Trump Didn’t Have A Meeting Scheduled With Trudeau — But He Canceled It Anyway

President Donald Trump claimed he snubbed a meeting request from Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at the United Nations this week. “I’ve told him forget about it,” Trump remarked Wednesday during a news conference on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly.

Canada, however, was quick to cry foul. No such meeting was ever requested, a Trudeau spokesman told CNN, adding: “We do not have any comment beyond that.”

The back and forth about the supposed meeting comes amid the U.S. and Canada’s acrimonious renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA, and follows months of souring relations between the two North American neighbors.

Speaking at the news conference, Trump alleged he refused a “one-on-one meeting” with Trudeau because of Canada’s high dairy tariffs and poor “negotiating style.” He also took a shot at Canada’s “representative” in the NAFTA negotiations, an apparent reference to Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland, who has been leading Canada’s negotiations with the U.S.

Trudeau’s “tariffs are too high, and he doesn’t seem to want to move, and I’ve told him forget about it, and frankly, we’re thinking about just taxing cars coming in from Canada,” Trump said. “That’s the mother lode. That’s the big one.”

He added: “We’re very unhappy with the negotiations and the negotiating style of Canada. We don’t like their representative very much.”

Trudeau and Trump were captured on camera briefly shaking hands on Tuesday during a luncheon for world leaders.

Trudeau, who was standing, tapped Trump’s shoulder to greet him. The U.S. president stayed seated as he extended his hand for a cursory handshake. Trump’s decision to stay seated during the exchange has been described as a snub and as showing a lack of diplomatic etiquette.

Trump and Trudeau share a rocky history. In June, after the G7 summit, Trudeau told reporters that Canada would retaliate with tariffs of its own following the imposition of U.S. tariffs on steel and aluminum.

In response, Trump lambasted the prime minister on Twitter as being “very dishonest & weak.”

The U.S. has suggested it will forge a new NAFTA deal with just Mexico if it fails to reach an accord with its northern neighbor.

NAFTA, a trilateral trade pact comprising the U.S., Canada and Mexico, has been in force since 1994.

[Huffington Post]

John Bolton Threatens Sanctions for ‘Illegitimate’ International Criminal Court: ‘Already Dead to Us’

National Security Advisor John Bolton delivered his expected condemnation of the International Criminal Court on Monday, vowing to bring sanctions against the organization if it continues to investigate American activity in the Middle East.

As Bolton spoke before the Federalist Society, he promised retaliation for the ICC’s “unjust prosecution” of alleged war crimes committed by U.S. forces in Afghanistan. He called the organization a threat to American national security, saying it “claims authority separate from, and above, the Constitution of the United States. It is antithetical to our nation’s ideals.”

“We will not cooperate with the ICC. We will provide no assistance to the ICC. We will not join the ICC,” said Bolton. “We will let the ICC die on its own. After all, for all intents and purposes, the ICC is already dead to us.”

The speech continued with Bolton describing the ICC as an “illegitimate” investigative body that failed to adequately prosecute illegal activity abroad despite its “dangerous” levels of unchecked accountability. He said the U.S. will ban the ICC’s court judges from the country and enforce sanctions against any nation cooperating with them if they continue to prosecute America or its allies.

“We will take the following steps, among others, in accordance with the American Service-Members’ Protection Act and our other legal authorities. We will negotiate even more binding bilateral agreements to prohibit nations from surrendering U.S. persons to the ICC,” said Bolton. “We will do the same for any company or state that assists in ICC investigation of Americans. We will take note if any countries cooperate with ICC investigations of the U.S. and its allies, and we will remember that cooperation.”

[Mediaite]

Trump threatens to pull out of WTO ‘if they don’t shape up’

President Trump on Thursday threatened to pull the U.S. out of the World Trade Organization (WTO) “if they don’t shape up,” a stance he has reportedly discussed in private but has denied publicly.

“If they don’t shape up, I would withdraw from the WTO,” the president told Bloomberg News in an interview.

Trump has long criticized the international body, saying in late June that the U.S. has been “treated very badly” by the group, describing it as an “unfair situation.”

At the time, the president insisted he was not considering pulling out of the WTO despite his frustrations, though Axios reported he had discussed with advisers his intentions to exit.

Leaving the WTO would upend the decades-old international trade system, which the U.S. helped establish, and roil markets around the globe.

The U.S. on Monday told the WTO that it plans to block the reappointment of one of the its four remaining judges, a move that would significantly hinder the organization’s ability to function.

If the U.S. successfully blocks the appointment of Judge Shree Baboo Chekitan Servansing, the WTO would only have three judges, the bare minimum to continue operations.

Two of the WTO judges’ terms expire in December of next year.

