back to Washington after a vacation at his golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey. 

The White House, Trump said, is “very much involved” in the discussions Congress is having to address gun violence and while “a lot of things are happening on the gun level” he said “the concept of mental institutions” must be addressed.

“These are people that have to be in institutions for help, I’m not talking about as a form of a prison, I’m saying for help and I think it’s something we have to really look at, the whole concept of mental institutions,” he said. “I remember growing up we had mental institutions, then they were closed — in New York, I’m talking about — they were, many of them closed. A lot of them were closed and all of those people were put out on the street.”

“So I think the concept of mental institutions has to be looked at,” he said. 

Guns in America

Trump’s comments Sunday mark an increased focus from the President on mental health measures over gun control legislation to address gun violence as lawmakers remain skeptical gun control legislation could pass a divided Congress. 

Trump, who has previously expressed support for tighter gun restrictions only to back off under pressure from the National Rifle Association, added Sunday that he’s “very concerned about the Second Amendment.”

Meanwhile, two gun control groups mobilized to increase the pressure on senators to pass legislation in the wake of the two mass shootings in Dayton, Ohio, and El Paso, Texas.

Everytown for Gun Safety and Moms Demand Action held rallies across the country this weekend after announcing Thursday that they would spend nearly $1 million on ads against a handful of Republican lawmakers. 

The effort from Everytown and Moms Demand comes as the NRA, its biggest adversary, has been noticeably absent from applying pressure on Capitol Hill allies to hold fast against strong forces for gun reform.

Support for background checks 

The Democrat-controlled House passed a universal background check bill in February, but the measure has not been considered by the Republican-led Senate. Trump last week expressed an openness to background checks.

Speaking to a Kentucky radio station last week, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said that the Senate will put the issues of background check legislation in addition to “red flag” laws “front and center” when the body reconvenes after its summer recess, but it will not return early as Democrats are demanding.

A mid-July NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll found that 89% of Americans considered it a “good idea” to implement background checks for gun purchases at gun shows or other private sales, with a nearly nonexistent partisan divide: 96% of Democrats, 89% of independents and 84% of Republicans called it a good idea.

[CNN]

Trump praises North Korean dictator’s ‘great and beautiful’ vision for his country

Donald Trump has heaped fresh affection on North Korea’s Kim Jong-un– praising his “great and beautiful” vision for the country.

Earlier this week, the US president played down the significance of a series of short-range missile tests carried out by Pyongyang, saying they were “very standard” and would not impact his ongoing diplomatic engagement with Mr Kim.

Speaking to reporters before he left the White House for a rally in Ohio, Mr Trump was asked about the missile tests, the latest of which was fired from North Korea’s South Hamgyong province.

“I think it’s very much under control, very much under control,” he said, saying the tests were of short-range missiles. “We never made an agreement on that. I have no problem. We’ll see what happens. But these are short-range missiles. They are very standard.”

Mr Trump, who in June made history by becoming the first sitting US president to visit North Korea when he met Mr Kim at the demilitarised zone between the two countries on the Korean peninsula and stepped into the north, on Friday repeated his claim the missile tests were not a problem.

“Kim Jong-un and North Korea tested 3 short range missiles over the last number of days. These missiles tests are not a violation of our signed Singapore agreement, nor was there discussion of short range missiles when we shook hands,” he said on Twitter. 

He added: “I may be wrong, but I believe that chairman Kim has a great and beautiful vision for his country, and only the United States, with me as president, can make that vision come true.

“He will do the right thing because he is far too smart not to, and he does not want to disappoint his friend, president Trump!”

Mr Trump’s outreach to the North Korean dictator, accused of overseeing widespread human rights abuses, has divided opinion. 

Some have accused the president of giving legitimacy to the North Korean regime, while securing little in return. 

Others, including some of those who frequently criticised the president, have praised his outreach, and said it is better the nuclear-armed nations are talking to each other, after decades of hostility and mutual suspicion.

[The Independent]

Trump gives Putin light-hearted warning: ‘Don’t meddle in the election’

President Donald Trump issued a breezy warning to his Russian counterpart Friday against meddling in US elections, laughing and smiling as he told his counterpart not to interfere.”Don’t meddle in the election, please,” Trump said, smirking and wagging his finger at Putin. He only raised the matter after being questioned by reporters whether he would issue a warning.”Yes, of course I will,” Trump said before making his joking aside.It was an off-hand moment that came at the start of the men’s first meeting since the conclusion of Robert Mueller’s investigation.Trump said he enjoyed a “very, very good relationship” with Putin, and said “many positive things are going to come out of the relationship.””We have many things to discuss, including trade and some disarmament, some little protectionism, in a very positive way,” Trump said.

