Trump’s 100 Days: Can’t Quit Talking About Himself: Has No Clue About What Truth Is

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

Trump crams agenda as 100-day mark nears

Washington (CNN) In advance of his approaching 100th day as president, Donald Trump sat down with the Associated Press for an interview about what he’s done and what he’s failed to do in office so far. But Trump just couldn’t stop talking about the 2016 election.

Trump was asked by the AP’s Julie Pace whether or not he would veto a spending bill that kept the government open but didn’t include the $1.4 billion he has requested as a sort of down payment on his much-promised border wall. Here’s how Trump answered:
“I don’t know yet. People want the border wall. My base definitely wants the border wall, my base really wants it — you’ve been to many of the rallies. OK, the thing they want more than anything is the wall. My base, which is a big base; I think my base is 45 percent. You know, it’s funny. The Democrats, they have a big advantage in the electoral college. Big, big, big advantage. I’ve always said the popular vote would be a lot easier than the electoral college. The electoral college — but it’s a whole different campaign (unintelligible). The electoral college is very difficult for a Republican to win, and I will tell you, the people want to see it.”
Here’s a quick diagram of Trump’s line of thinking in that answer:
Border wall —→ base likes —-→ base is big —-→ Democrats have an edge in electoral college —→ it’s a big edge —-→ I thought I would win the popular vote —-→ I won the electoral college —-→ My base wants to see the wall.
So, well, um ok.
Later in the interview, Pace asks whether Trump thinks he has the right team in place for his next 100 days in office. Trump praises his military team. Pace follows up about his White House staff. Here’s how Trump responds:
“Yeah, my White House team. I think Reince (Priebus) has been doing an excellent job. I think that, you know, this is a very tough environment not caused necessarily by me. Although the election has, you know, look, the Democrats had a tremendous opportunity because the electoral college, as I said, is so skewed to them. You start off by losing in New York and California, no matter who it is. If, if Abe Lincoln came back to life, he would lose New York and he would lose California. It’s just the registration, there’s nothing you can do. So you’re losing the two biggest states, that’s where you start. OK. The Electoral College is so skewed in favor of a Democrat that it’s very, very hard…..so she had this massive advantage, she spent hundreds of millions of dollars more money than I spent. Hundreds of millions … Yeah. Or more, actually because we were $375 she was at $2.2 billion. But whatever. She spent massive amounts of money more and she lost. Solidly lost, because you know it wasn’t 270, it was 306.”
And here’s how Trump’s mind worked on that answer:
Reince Priebus is doing a good job —→ the political environment is difficult but it’s not my fault —→ Democrats should have won —-→ New York and California are very Democratic states —-→ Abe Lincoln —→ Electoral college favors Democrats —→ Clinton should have won –→ I got outspent —→ I won —-→ I won by more than people thought.
Neither of Pace’s questions come anywhere close to mentioning the election. In fact, both are forward looking; one touches on the expectation of a bill to fund the government emerging before the deadline Friday night while the other is about Trump’s second 100 days.
And yet, Trump found a way to bring both answers back to his victory in 2016 through a series of seeming non sequiturs. (I say “seeming” because clearly the logic hops made sense to Trump if not to me.)
At one level, Trump’s desire to keep returning to the election makes sense. It was his greatest glory, his definitive proof point that all the people who mocked or laughed at him over the years were wrong and that he was right. No one thought he could win. And he won. We all like to revel in our past successes to some degree.
At issue for Trump is that he continues to seem more interested in how he won the office than what he will do with the office. An occasional reminder of a time when you won is great. But Trump is bordering on Uncle Rico (of “Napoleon Dynamite”) territory here. If you don’t know what I am talking about, watch this:
“Back in ’82 I used to be able to throw a pigskin a quarter mile,” Uncle Rico recalls. “If coach would have put me in fourth quarter we would have been state champions….no doubt in my mind.”
The point is: Dwelling too much in the past makes you a prisoner of the past. Trump won a historic upset. No question. But, now he’s president. So, how he got elected — and how no one called it — is now less relevant than what he plans to do in the office.
Congressional Republicans are desperate for something more than just rhetoric and 50,000 foot policy statements. They want real guidance about specific policy proposals Trump favors and a a blueprint for how to get them passed.
Instead, Trump just keeps reliving past glories.

