Aides regularly tell Trump not to call foreign leaders at odd hours due to time zones

White House aides must regularly tell President Trump not to call foreign leaders at odd hours due to time zone differences, according to a new Politico report about Trump’s multiple “diplomatic faux-pas.”

Sources close to Trump told Politico the president often proposes phone calls with world leaders, including Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, at times when they would likely be asleep.

“When he wants to call someone, he wants to call someone,” one source told Politico. “He’s more impulsive that way. He doesn’t think about what time it is or who it is.”

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told Politico that “foreign leaders appreciate that the president is willing to take their calls day and night.”

“The president has made clear that when leaders reach out for calls, [aides should] set them up right away,” Sanders said. “He has had foreign leaders calls very late at night and never wants another leader to wait before their call is returned.”

Former National Security Council staffers and White House sources told Politico that the president’s foreign affairs knowledge is lacking. At one meeting, Trump allegedly mispronounced Nepal as “nipple” and Bhutan as “button,” two sources  told Politico.

A White House official denied that element of the report, saying others who attended the meeting did not remember the president saying that.

One former National Security Council official told Politico that the president avoids saying certain words and names for fear he will mispronounce them when speaking to other world leaders.

[The Hill]

Trump Insists Tariffs Will Make Our Country ‘Much Richer’: ‘Only Fools Would Disagree’

On Saturday, President Donald Trump praised his tariff plan and insisted, “steelworkers are working again, and big dollars are flowing into our Treasury.”

“Tariffs are working far better than anyone ever anticipated,” Trump tweeted out. “China market has dropped 27% in last 4 months, and they are talking to us. Our market is stronger than ever, and will go up dramatically when these horrible Trade Deals are successfully renegotiated. America First.”

Then in the first follow-up tweet, he added: “Tariffs have had a tremendous positive impact on our Steel Industry. Plants are opening all over the U.S., Steelworkers are working again, and big dollars are flowing into our Treasury. Other countries use Tariffs against, but when we use them, foolish people scream!”

He was not done yet.

A few minutes later, he tweeted again, writing, ” Tariffs will make our country much richer than it is today. Only fools would disagree. We are using them to negotiate fair trade deals and, if countries are still unwilling to negotiate, they will pay us vast sums of money in the form of Tariffs. We win either way.”

Trump then concluded: “China, which is for the first time doing poorly against us, is spending a fortune on ads and P.R. trying to convince and scare our politicians to fight me on Tariffs- because they are really hurting their economy. Likewise other countries. We are Winning, but must be strong!”

[Mediaite]

The EU reportedly used colorful flash cards to explain trade policy to Trump

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker reportedly used colorful cue cards to explain issues of global-trade policy to President Donald Trump during their meeting earlier this week.

According to a report from the Wall Street Journal on Thursday evening, Juncker and his team used the cards to simplify complex issues for the president as a means of getting their points across as effectively as possible.

The Journal’s report says Juncker “flipped through” more than a dozen cards, which had minimal information on them, and all focused on a single issue. These included the automotive trade, and regulatory standards for medicines, the report added, saying that there were a maximum of three figures per card.

“We knew this wasn’t an academic seminar,” a senior EU official who was at the meeting told the Wall Street Journal. “It had to be very simple.”

Trump and Juncker on Wednesday agreed to the beginnings of a deal that would end the previously growing trade tensions between the US and the EU.

During the meeting, the EU agreed to import more American soybeans and liquefied natural gas. Both sides agreed to work to decrease industrial tariffs and adjust regulations to allow US medical devices to be traded more easily in European markets.

“This was a very big day for free and fair trade,” Trump said at a press conference after the pair’s meeting.

The EU’s use of flash cards is not without precedent. Trump is well-known for his distaste for lengthy documents, and is said to prefer single-page memos when deciding on policy.

In May 2017, a report from Reuters said that Trump likes “single-page memos and visual aids like maps, charts, graphs and photos.” A source quoted by Reuters said aides also strategically put Trump’s name into “as many paragraphs as we can because he keeps reading if he’s mentioned.”

