• And on to North Korea...
• White House Still Leaks Like a Sieve
• Faith and Freedom Coalition to Spend $20 Million on Midterms
• Pruitt Gets FOIAsted by His Own Petard
• The Primaries Are Underway
Really, there's no other way to put it. Donald Trump arrived in Canada for the annual G-7 summit ready to put on a show (and thus, to distract attention from the likelihood that he had no chance of accomplishing anything). For those who wanted some entertainment, they certainly got it. For those who wanted some actual diplomacy, not so much.
The day began with Trump arriving late to the talks, for the second day in a row, and then leaving early so that he could skip out on a discussion of global warming. He knew, of course, that there was no chance that part of the program was going to work out well for him.
This is not to say that Trump was time-constrained, however, because on the way out of town, he found time to hold a lengthy press conference, in his usual rambling style. Actually, it may have been a bit more rambling than usual; at least one reporter present said he was alarmed about the President's mental state, and declared, "He did not look well to me." Note that the reporter was from CNBC, and the linked story is Fox News, so we're not exactly talking about left-wing outlets doing a little projecting here.
Anyhow, it was at the press conference that the fireworks really started to fly. Trump started by insulting the other nations in the G-7: "I congratulate the leaders of other countries for so crazily being able to make these trade deals that were so good for their country and so bad for the United States." He also used a metaphor that you can expect to see again: "We're like the piggy bank that everybody is robbing."
That wasn't the only subject of the press conference. Trump reiterated his belief that Russia should be readmitted to the G-7 (making it the G-8 again, as it was from 1997 to 2014). The President also shared his reasoning for this, which is really quite stunning. In his view, the annexation of Crimea was not Vlad Putin's fault, it was...Barack Obama's. "You'll have to ask Obama, because he was the one that let Crimea get away," Trump said in response to a reporter's question about what Putin needs to do to make amends for his land grab. "He allowed Russia to take Crimea. I may have had a much different attitude."
What is still completely unclear is why is Trump so pro-Russian? Republicans have hated Godless Commies for decades. Trump's Russophilia has been so consistent for so long now that it is not an accident. Does he want to build Trump Tower Moscow? Does Russian President Vladimir Putin have kompromat on him? Is he hoping Putin will hand him the 2020 election? Maybe some day we'll know, but for now it is very murky and extremely strange.
Needless to say, more traditional Republicans—the ones who remember the Party from back in the halcyon days when it was anti-Russia—were apoplectic. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) promptly released a statement that read, in part:
The president has inexplicably shown our adversaries the deference and esteem that should be reserved for our closest allies. Those nations that share our values and have sacrificed alongside us for decades are being treated with contempt. This is the antithesis of so-called 'principled realism' and a sure path to diminishing America's leadership in the world.
Sens. Rob Portman (R-OH), Ben Sasse (R-NE), Jeff Flake (R-AZ), and Bob Corker (R-TN) echoed the sentiment, either via Twitter or via a statement. Notice, however, that most of these folks are on their way out the Senate door. It's the party of Trump (and, apparently, Russia) now.
Trump eventually ended his press conference and boarded Air Force One, but the show was far from over, since one can tweet even from six miles up. The President started with this:
Just left the @G7 Summit in beautiful Canada. Great meetings and relationships with the six Country Leaders especially since they know I cannot allow them to apply large Tariffs and strong barriers to...— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 9, 2018
...U.S.A. Trade. They fully understand where I am coming from. After many decades, fair and reciprocal Trade will happen!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 9, 2018
Presumably, this was an attempt to claim "victory," but it's so obviously at odds with reality that few were buying it. Note the very low number of likes and retweets; even the base was having trouble swallowing what Trump was selling. And, in any case, it didn't take long for the Donald to contradict himself and tear into Canadian PM Justin Trudeau:
PM Justin Trudeau of Canada acted so meek and mild during our @G7 meetings only to give a news conference after I left saying that, “US Tariffs were kind of insulting” and he “will not be pushed around.” Very dishonest & weak. Our Tariffs are in response to his of 270% on dairy!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 9, 2018
Based on Justin’s false statements at his news conference, and the fact that Canada is charging massive Tariffs to our U.S. farmers, workers and companies, I have instructed our U.S. Reps not to endorse the Communique as we look at Tariffs on automobiles flooding the U.S. Market!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 9, 2018
Not surprisingly, Trump is misrepresenting Trudeau's words. What the Canadian PM actually said was that it was insulting for Trump to impose tariffs in the name of national security, since it implies that Canada is a threat to and an enemy of the United States.