President Trump Needs To Stop Treating The ‘Purple Heart’ Like A Game Show Prize

Trump Needs To Stop Treating The Purple Heart Like A Game Show Prize

on April 23, 2017

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(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF ‘TASK @ PURPOSE’ WEBSITE)

On Saturday afternoon, President Donald Trump took to Twitter to let the country know how excited he was to be heading to Walter Reed Medical Center to meet with wounded warriors.

Getting ready to visit Walter Reed Medical Center with Melania. Looking forward to seeing our bravest and greatest Americans!

When he arrived, Trump held a brief ceremony to award a Purple Heart medal to Army Sgt. 1st Class Alvaro Barrientos, who was wounded in Afghanistan on March 17.

“When I heard about this … I wanted to do it myself,” Trump said during the ceremony. “Congratulations on behalf of Melania and myself and the entire nation. Tremendous.”

😑 😑 😑

Shakin’ my damn head.

There’s nothing congratulatory about receiving a Purple Heart. No service member signs up for the military hoping to get a leg blown off, or a bullet lodged inside them. No service member is banking on ending up paralyzed for the rest of their life, or left with chronic pain that they have to cope with on a daily basis.

Sgt. 1st Class Alvaro Barrientos doesn’t think he’s won something. But, when he signed up for the Army, he knew it was a possibility that he could be injured, or even killed, and he did it anyway. Every service member knows the risk and they choose to put themselves in harm’s way regardless.

Trump still doesn’t seem to get that.

This isn’t the first time he has treated the Purple Heart like some kind of prize you get at the bottom of a cereal box. In August 2016, after retired Lt. Col. Louis Dorfman handed him his own Purple Heart, Trump said, “I always wanted to get the Purple Heart. This was much easier.”

Trump doesn’t seem to understand that no one wants a Purple Heart, because you don’t earn it without giving something up in return. As Elana Duffy wrote last year, “I didn’t want the award because I knew it meant at least a piece of me would be left behind. We didn’t get the award; we each traded something for it. We traded our brains, our limbs, and many times our lives for that piece of metal.”

Until Trump acquires some awareness of what military service actually entails, he should just smile and nod and stick to these five words, “Thank you for your service.” Once he masters those, then he can move onto more complex phrases like, “You have inspired the future generation with your courage and sacrifice.”

But, for now, he needs to keep it simple before he ends up chest-bumping a combat veteran for “winning” the Medal of Honor.

42 COMMENTS
Lauren Katzenberg is the cofounder and managing editor of Task & Purpose. Follow Lauren Katzenberg on Twitter @Lkatzenberg
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Sessions: We’ll fund the wall ‘one way or the other’

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

Sessions: We’ll fund the wall ‘one way or the other’

Story highlights

  • Sessions said they can get the money for the wall
  • Trump promised Mexico would pay for it

Washington (CNN) Attorney General Jeff Sessions said Sunday he does not expect the Mexican government to outright pay for President Donald Trump’s border wall, but there are a number of ways to extract the billions of dollars needed to build it.