Trump and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker recently agreed to work towards a trade agreement that would involve reforming the WTO.

Multiple nations have filed complaints about Trump’s escalating tariffs with the WTO, including China. Trump is reportedly planning to impose $200 billion tariffs on Chinese imports as soon as next week, on top of the billions of dollars of tariffs he has already implemented.

[The Hill]

Trump: ‘No reason’ for Korea war games right now

President Trump on Wednesday said there was “no reason” for joint U.S.-South Korea military exercises at the moment, citing ongoing discussions over North Korea’s nuclear program.

“The President believes that his relationship with Kim Jong Un is a very good and warm one, and there is no reason at this time to be spending large amounts of money on joint U.S.-South Korea war games,” the White House said in a statement that Trump himself issued on Twitter.

“Besides, the President can instantly start the joint exercises again with South Korea, and Japan, if he so chooses,” the statement added.

The Trump administration statement came one day after Defense Secretary James Mattis said there were no plans to suspend future military exercisesbetween the U.S. and South Korea.

Mattis later clarified, however, that there has been “no decision” about suspending more exercises following the three that were cancelled after Trump’s summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un earlier this year.

“Our military posture has not changed since the conclusion of the Singapore summit and no decisions have been made about suspending any future exercises,” Mattis said in a statement Wednesday.

Following the summit between Trump and Kim in June, the Pentagon said it would indefinitely suspend the annual Ulchi Freedom Guardian exercise and two Korean Marine Exchange Program training exercises with South Korea as part of diplomatic negotiations with the North.

The Trump administration has been engaged with North Korea for several months in an effort to scale back Pyongyang’s nuclear program, but those efforts have appeared to hit a roadblock in recent weeks.

Trump last week abruptly cancelled a planned trip for Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to travel to Pyongyang to continue negotiations. The Washington Post reported that Trump nixed the trip after a North Korean official signaled in a letter that the meeting would not be successful.

On Wednesday, the White House argued that China was partially to blame for the stalled efforts, accusing Beijing of applying “tremendous pressure” to North Korea because of the ongoing trade dispute between the U.S. and China.

“At the same time, we also know that China is providing North Korea with considerable aid, including money, fuel, fertilizer and various other commodities,” the White House said. “This is not helpful!”

However, the White House added that the trade disputes with China will be “resolved” and described Trump’s relationship with Chinese President Xi Jinping as “very strong.”

[The Hill]

Reality

Reminder: It was Vladimir Putin who suggested to Trump we cancel these military exercises.

Trump reportedly caught the Japanese prime minister off guard during a meeting at the White House by saying ‘I remember Pearl Harbor’

President Donald Trump reportedly caught Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe off guard with a comment about Pearl Harbor during a meeting at the White House in June, according to the Washington Post.

Trump reportedly said “I remember Pearl Harbor” to Abe in what was described as a “tense” meeting, referring to the attack by Japan on the United States that led to the US entering World War II.

Multiple diplomats spoke to the Post anonymously to describe the president’s increasingly fraught relationship with Abe, as Trump’s tariffs on steel and aluminum hit Japan’s economy and his policies on North Korea differ from Abe’s desired approach.

Trump reportedly ignored advice from Abe on negotiating with North Korea before meeting with Kim Jong Un in Singapore this past June, according to the report.

A diplomat could not explain the meaning of Trump’s comment about Pearl Harbor, but told the Post Trump appreciates historical references and mentions Japan’s “samurai past”.

Trump and Abe have had a largely positive relationship, often bonding on the golf course. Abe has even stayed at Trump’s private Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach, Florida during one of their many meetings.

The two have met eight times since Trump took office, which is more than any other world leader. And they’ve spoken on the phone 26 times, according to the Post.

Calling him his “good friend”, Trump sees Abe as a respected counterpart and a good negotiator, according to the report.

Meanwhile, Abe has lauded Trump’s leadership as “outstanding” and “remarkable”, and has not retaliated against Trump’s tariffs. Abe even gave Trump a gold-plated golf club worth $3,800, according to the Post.

https://www.businessinsider.com/i-remember-pearl-harbor-trump-told-japan-pm-shinzo-abe-report-2018-8

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 Reacts to Iran Snubbing His Offer to Meet: ‘It Doesn’t Matter – It is Up to Them’

On his way to a rally in Ohio on Saturday, President Donald Trump tweeted about Iran.

“Iran, and it’s economy, is going very bad, and fast!” Trump wrote. “I will meet, or not meet, it doesn’t matter – it is up to them!”

Trump’s tweet appeared to be in response to the news from earlier this week that Iran had rejected an offer to meet with Trump.

In addition, according to the Fox News report — which just so happened to air a segment on the topic shortly before Trump tweeted — Iranian officials snubbed an offer from Trump who “this week said he would sit down with the country’s leader without any preconditions.”