[Business Insider]

Trump somehow still doesn’t understand NATO

Just a week after rattling NATO countriesin Europe, President Donald Trump once again put America’s commitment to the alliance in doubt on Tuesday night.

In an interview with Fox News’s Tucker Carlson, Trump equivocated on whether the US would come to a NATO ally’s defense if attacked, called the people from Montenegro “very aggressive,” and worried aloud that protecting Montenegro might unleash a third world war.

There were two key parts of the exchange. Here’s the first:

CARLSON: NATO was created chiefly to prevent the Russians from invading Western Europe. I don’t think you believe Western Europe’s at risk of being invaded by Russia right now, so what is the purpose of NATO right now?

TRUMP: Well, that was the purpose, and it’s okay. It’s fine, but they have to pay.

And here’s the second:

CARLSON: Membership in NATO obligates the members to defend any other member who has been attacked. So let’s say Montenegro, which joined last year, is attacked: Why should my son go to Montenegro to defend it from attack? Why is that?

TRUMP: I understand what you’re saying. I’ve asked the same question. Montenegro is a tiny country with very strong people.

CARLSON: Yeah, I’m not against it — or Albania.

TRUMP: No, by the way, they have very strong people — they have very aggressive people. They may get aggressive, and congratulations, you’re in World War III. Now I understand that — but that’s the way it was set up. Don’t forget, I just got here a little more than a year and a half ago. But I took over the conversation three or four days ago and said, “You have to pay.”

Carlson’s questions were entirely fair ones to ask (more on that in a minute). But Trump’s responses were deeply disturbing. Here’s why.

Trump didn’t steadfastly commit to NATO’s collective defense — again

At the heart of the NATO military alliance is a provision known as Article 5. That says that an attack on one NATO country is to be considered an attack on all the countries — and therefore that all the member countries are obligated to come to the defense of whoever is attacked.

This is why NATO allies — yes, including Montenegro — are fighting alongside the US in Afghanistan to this day. The US invoked Article 5 after 9/11, and NATO countries kept their promise and came to America’s aid.

And, to use Tucker Carlson’s example, if a country were to attack Montenegro — which became a NATO ally in June 2017under Trump’s watch — the US would be treaty-bound to defend it.

But Trump made it pretty clear that he’s not wild about that fact, and only begrudgingly said he’d go along with it as long as they pay their fair share of defense spending — an issue he brought up over and over again at the NATO summit in Brussels last week.

This isn’t the first time Trump has done this, either. In May 2017, he refused to commit the US to Article 5 during a meeting with NATO allies. But two weeks later, he reversed course, saying in impromptu remarks that the US would abide by the provision.

Trump did seem to endorse NATO as a whole during Carlson’s interview when he said the alliance’s original purpose is still “okay.” Still, Trump’s outward skepticism about NATO worries many.

“His rhetoric has unsettled allies, empowered Russia, and undermined Alliance solidarity,” Amanda Sloat, a European security expert at the Brookings Institution in Washington, told me.

Trump still doesn’t get how NATO works

Trump said that if Montenegro got aggressive with another country, presumably Russia, then World War III would break out because the US would be obligated to defend it, thus dragging the US into a major war with Russia.

What Trump misses is that the US doesn’t have to defend Montenegro if that country starts a fight, only if it’s attacked. NATO is a defensive treaty. If you start an unprovoked war, that’s your decision, and no one in NATO has to help you at all.

So even if Montenegrins were, as Trump said, “very aggressive people” — whatever the hell that means — the US wouldn’t have to lift a finger to help them.

The fact that Trump doesn’t seem to understand that is beyond disturbing. If this were his first day in office, maybe it would be understandable. But it’s not. Trump has been in office for a year and a half. He’s met with NATO allies as a group not once but twice — including spending two days straight talking to them just a week ago.

There is no reason why he shouldn’t have that down pat at this point.