Sessions made his comments in an appearance on ABC’s “This Week,” where he was attempting to square Trump’s promise that Mexico would pay for the border wall with Mexico’s firm position to the contrary.
“We’re going to get it paid for one way or the other,” Sessions said.
Trump took to Twitter on Sunday morning to say the wall would stop drugs and the gang MS-13. He also said that Mexico would pay for the wall “in some form.”
Trump promised during the campaign that within his first 100 days as president he would get Congress to pass legislation fully funding the wall and establishing mandatory minimum prison sentences for people illegally entering the US after already being deported. That promise, one of many in his “Contract with the American Voter,” said Mexico would reimburse the US for the cost of the wall.
Trump has also threatened to target remittances, or cash transfers from people within the US to people in Mexico.
Sessions referenced a Treasury Department watchdog report during the Obama administration that said excess payments of about $4 billion a year were going to people that shouldn’t get them, and he said reining in the problem could lead to savings over time that could pay for the wall.
“These are mostly Mexicans,” Sessions said. “And those kind of things add up. Four billion a year for 10 years is 40 billion.”
The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration issued a report in 2011 saying people who were not authorized to work in the US were paid $4.2 billion in refundable tax credits in one year.
The Justice Department did not respond Sunday to a question asking if the report is the one Sessions referenced. The Treasury inspector general also did not return a request for information on whether any actions were taken following the release of the report and if more up-to-date figures exist.
An internal estimate from Customs and Border Protection put the cost of the wall at $21.6 billion, while an estimate from Democrats on the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee said the wall could cost as much as $66.9 billion.
Sessions implied other actions at the border and in trade could pay for the wall, although he said he did not expect the Mexican government itself to foot the bill.
“I don’t expect the Mexican government to appropriate money for it,” Sessions said. “But there are ways that we can deal with our trade situation to create the revenue to pay for it. No doubt about it.”
The Trump administration has requested a $1 billion “down payment” from Congress to begin construction of the wall. Administration officials in televised interviews on Sunday said funding for the wall is a priority in budget negotiations ahead of a potential government shutdown Friday, but stopped short of saying Trump would not accept a bill that didn’t include the funding

Nearing 100 days, Trump’s approval at record lows but his base is holding

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE WASHINGTON POST)

Nearing 100 days, Trump’s approval at record lows but his base is holding

April 23 at 12:01 AM
President Trump nears the 100-day mark of his administration as the least popular chief executive in modern times, a president whose voters remain largely satisfied with his performance, but one whose base of support has not expanded since he took the oath of office, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.Trump’s first months in office have produced some tangible successes. Beyond the continued enthusiasm of his most loyal supporters, a small majority of Americans see him as a strong leader. A bigger majority approves of his efforts to pressure U.S. companies to keep jobs in this country. Those who say the economy is getting better outnumber those who say it’s getting worse by the biggest margin in 15 years in Post-ABC polling.

But the president’s balance sheet overall tilts toward the negative. Majorities of Americans say Trump has not accomplished much during his first months as president. Meanwhile, he shows little improvement on his temperament and honesty, and while he’s gained ground on empathy, over 6 in 10 still say he does not understand the problems of people like them.

[Read full poll results | How the poll was conducted]

With a week remaining before his 100th day in office, Trump has yet to achieve a major legislative accomplishment, having been dealt a major setback when Republicans in Congress decided not to proceed with a vote on a health-care bill supported by the White House. His clearest achievement is the successful nomination of Neil M. Gorsuch to the Supreme Court seat previously held by conservative Justice Antonin Scalia.

Executive actions on trade, immigration, climate and government organization have pointed the direction he wants to take the country, though his controversial proposed travel ban that affects a number of Muslim-majority nations remains blocked by the courts. Trump and others in his administration have attacked the courts, accusing them of overreach, but nearly 6 in 10 people see their actions as a legitimate role for the judicial branch.

Overseas, he has demonstrated his willingness to use military force, with targeted strikes in Syria and the use of one of the biggest non-nuclear devices in the U.S. arsenal in Afghanistan. But tensions with North Korea remain high and the administration’s policy in the Middle East remains cloudy.

The 100-day marker is in part an artificial measuring post for any president, but by comparison, Trump has reached this point in his presidency faring worse to much worse than other recent presidents. An electorate that was deeply divided throughout the 2016 campaign remains so today, with opposition seemingly hardened and unyielding on most questions regarding his presidency.