The report also featured National Review columnist John Fundinsisting Trump’s offer to meet with Iranian’s leader amounted to “shadowboxing” and was not actually going to happen anyhow.

“So Donald Trump is trying for a third [meeting] with the deplorables of the nations of the world,” Fund said. “He knows the Iranians are not going to meet because they have no incentive to meet…This is shadowboxing.”

The chyron underneath Fund also reinforced Iran’s snub, reading: “Iran rejects President Trump’s offer to meet without any pre-conditions.”

[Mediaite]

Trump: Tariffs are ‘the greatest,’ president says ahead of EU chief’s visit

“Tariffs are the greatest!” Trump said on Twitter, following up with what he called a simple choice: “Either a country which has treated the United States unfairly on Trade negotiates a fair deal, or it gets hit with Tariffs.” He added, “It’s as simple as that — and everybody’s talking!”

His tweet came one day before EU President Jean-Claude Juncker is scheduled to visit the White House for discussions on trade and other matters. Trump has imposed tariffs on imports of steel and aluminum and threatened new ones on cars. Juncker will reportedly focus on arguing that the EU is Washington’s friend, not foe.

[Marketwatch]

Putin Tells Diplomats He Made Trump a New Offer on Ukraine at Their Summit

Vladimir Putin told Russian diplomats that he made a proposal to Donald Trump at their summit this week to hold a referendum to help resolve the conflict in eastern Ukraine, but agreed not to disclose the plan publicly so the U.S. president could consider it, according to two people who attended Putin’s closed-door speech on Thursday.

Details of what the two leaders discussed in their summit in Helsinki, Finland, remain scarce, with much of the description so far coming from Russia. While Putin portrayed the Ukraine offer as a sign he’s seeking to bring the four-year-old crisis to an end, a referendum is likely to be a hard sell with Ukraine and its backers in Europe, who remain committed to an 2015 European-brokered truce deal for the Donbas region, parts of which are controlled by Russian-backed separatists.

White House officials didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. If Putin’s account of Trump’s reaction is accurate, it would suggest a more flexible approach than the U.S. has shown to date on the issue. At the Helsinki meeting, Trump also agreed to consider a Putin request to question the former U.S. ambassador to Moscow over U.S. campaign-finance violations that critics say Trump should have dismissed outright.

Putin gave his latest account of the meeting during at a conference with top Russian ambassadors and officials at the Foreign Ministry in Moscow, the people said, asking not to be identified discussing the president’s comments to the part of the session that was closed to the public. One of the people said that Trump had requested Putin not discuss the referendum idea at the press conference after the summit in order to give the U.S. leader time to mull it.

Referendum Proposal

Putin’s proposal would call for a vote conducted under international auspices by the residents of the separatist territories on their status, the people said. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov declined to comment on the details of what Putin said about Ukraine at the summit, saying only, “Some new ideas were discussed. They will be worked on.”

On Twitter Thursday, Trump called the summit “a great success” and cited Ukraine among the areas discussed, without providing details.

Putin’s proposal will alarm Ukrainian officials after Trump last week appeared to leave open the possibility of recognizing Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea, which triggered the crisis that led to fighting in eastern Ukraine’s Donetsk and Luhansk regions. Ukraine has offered the areas autonomy under its rule and backs the deployment of international peacekeepers in the region.

The U.S. and the European Union have repeatedly accused Russia of sending troops and weapons to support separatists in eastern Ukraine. Russia denies the charge, though Ukraine has captured a number of Russian soldiers and weaponry on its territory.

Putin pointed to a 2014 referendum, which wasn’t internationally recognized, that was held in Crimea to justify Russia’s annexation at his press conference with Trump after the summit in Helsinki on Monday. “We believe that we held a referendum in strict compliance with international law,” he said. “This case is closed for Russia.”

‘Farce’ Votes

Leaders of so-called rebel republics in Donetsk and Luhansk held referendums in May 2014 that declared independence. The votes were rejected as illegal by the U.S. and the European Union, while Ukraine called them a “farce.” Russia said at the time that it “respects” the votes, which showed as much as 96 percent support for breaking away from Ukraine.

Last year, Putin angered his Ukrainian counterpart, Petro Poroshenko, by signing a decree recognizing passports and other documents issued by the separatist governments in Luhansk and Donetsk, which have already declared the ruble their official currency.

If a referendum was held in rebel areas of eastern Ukraine, “the result would be the same as in Crimea,” which voted to join Russia, Igor Plotnitsky, who was then leader of the self-declared Luhansk People’s Republic, told Russian state-run RIA Novosti news service in March last year.

[Bloomberg]

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]

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