Carlson’s line of questioning was totally fair. It’s Trump’s responses that are the problem.

Debates about NATO’s usefulness have raged for decades, especially since the fall of the Soviet Union, as have concerns about NATO’s expansion over the years to include more and more countries. (Here’s a really smart Twitter thread on that if you’re interested.)

It’s certainly reasonable to ask the sitting US president to explain why America’s sons and daughters should be obligated to fight to protect Montenegro, or why the US should risk a potential nuclear war with Russia to defend Estonia.

It’s Trump’s responses to this question that are concerning here. Instead of laying out the case for NATO being in America’s national security interest (and there is a case to be made on that), Trump makes it clear that he doesn’t actually get why the hell NATO matters at all.

If you’re a NATO ally wondering whether the US president will have your back if shit goes down, that’s not the most reassuring thing to hear.

[Vox]

Trump on Whether He’ll Ask Putin to Extradite Indicted Russians: ‘I Might, I Hadn’t Thought of That’

President Donald Trump sat down for an interview with CBS Evening News anchor Jeff Glor and previewed his big summit with Vladimir Putin.

And given the indictments handed down Friday against 12 Russian officers for hacking the Clinton campaign and the DNC, there have been many calls for Trump to call off the summit. Senator John McCain said it shouldn’t happen if Trump’s “not prepared to hold Putin accountable.”

Trump told Glor he believes in meetings, saying having meetings with Putin, Kim Jong Un, and Xi Jinping are good.

Of the Putin summit in particular, the President said, “Nothing bad’s going to come out of it, and maybe some good will come out. But I go in with low expectations, I’m not going in with high expectations. I don’t really––I don’t know what’s going to happen, but I can tell you what I’ll be asking for and we’ll see if something comes of it.”

[Mediaite]

Media

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

Dutch Prime Minister Tells Trump “No!” and That He Is Wrong on Trade

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte has dispensed with diplomatic niceties during a joint press conference with U.S. President Donald Trump.

The routine White House discussion with reporters took a slightly passive-aggressive turn as Trump extolled the virtues of his plan to slap tariffs on steel and aluminum coming into the U.S. from the European Union.

Trump said he would discuss the dispute with EU officials before saying: “If we do work it out, that’ll be positive, and if we don’t, it’ll be positive also because…” before Rutte interjected by saying “No!”

“Well, just think about those cars that pour in here, and we’ll do something, right?” Trump replied.

But Rutte was not having it and said through gritted teeth: “It’s not positive,” adding, “We have to work something out.”

Trump then moved to shake the prime minister’s hand and the awkward interaction was over.

It showed the level of discontent among European leaders at Trump’s trade move,which he is threatening to apply to cars.The EU has threatened to retaliate  with tariffs worth $294 billion on a number of U.S. exports.

In a paper released this week, the European Commission said Trump’s tariffs would be “self-defeating and would weaken the U.S. economy.

“The European Union would therefore caution the United States against pursuing a process which could result in yet another disregard of international law, which would damage further the reputation of the United States and which the international community cannot and will not accept,” the EU report said.

There is domestic concern, too, with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce criticizing how Trump handled global disputes. It said that the tariffs he wants to impose could hurt the American economy. Trump is also threatening to impose tariffs on vehicles.

[Newsweek]

Trump threatens Harley-Davidson: If it moves operations overseas, ‘they will be taxed like never before!’

President Donald Trump threatened on Tuesday that Harley-Davidsonwill be “taxed like never before” if the motorcycle maker moves production overseas. He claimed that the iconic U.S. company was using increased trade tensions as an excuse to justify planned changes in manufacturing.

“A Harley-Davidson should never be built in another country-never! Their employees and customers are already very angry at them. If they move, watch, it will be the beginning of the end – they surrendered, they quit! The Aura will be gone and they will be taxed like never before!” Trump said in a tweet.