With that said, Trudeau is a grown-up, and he knows that Canada relies on trade with the United States. So, as much as he might like to jump on Twitter and respond in kind to Trump, he tried very hard to salvage something out of the weekend instead. At the conclusion of his press conference—the same one that irritated Trump—Trudeau announced that the seven nations had managed to reach agreement on a "joint communique." So, at least one small gesture of unity, right? Not so fast. From Air Force One, Trump announced that he had just instructed the U.S. personnel remaining at the G-7 not to sign the communique. This whole chain of events makes sense only if we assume that Trump had indeed agreed to sign, but then changed course in a fit of pique over Trudeau's remarks. The PM would never have made the announcement, and there would have been no need for Trump to issue instructions from his plane, unless the Donald changed his mind after leaving the summit. Such is diplomacy in the age of Trump. Afterward, Angela Merkel announced that the remaining six participants would indeed be issuing a statement. So the cheese stands alone, as it were.
In fact, it was Merkel who produced the definitive image of the summit, the one that will remain in memory when all of the White House's posed photos—with Trump looking very presidential—have been forgotten. The German chancellor posted the image to her official Instagram account on Saturday afternoon:
A lot of people are having fun speculating as to exactly what was happening at that moment. Whatever it was, however, it doesn't make Trump look too good. Maybe Merkel was just giving Trump a minor tweak by posting the photo. On the other hand, she doesn't need Trump quite as much as Trudeau does, so maybe this was a warning: Mess with us, and we have no problem standing up to (and over) you. (Z)
On leaving the G-7, Donald Trump immediately headed to Singapore for his on-again, off-again meeting with North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Un. On Twitter, the President was positively ebullient about the confab scheduled for Tuesday:
I am on my way to Singapore where we have a chance to achieve a truly wonderful result for North Korea and the World. It will certainly be an exciting day and I know that Kim Jong-un will work very hard to do something that has rarely been done before...— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 9, 2018
…Create peace and great prosperity for his land. I look forward to meeting him and have a feeling that this one-time opportunity will not be wasted!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 9, 2018
Indeed, the reader who did not know otherwise might review Trump's Twitter feed on Sunday and conclude that the U.S. is at war with Canada and at peace with North Korea.
That said, the President also felt the need to pair his carrot with a nice stick, making sure to rattle his saber a little bit while talking to the press. He warned that this is a "one-time shot" for Kim, that there was a very good chance that the meeting would not work out, and that he (Trump) would know very quickly if the whole thing is worth his time. How quickly? He estimates one minute. "I think I'll know pretty quickly whether or not, in my opinion, something positive will happen," Trump said. "And if I think it won't happen, I'm not going to waste my time. I don't want to waste his time." This statement serves the dual purpose of threatening Kim and also giving Trump an out.
Meanwhile, the preparations for the meeting are a truly fascinating story, and will be worthy of a book unto themselves. Kim's flight to Singapore was a major source of concern for him; North Korea doesn't really have an air force, and his (civilian) plane is going to travel twice through airspace that is within range of many adversaries who might prefer to see him dead. If someone decides to pull the trigger, this would be the time, since the causes of an airplane crash can sometimes be hard to ascertain. The U.S. could undoubtedly escort Kim's planes, but they are one of the adversaries he's worried about, given what happened in Libya and in Iraq (and South Vietnam before that). Kim has already arrived, so half the problem is solved, but he still has to get home. And the whole thing is a reminder of how delicate his government is, and how he's never going to give up the one thing that keeps him safe—the nukes.