The president’s approval rating stands at 42 percent, the lowest recorded at this stage of a presidency dating to Dwight Eisenhower. Trump’s 53 percent disapproval rating is 14 percentage points higher than Bill Clinton’s 39 percent disapproval in April 1993, the worst before Trump. Eight years ago, then-president Barack Obama’s approval was 69 percent, his disapproval 26 percent.

The Post-ABC poll finds 43 percent of Americans said they strongly disapprove of Trump’s performance. That’s also the worst by far of any president since George H.W. Bush by more than double. In the spring of 1993, 21 percent said they strongly disapproved of Clinton’s performance.

Americans split at 35 percent apiece on whether Trump is doing a better or worse job than expected, with the rest saying he’s neither above nor below their expectations.

There are no signs of major slippage in support among those who voted for Trump. His approval rating among those who cast ballots for him stands at 94 percent. Among Republicans, it is 84 percent. Asked of those who voted for him whether they regret doing so, 2 percent say they do, while 96 percent say supporting Trump was the right thing to do.When asked if they would vote for him again, 96 percent say they would, which is higher than the 85 percent of Hillary Clinton voters who say they would support her again.

Trump is also satisfying the substantial share of the electorate that voted for him with some reservation. Among Trump voters who say they were “somewhat enthusiastic” or less excited about supporting him, 88 percent approve of his current performance and 79 percent say he understands the problems of people like them.

Bill Clinton also had a rocky start to his presidency, which colored public judgments of his presidency by the 100-day mark. Although just 42 percent say Trump has accomplished either a great deal or a good amount so far, that is slightly higher than the 37 percent who said the same about Clinton in 1993.

Similarly, judgments on whether campaign promises have been kept put Trump on about equal footing with Bill Clinton — 44 percent and 42 percent respectively. Also, Trump’s 53 percent positive rating on strong leadership is almost identical to that of George W. Bush’s at this point in his presidency, but much lower than Obama’s 77 percent rating.

Of those who say Trump has not accomplished much, 47 percent pin the blame on him while about a quarter blame congressional Republicans. Only 7 percent say Democrats are to blame.

One of Trump’s biggest deficiencies compared with other presidents is whether he is honest and trustworthy. Fewer than 4 in 10 (38 percent) say he is. At this point in their presidencies, 74 percent said Obama was honest, 62 percent said George W. Bush was honest and a CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll showed 61 percent said Clinton was honest.

Another gap is on the question of whether Trump can be trusted in a crisis. The poll finds that 43 percent — about the same as Trump’s approval rating — say he can be trusted; 73 percent said so for Obama and 65 percent for George W. Bush at this point in their presidencies.

On the specific question of how Trump has dealt with North Korea, 46 percent say he has been about right in his posture, 37 percent say he is too aggressive and just 7 percent say he is too cautious.

On most questions about his performance or characteristics, Trump receives more negative than positive ratings. The most notable exception is his effort to pressure U.S. companies on the issues of keeping jobs at home, where 73 percent of Americans approve, including 54 percent of Democrats.

Another issue where the public sides with Trump rather than his critics is whether it is a conflict of interest for Trump to spend time at his own properties. A 54 percent majority say he has the right to travel where he wants to go. But on another question, about 6 in 10 Americans say they disapprove of the major White House roles Trump has given to his daughter, Ivanka, and her husband Jared Kushner.

Trump has net negative ratings on such questions as temperament — just as he did during the campaign — as well as on judgment to serve as president, and on whether he operates from a consistent set of principles. He has said he likes to be unpredictable.

Half disapprove of the major changes he has proposed for government spending, while nearly 6 in 10 say he is out of touch with the concerns of most people. But on this question, the public is even harsher in judging the Republican Party and the Democratic Party.