Harley said Monday it was moving some production overseas due to increased costs from the EU’s retaliatory tariffs against the Trump administration’s duties on steel and aluminum. No production will be moving to Europe as a result of the tariffs, according to the company. Harley’s overseas manufacturing plants are in Brazil, India, Australia and Thailand.

[CNBC]

Trump loses temper over border wall funding

President Donald Trump is getting frustrated with his administration’s own demands for border wall funding.

In a private meeting regarding the wall Monday, Trump fumed to senators and his own staff about the $1.6 billion the Senate is planning to send him this fall, according to two people familiar with the meeting. Trump wants the full $25 billion upfront and doesn’t understand why Congress is going to supply him funds in a piecemeal fashion — even though that’s how the spending process typically works.

“He’s focused on border security. And like all presidents, he wants it done now. But we’re part of the legislative process. It’s slower and deliberate,” said Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), who met with Trump.

The president said at the meeting that if Congress doesn’t give him the resources he needs for border security, he will shut down the government in September, according to one of the people familiar with the meeting. He did not give a specific number, but has been fixated on getting the $25 billion in a lump sum.

In fact, the $1.6 billion figure came from Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney, who attended the meeting. Mulvaney submitted the request to Congress earlier this year, though the administration has since upped its ask to $2.2 billion.

Senate Democrats offered to provide $25 billion in border wall funding earlier this year in return for giving 1.8 million young undocumented immigrants a pathway to citizenship. But Trump and most Republicans rebuffed that proposal to salvage the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. Democrats are unlikely to provide $25 billion for Trump’s wall absent a much broader immigration deal.

Trump’s renewed focus on the border wall comes amid rising pressure to end his administration’s policy of separating families that cross the border illegally. The “zero tolerance” policy shift has been roundly criticized by lawmakers in both parties, but Trump has blamed Congress for inaction on immigration.

“Now is the best opportunity ever for Congress to change the ridiculous and obsolete laws on immigration. Get it done, always keeping in mind that we must have strong border security,” Trump tweeted on Tuesday morning.

GOP lawmakers are loath to see a government shutdown on their watch just weeks before the midterm elections.

“It’s probably an overwhelming belief in the House and the Senate, especially the Senate, that government shutdowns aren’t good for anybody,” Shelby said.

The Appropriations Committee began working to pass its Homeland Security bill on Tuesday. Democrats seem unlikely to change course and agree to add more border security money for the president.

“We’ve got the bill and we’re moving forward and I think we’re going to get good bipartisan support for it. I think it’s a good bill that will keep our borders safe,” said Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.), ranking member of the Homeland Security appropriations committee.

On Monday, GOP Sens. Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia and Shelby both tried to explain to Trump that the Senate is merely meeting Mulvaney’s request and has to cut a bipartisan deal with Democrats. The Senate needs 60 votes to pass a spending bill, so Republicans would have to find at least nine Democratic votes.

“We’re going to make a down payment on that working together,” said Capito, chairwoman of Homeland Security spending panel.

But Trump has not been mollified. He raised his voice several times in Monday’s meeting with Mulvaney, White House staffers and the senators, insisting he needs the full $25 billion — an unlikely outcome in the narrowly divided Senate.

Shelby said he views $1.6 billion as a floor in negotiations, which could increase if Democrats want to do some horse-trading.

[Politico]

Trump imposes steel, aluminum tariffs on U.S. allies and Europe retaliates

President Trump followed through on a threat to impose steep metal tariffs on U.S. allies Thursday, a long-awaited decision that analysts said moved the country closer to a trade war.

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said that Canada, Mexico and the European Union would be subject to a 25% tariff on steel and a 10% tariff on aluminum beginning at midnight on Thursday. Brazil, Argentina and Australia agreed to limit steel exports to the U.S. to avoid tariffs, he said.

“The president’s overwhelming objective is to reduce our trade deficit,” Ross said.

The decision was the latest by the Trump administration to project a more protectionist stance amid ongoing trade negotiations with China and other countries. But it drew a sharp rebuke and promises of retaliation from longstanding allies.