Security on the ground is no piece of cake either. While the U.S. and North Korea will both bring security contingents, the Singaporeans are leaving nothing to chance, and so have deployed some of the most fearsome soldiers in the world: Nepalese Gurkhas. Though they carry modern rifles, they are also famous as one of the few remaining military forces that prefers to use a blade, namely the Khukuri, a forward-curving knife. Custom holds that if a Khukuri is unsheathed, it must draw blood. Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw once famously observed that, "If a man says he is not afraid of dying, he is either lying or he is a Gurkha." So, the hosts of the summit are not playing around, here. We shall see if their efforts are rewarded. (Z)
After a very damaging round of leaks about a month ago, "highlighted" by the "joke" about John McCain dying, the Trump administration took aggressive steps in an effort to solve the problem. The number of attendees at meetings was reduced, employees were required to surrender their cell phones when arriving at work, and devices that kill cell phone signals were installed in the White House (though presumably not in the Oval Office).
It's not working. There have been leaks-a-plenty in the month or so since the new measures were implemented, from memos about Russiagate that were supposed to remain secret, to Trump's meandering remarks on a number of subjects (like hurricane preparedness), to details of cabinet meetings in which one member of the administration or another was dressed down.
In the end, this problem might be mitigated a little, but it cannot be solved. Or, at least, it cannot be solved by Donald Trump. His style of leadership—in which people are played off of one another, and a "survival of the fittest" mentality is encouraged—is the root cause of the leaks. Not helping matters is that Trump himself is the leaker-in-chief who lets all manner of things slip to all kinds of people. If the President wanted to change his management style and decided to learn to button his lip, the leaks might go away (or, at least, might be substantially reduced). It worked for Bill Clinton, for example. But Trump does not want to change either his management style or his own behavior, so the leaks will continue. (Z)
The Faith and Freedom Coalition (FFC) presents itself as an evangelical Christian group that occasionally dabbles in political lobbying. It's probably more accurate to describe them as a political lobby that occasionally dabbles in evangelical Christianity. In any event, they are pretty happy about some of the things that are going on in Washington right now—conservative judges, the move of the Israeli embassy to Jerusalem, a renewed fight against gay equality—and they want more. So, FFC is going to drop at least $20 million to try and preserve the GOP's majorities in both houses of Congress.
FFC hopes that their $20 million will translate into 180 milion voter contacts in key battleground states like Florida, Indiana, and Missouri. That means door knocking, e-mails, tweets, electronic ads, and television commercials. Of course, what FFC is really supporting here is more action from Donald Trump, who is most definitely not an evangelical Christian. Chair Ralph Reed addressed the seeming discrepancy: "That does not mean issues of character are not important, they are important...I think the voters rendered that verdict in 2016 and rendered it in a very devastating fashion." At least Reed is admitting that when choosing between "character" and "politics," his supporters prefer politics, Bible be damned. (Z)
Scott Pruitt is certainly the most right-wing administrator the EDA, er...EPA has ever had. Consequently, he has embraced conservative orthodoxy on global warming: That it is not primarily man-made. He says that this conclusion is backed up by "numerous" studies.
Now, the Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility has forced the Administrator to put his study where his mouth is. They've filed a FOIA request for copies of the studies that Pruitt has read that back up his claim, and a judge has approved the filing. This puts Pruitt in a difficult position, since more than 97 percent of climate scientists agree that global warming is indeed man-made. He now has the choice of: (1) Ignoring the FOIA order, which will lead to a contempt of court charge, or (2) Admitting he has very little (or no) evidence for his claim, or (3) Admitting that he is relying on propagandistic studies from the oil and petroleum industries, or (4) Admitting that global warming is indeed man-made. He's got roughly a month to decide. (Z)
"But of course they are," you say. No, not the 2018 primaries, the 2020 primaries. Quite a few leading candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination have found excuses to visit the early primary states—Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, etc. However, running for president requires money, and those places aren't where the money is. So, a blue horde—Sens. Elizabeth Warren (MA) and Kamala Harris (CA), Mayor Eric Garcetti of Los Angeles, Gov. Steve Bullock (MT), and former Senate candidate Jason Kander of Missouri, among others—has also descended upon New York, trying to network with as many big-time donors as is possible. Presumably, California, Washington, Florida, and Texas are getting the same treatment (just not coverage from the New York Times).