When he made his playful admonishment against election interference, Putin sat beside him laughing. Trump’s aides, including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, also smiled.It was hardly the serious confrontation that many of Trump’s critics — and even some officials in the US government — have been hoping he’d make ahead of the 2020 contest, which could be vulnerable again to foreign meddling efforts.Instead, it appeared to be Trump’s way of injecting levity into what remains a deeply fractured Washington-Moscow relationship.In the seven months since Trump last encountered his Russian counterpart, the Russians detained a former Marine on espionage charges and were accused by Mueller in his report of waging a “sweeping and systematic” influence campaign during the 2016 election.That’s a distant cry from the warmed-up relations with Russia that Trump entered office vowing to pursue. When he sat down with Putin on the sidelines of the G20 summit here on Friday, ties between the two countries were near the lowest ebb since the Cold War.In Trump’s view, that’s the fault of Democrats and overzealous investigators intent on finding links between his campaign and Russian officials. As he greeted Putin for the first time since Mueller concluded his investigation and released a final report, there was little to indicate his view of Moscow’s influence efforts has changed or that his prickliness on the topic had waned.”I’ll have a very good conversation with him,” Trump told reporters at the White House as he was departing for Japan.But he declined to detail what he might say regarding election meddling, or whether he would raise it at all.”What I say to him is none of your business,” Trump said.

[CNN]

Trump ramps up attacks on media ahead of White House Correspondents’ Dinner

President Trump has reignited his attacks on the news media in the days leading up to the White House Correspondents’ Dinner, underscoring the White House’s use of the press as an effective foil.

Trump will skip the dinner for a third straight year, opting to hold a rally in Wisconsin instead on Saturday night. He has also directed other administration officials not to attend.

“The Correspondents’ Dinner is too negative. I like positive things,” Trump said earlier this month in explaining his decision.

Within hours of those comments, he had taken to Twitter to characterize the press as “the enemy of the people,” a favorite insult that has appeared to get under the skin of some in the media.

Trump has continued his near-constant criticisms of the news media in the weeks since, repeatedly lashing out in the aftermath of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference.

The latest wave of criticism reached its crest on Tuesday, when he fired off seven tweets castigating the press and singling out specific outlets and reporters by name. It included shots at “Psycho Joe” Scarborough of MSNBC and applied the term “enemy of the people” to The New York Times, despite its publisher warning Trump about the dangerous implications of the phrase.

The White House essentially trolled journalists on Thursday when press secretary Sarah HuckabeeSanders made her first appearance at the briefing room podium in 45 days — complete with an appearance by Vice President Pence — at a mock Q&A for children as part of Take Your Kids to work day. Reporters were unable to ask questions.

None of the Trump attacks are the least bit shocking and they are likely to only continue as the president seeks another four years in the office.

Trump has scored political victories in part by running against the press, which delights his core supporters. In 2020, there is every indication that the president will continue with this strategy, framing the election in part on a Washington elite symbolized by the mainstream media seeking to thwart his effort to win another four years in the Oval Office.

Trump has a long history with the White House Correspondents Association and its dinner, which is a key part of the story surrounding how Trump became president and of his relationship with the media.

Trump was the subject of ridicule at the 2011 event from both Seth Meyers and President Obama, who made fun of Trump’s decision-making and importance with references to “Celebrity Apprentice.”

Trump, Obama said at the time, recognized the need to fire Gary Busey and not Lil John or Meatloaf in a recent episode.

“And these are the kinds of decisions that would keep me up at night,” Obama said, mocking Trump. “Well handled, sir. Well handled.”

The jokes started a narrative that Trump had launched his presidential campaign because of the jokes at his expense, though The Washington Post’s Roxanne Roberts, who sat next to Trump at the 2011 dinner, has largely shot down that theory.

As president, Trump has stayed away from the dinner, which nonetheless provoked a huge controversy last year after comedian Michelle Wolf delivered a searing set that mocked the press, congressional Republicans and White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who attended in Trump’s place.

The fallout led to changes at the dinner itself, which will feature biographer Ron Chernow as the keynote speaker in lieu of a comedic act.

The White House was unmoved by the shift in tone, as Trump directed other administration officials not to attend.

Trump will still loom large over Saturday evening’s proceedings. His consistent attacks on the media have raised concerns among First Amendment and press freedom watchdogs, and his rally could lead to split screen coverage of the festivities in D.C.

The president’s campaign rallies are typically rife with jabs at the media. Trump often references “fake news,” whipping his supporters into a frenzy while pointing at reporters in the back of the venue.

The press has served as a useful political foil for Trump, who has rallied his base by portraying himself as an outsider unwelcome by the Washington establishment, and a victim of unfair coverage and punditry.

[The Hill]

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