Democrats have lost considerable ground on this front. The 28 percent who say the party is in touch with concerns of most Americans is down from 48 percent in 2014 and the biggest drop is among self-identified Democrats, from 83 percent saying they are in touch to just 52 percent today. That is a reminder that whatever challenges Trump is having, Democrats, for all the energy apparent at the grass roots, have their own problems.

The Post-ABC survey reveals a persistent gender gap, with women generally more negative toward the president than men, including double-digit gaps on Trump’s attributes such as honesty and temperament. Just over one-third of women (35 percent) approve of the way he is handling the job of president compared with 48 percent of men. Even fewer women, 29 percent,say they approve of the changes he is proposing for government spending compared with 45 percent of men.

Despite the public’s skepticism of Trump’s first 100 days, the survey finds little evidence voters would render a different verdict from last November, when Trump won key states needed to secure victory in the electoral college despite Clinton winning more votes nationwide.

The new survey finds 46 percent saying they voted for Clinton and 43 percent for Trump, similar to her two-point national vote margin. Asked how they would vote if the election were held today, 43 say they would support Trump and 40 percent say Clinton.

The Post-ABC poll was conducted April 17-20 among a random national sample of 1,004 adults interviewed on cellular and landline phones. Overall results have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.

Emily Guskin contributed to this report.

U.S. Officials: Russian Operatives Tried To Use Trump Advisers To Infiltrate Campaign

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

Washington (CNN) The FBI gathered intelligence last summer that suggests Russian operatives tried to use Trump advisers, including Carter Page, to infiltrate the Trump campaign, according to US officials.