None of the candidates is collecting checks, as yet. Once they start doing that, they have to admit it in their FEC paperwork, which is tantamount to declaring candidacy. That, in turn, puts a giant target on a person's back. So, it's just networking now, though it won't be long before they start cashing checks. A candidate who starts fundraising on July 1 of this year has to bring in $55,000 a day in order to have a $30 million war chest by the time 2020 begins. And $30 million is just the "get your foot in the door" price; the actual nominee will end up dropping something in the realm of $1 billion. So, time is already getting tight. (Z)Email a link to a friend or share:
---The Votemaster and Zenger
Jun09 Mueller Brings New Charges against Manafort and His Associate
Jun09 Pardon Me?
Jun09 Trump Likes Weed
Jun09 Two Words Democrats Must Not Say on the Campaign Trail
Jun09 Judge Rules that Trump Can Be Deposed
Jun09 Romney Predicts "Solid" Victory for Trump in 2020
Jun08 Trump Will Meet With Unhappy Allies Today
Jun08 Trump May Invite Little Rocket Man to the White House
Jun08 House Is Getting Stuff Done--Or Not
Jun08 Trump Administration Doing What it Can to Kill Obamacare
Jun08 Democrats Are Fighting over Superdelegates Again
Jun08 Preet Bharara Registers as a Democrat
Jun08 Another Lawyer Wants to Depose Trump
Jun08 Melania Trump Pushes Back on Giuliani's Comments
Jun07 Takeaways from Tuesday's Primaries
Jun07 Democrats Probably Avoided Disaster in California
Jun07 The November Election Will Be about Racism and Authoritarianism
Jun07 In California, the November Election Will Be about Immigration and Gas Taxes
Jun07 Ryan Distances Himself from Trump
Jun07 Manchin Hugs Trump Close
Jun07 The Public Doesn't Like Giuliani
Jun07 Trump Doesn't Know History, Does Know How to Insult Canadians
Jun06 Voters in Eight States Have Their Say
Jun06 Eaglesgate Enters Second Day
Jun06 Trump Is Obsessed with Pardons
Jun06 The Gender Gap Could Hurt Democratic Hopes to Win the House
Jun06 McConnell Cancels Most of the August Recess
Jun06 Sadler Is out at the White House
Jun06 David Koch Is Seriously Ill
Jun06 Mexico Levies Tariffs on U.S. Products
Jun05 Trump Asserts His Right to Pardon Himself
Jun05 Eight States Hold Primaries Today
Jun05 Trump Is Now Willing to Support Candidates Who Didn't Vote for Him
Jun05 Mueller Wants Manafort Jailed Due to Witness Tampering
Jun05 Koch Brothers Will Spend Millions to Defeat Trump's Tariffs
Jun05 House Moving Toward Immigration Showdown
Jun05 SCOTUS Kicks the Gay Wedding Cake Down the Road
Jun05 Philadelphia Eagles Disinvited From White House
Jun05 More Fuel for the Pruitt Fire
Jun05 Melania Trump Is Sighted
Jun04 Giuliani: Trump Could Pardon Himself but He Probably Won't
Jun04 Team Trump Seems to Be in Full-Blown Panic Mode
Jun04 Republicans Are Getting More Optimistic about Holding the Senate
Jun04 Charlie Cook: Tax Cuts Won't Save the House
Jun04 Russians Are Already Hard at Work on the Midterms
Jun04 Jungle Primaries Make Strange Bedfellows in California
Jun04 Trump's Tariffs Are Not Popular
Jun03 Trump Attorneys' Letter to Mueller Leaks
Jun03 Tariffs Already Coming Home to Roost