“These tariffs are totally unacceptable,” Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Thursday. “These tariffs are an affront to the long-standing security partnership between Canada and the United States.”

European trade officials have previously threatened to respond to Trump’s move with  duties on U.S.-made motorcycles, orange juice and bourbon, among other things. Jean-Claude Juncker, president of the European Commission, reiterated that position Thursday, saying Europe would impose duties on “a number of imports from the U.S.”

“This is protectionism, pure and simple,” he said.

The Mexican economic ministry said it would move to place tariffs on U.S.-made pork, flat steel, apples, cheese and other products.

Trump announced the tariff and aluminum tariffs in early March but offered temporary exemptions to the European Union, Canada, Mexico and a number of other allies. He extended those exemptions in late April, noting at the time it would be the “final” delay unless the countries agreed to other concessions.

“We are awaiting their reaction,” Ross said of the other countries. “We continue to remain quite willing, indeed eager, to continue discussions.”

The move promoted criticism from a number of Republicans on Capitol Hill, especially those with large agricultural industries.

“This is dumb,” said Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb. “Europe, Canada and Mexico are not China, and you don’t treat allies the same way you treat opponents.”

The decision comes days after the Trump administration announced $50 billion of new tariffs on Chinese imports, after officials had earlier said it was “putting the trade war on hold” with Beijing. Ross is set to travel to China this weekend to continue trade talks.

The Trump administration has relied on a 1962 law that allows countries to impose trade restrictions for national security purposes. The president has also justified the tariffs by pointing out “shuttered plants and mills” and the decades-long slide of manufacturing.

Several analysts said they are concerned the approach will have the opposite effect.

“The initial blows in the trade wars have finally landed,” said Eswar S. Prasad, former head of the International Monetary Fund’s China division and a professor at Cornell University. “It is now clear that Trump’s threats about trade sanctions are more than just bluster and are to be taken seriously.”

Prasad said the hard line approach might net Trump some short-term wins, but said “it could eventually result in the U.S. playing a diminished” role in global trade.

“He doesn’t have a strategy that’s going to lead to making American manufacturing great again,” said Robert Scott, a trade expert at the Economic Policy Institute. “There will continue to be a series of tit-for-tat battles.”

The U.S. imported 34.6 million metric tons of steel last year, a 15% increase from 2016, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce.

Canada was the top source of U.S. imported steel, accounting for 77%, according to the International Trade Administration. Mexican steel accounts for about 9% of U.S. imports.

The majority of that metal is used in construction, auto manufacturing and appliances.

The tariffs, as well as export controls agreed to by Brazil and others, will raise the price of steel and aluminum in the U.S., making domestic producers more competitive while adding to the price buyers of the metals must pay.

“We think that’s going to put the industry in real peril,” said Jerry Howard, president of the National Association of Home Builders. “We were very excited by the tax bill, but it turns out the tax bill giveth, and tariffs taketh away.”

Ann Wilson with the Motor & Equipment Manufacturers Association said its members are already paying tariffs on many of the components they import to make auto parts. Imposing additional barriers on the metals used to make those parts, she said, amounts to a “double tariff.”

“There is little doubt that the uncertainty and added costs the administration is creating will put U.S. investments and jobs at risk,” Wilson said.

Steel trade with Canada and Mexico is covered under the North American Free Trade Agreement, but the president is relying on a provision of U.S. law that allows him to claim the imports represent a threat to national security.

Many observers believe the announcement Thursday is the latest effort to prod stalled negotiations over rewriting NAFTA, which Trump repeatedly promised to do during his campaign for president.

“This really is an attempt to strengthen the negotiating power of the U.S. when it comes to renegotiating NAFTA,” said Ned Hill, who teaches economic development at Ohio State University. “This is just very public, bare-knuckle negotiating.”

[USA Today]

Reality

Trump promised he would go after countries who “cheated” in trade, but we do not have a major trade imbalance with our friends and allies.

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