The new information adds to the emerging picture of how the Russians tried to influence the 2016 election, not only through email hacks and propaganda but also by trying to infiltrate the Trump orbit. The intelligence led to an investigation into the coordination of Trump’s campaign associates and the Russians.
These officials made clear they don’t know whether Page was aware the Russians may have been using him. Because of the way Russian spy services operate, Page could have unknowingly talked with Russian agents.
Page disputes the idea he has ever collected intelligence for the Russians, saying he helped the US intelligence community. “My assumption throughout the last 26 years I’ve been going there has always been that any Russian person might share information with the Russian government … as I have similarly done with the CIA, the FBI and other government agencies in the past.”
But the intelligence suggests Russia tried to infiltrate the inner-workings of the Trump campaign by using backdoor channels to communicate with people in the Trump orbit, US officials say.
Page is one of several Trump advisers US and European intelligence found to be in contact with Russian officials and other Russians known to Western intelligence during the campaign, according to multiple US officials.
The scope and frequency of those contacts raised the interest of US intelligence agencies.
The FBI and CIA declined to comment on Page’s statement.
In 2013, Page had meetings with a Russian man who turned out to be a spy, according to federal prosecutors. Page denied knowing that the man, Victor Podobnyy, was secretly a Russian operative living in New York.
As CNN first reported, Carter Page’s speech critical of US policy against Russia in July 2016 at a prominent Moscow university drew the attention of the FBI and raised concerns he had been compromised by Russian intelligence, according to US officials. They also feared that Russian operatives maintained contact with him both in the United States and Russia, US officials say.
His conversations with suspected Russian operatives are being examined as part of a large intelligence-gathering operation by the FBI and other US agencies that was set up to probe Russia’s interference in the election. The officials would not say what the conversations were about.
How Page’s name became associated with the campaign is a reflection of how minimal the Trump operation was last year, as establishment national security figures avoided an association with the insurgent operation.
As Trump prepared to meet with The Washington Post editorial page in March 2016, the campaign was under pressure to name national security advisers. Staffers produced a list of names for Trump to refer to, according to a US official close to the campaign. Trump mentioned Page, in part because he had a Ph.D. listed next to his name, the official said.
Trump had never met Page. Sam Clovis, co-chairman of the campaign, helped gather the names that the candidate used.
Campaign officials say there’s no indication Page ever attended any national security meetings at Trump Tower. They insisted he played a junior role and was not an influential figure.
But in a letter Page wrote to the House Intelligence committee offering to testify, Page describes more interactions with the campaign.
“For your information, I have frequently dined in Trump Grill, had lunch in Trump Cafe, had coffee meetings in the Starbucks at Trump Tower, attended events and spent many hours in campaign headquarters on the fifth floor last year.”
The FBI had Page on their radar for at least four years, according to court documents and US officials.
The bureau also knew about Page from its 2013 investigation into a Russian spy ring in New York. One of the spies was taped saying he tried to recruit Page, and Page admitted meeting him. But Page says he didn’t share anything sensitive and didn’t know he was talking to a spy.
He also traveled to Russia frequently and interacted with officials that the FBI was concerned were acting on behalf of the government.
His trip to Russia in July 2016 revived the FBI’s interest, when he delivered a lecture at a graduation ceremony for the New Economic School. The university opened after the fall of the Soviet Union and is ranked as one of the best universities for economics in Russia. Former President Barack Obama gave a speech there during his first official trip to Russia in 2009.
But Page’s lecture sounded different than what would be expected from most Americans. He parroted Kremlin talking points by chastising the West for prolonging “Cold War tendencies.”
“Ironically, Washington and other Western capitals have impeded potential progress through their often hypocritical focus on democratization, inequality, corruption and regime change,” he said, adding that US foreign policy toward Russia was “condescending” and “hostile.”
Page stressed to the audience that he was there as a private citizen and not a Trump surrogate. But a spokesman for the school told CNN that Page’s ties to Trump helped secure the invitation.
“The organizing committee for the commencement last year thought that he was a colorful and interesting character,” said Denis Klimentov, a spokesman for the New Economic School. “It was partially supported by the fact that The Washington Post, the newspaper, back in the spring of 2016, cited Carter as one of Mr. Trump’s foreign policy advisors.”
Page maintains that he only met with “scholars and professors” during his July trip. Klimentov said that the New Economic School didn’t arrange any meetings on Page’s behalf.
“Physically and technically, frankly speaking, I don’t think he had any time for that, he was with the school pretty much during most of the day, both days, and the remaining half of the day that he was in Moscow,” Klimentov said.
But a former Obama administration official briefed on Russia’s meddling in the election says Russians who work at prominent think tanks, universities and businesses often play an informal intelligence role.
“There are very few agencies of any kind that don’t have some sort of intelligence or counterintelligence role,” the official told CNN. “If you run an organization in Russia government, you will now have a role in that. It’s the explicit mission of Russian government agencies.”
Shortly after Page returned to the US, he and other Trump advisers headed to Cleveland for the Republican National Convention. On the sidelines of a convention-related event, Page and other Trump advisers, including JD Gordon and Jeff Sessions, met with Russian ambassador to the US Sergey Kislyak.
Two months after Page’s trip, the FBI sought and received a warrant from the secret court that oversees the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) to monitor Page’s communications.
When he returned to Moscow in December 2016, after Trump won the election, Russian state-run media widely covered and promoted his trip, including RT and Sputnik, which have been identified by the US intelligence community as tools for the Kremlin’s propaganda.
RT published stories on all three days of Page’s trip. Sputnik published an 800-word roundup of the presentation and press conference he gave at the state-run news agency’s headquarters. The RT affiliate Ruptly quickly published the full video of his second presentation and press conference.
That speech was given under the auspices of the Russian government: The event was held at the headquarters of the Rossiya Segodnya International Information Agency, a state-run media company created in 2013 by an official decree from Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Not only did Russian state-run media cover the trip, but a prominent government-run think tank involved in election-meddling efforts put out a press release heralding Page’s visit.
The leader of the Russian Institute for Strategic Studie, Leonid Reshetnikov, painted Page as an influential adviser to Trump and said his visit could help improve US-Russian relations.
“It’s quite possible that Trump’s advisor is a pragmatist and a realist,” Reshetnikov said, according to a translation of his comments in Russian. “This is probably not an ordinary visit. He has probably received some instructions from the President-elect. I don’t think that meetings at the highest level will take place, but (the possibility) cannot be excluded.”
Reuters reported this week that the group was involved in Russia’s efforts to interfere in the US election. The organization sent recommendations to top Kremlin leaders with plans of how to use its propaganda machine to help Trump and undermine Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.
The FBI and other US agencies have been combing through information obtained through that FISA as part of its ongoing investigation into the Trump campaign’s links to Russia.
Intelligence analysts and FBI investigators who analyzed various strands of intelligence from human sources to electronic and financial records have found signs of possible collusion between the campaign and Russian officials. But there is not enough evidence to show that crimes were committed, US officials say.
Part of the problem for investigators has been that they lost their opportunity to conduct the investigation in secret after several leaks last year revealed FBI was looking at people close to the Trump campaign. After those reports, people that the US was monitoring changed their behavior, which made it more difficult for US officials to monitor them.

Trump Just Tried To Show Off For Italy’s Prime Minister And Humiliated Himself

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Trump Just Tried To Show Off For Italy’s Prime Minister And Humiliated Himself

President Trump started his White House press conference by reading from a prepared speech. He should have stayed on script. (Video below.)

“Through the ages, your country has been a beacon of artistic and scientific achievement,” Trump read aloud.

“From Venice to Florence, from Verdi to Pavarotti,” he continued before looking away from his script, and adding “friend of mine. Great friend of mine.”

Many in attendance, along with Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni, certainly knew that Italian opera legend Luciano Pavarotti is not Trump’s friend, as he has been dead for ten years.

Pavarotti, a national treasure for Italians, was considered one of the greatest voices of all times, was a legendary tenor who mastered both opera and popular music. For the President of the United States to claim him as a current friend is the equivalent of Italy’s Prime Minister announcing that he had just had a lovely time with Abraham Lincoln or Muhammad Ali.

Enjoy the latest example of Trump showing the world he doesn’t know what he’s talking about. At least no one got hurt this time.

Trump gives a shout out to Pavarotti, calls him “a good friend of mine”.

Pavarotti died 10 years ago in 2007. —via @MSNBC

President Trumps Stupidity/Ignorance About Korea/China Triggers Public Outrage In South Korea

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE KOREA TIMES NEWS)

U.S. President Donald Trump, left, and Chinese President Xi Jinping walk together at Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Fla. The U.S. is piling the pressure on Beijing to use its clout with North Korea to rein in its nuclear and missile programs. / AP-Yonhap


US president’s gaffe triggers public uproar here

By Yi Whan-woo

U.S. President Donald Trump has suffered a serious dent in his credibility among South Koreans after he “lied” about the whereabouts of a U.S. Navy strike group and quoting Chinese President Xi Jinping’s alleged false claim that “Korea actually used to be a part of China.”

South Koreans have been familiar with Trump’s credibility gap and flip-flops on many issues in the U.S. _ his use of incorrect information and data as well as unsubstantiated claims.

But they have been bewildered this time as his latest remarks poses a challenge to the security of the Korean Peninsula and South Korea’s national interests, according to analysts, Thursday.

Regarding the course of the U.S Navy strike group led by the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson, Trump said last week that “We’re sending an armada” to waters off the peninsula.

His bravado added to concerns over a U.S. pre-emptive attack against North Korea, something his administration has repeatedly warned of in the wake of its missile strike on Syria.

It also stoked fears over a possible war here, fueling speculation that erratic North Korean leader Kim Jong-un may take Trump at his word and risk an attack on South Korea and the American troops stationed here in advance.

The U.S. flotilla, however, turned out to be sailing in the Indian Ocean, thousands of kilometers southwest of the peninsula.

“The public are obviously concerned about whether Seoul can rely on the Trump administration in deterring North Korea’s growing military aggression and preventing China from distorting history to control the peninsula,” said Yang Moo-jin, a professor at the University of North Korean Studies.

“I’d say Trump proved his incompetence as commander-chief if he really did not know the location of the U.S. strike group. He also deceived South Koreans if he actually knew where it was.”

The White House did not clarify whether it was a verbatim account of Chinese President Xi Jinping or Trump’s own description when the latter said “Korea actually used to be a part of China” during an April 12 Wall Street Journal interview.

But his comment still shocked South Koreans after Quartz, an online news website, published an article on Trump’s ignorance Tuesday that went viral.

The Wall Street Journal interview dealt with the summit between the two leaders at Trump’s resort in Florida from April 6 to 7.

Speaking of Xi’s lesson on Sino-Korean history, Trump said, “He then went into the history of China and Korea. Not North Korea, Korea. And you know, you’re talking about thousands of years…and many wars. And Korea actually used to be a part of China. And after listening for 10 minutes, I realized that it’s not so easy.”

Trump also angered the South Koreans as his words came amid deteriorating relations between Seoul and Beijing amid China’s economic retaliation for the deployment of a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense battery here.

Critics claimed Trump echoed the Chinese-centric version of regional history and also appeared to be siding with Beijing’s project suspected of distorting history to eventually assimilate North Korea.

“It hurts the South Korean people’s feelings while stirring up distrust toward the U.S. concerning its North Korea policies,” said Kim Yong-hyun, a professor of North Korean Studies at Dongguk University.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs said it is using “various diplomatic channels” involving both the U.S. and China to verify the facts on Trump’s comment.

“We’ll take measures that are necessary as soon as we find out the related facts,” ministry spokesman Cho June-hyuck said Thursday.

On the same day, the Chinese foreign ministry refrained from answering queries about Xi’s alleged false claim. Instead, its spokesman Lu Kang told South Koreans “not to be worried” about the incident.

Meanwhile, political parties here lodged protests, asking both the U.S. and China to clearly explain the truth behind Trump’s remark.

“Republic of Korea nationals as well as people of intellectual sensibility are embarrassed and surprised by the incident,” Democratic Party of Korea chief spokesman Youn Kwan-suk said in a press briefing.

“Our country’s fate will not be in the hands of other countries. The Korean people will determine it. The party is making clear that we will take a leading role over issues on the prosperity of the peninsula and inter-Korean unification.”

The People’s Party called the remarks “a diplomatic gaffe.”

South Korea and Japan Feel Betrayed By “The Clown” (Trump)

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF SOUTH KOREAN NEWS AGENCY TPM)

Let’s stop for a moment and note that President Trump and his skeletal foreign policy team have accomplished the fairly difficult feat of deeply alienating South Koreans (and seemingly many Japanese as well) while notionally protecting them from the threat of a militaristic and aggressive North Korea.

As the AP noted here yesterday, countries in the region are looking at Trump as, to quote the AP, “Unpredictable. Unhinged. Dangerous.” Consider that this is in a confrontation with Kim Jong-un. North Korea under the Kim dynasty has specialized in extremely provocative, high risk gambits. Thirty four years ago, they blew up several members of the South Korean cabinet in a bomb attack in Rangoon. Kim Jong-un apparently just had his half brother killed in a poison attack in Kuala Lumpur. Trump has strong competition in the unpredictable and unhinged and dangerous department.

But what’s really driving anxiety and anger is this issue with the confusion over the whereabouts of the Carl Vinson and its carrier strike group. As I argued yesterday (and as I think is consensus opinion), the false impression seems to have been more a matter of internal confusion than intentional deception. But the South Korean press and public seems to see it very differently. Headlines in South Korea are saying that Trump lied and as this article in the Times put it, “South Koreans feel cheated after U.S. Carrier Miscue.”

Of all Trump goofs and scandals, this seems to be one of the more innocent ones in terms of intent. Maybe we’ll learn otherwise but I don’t think this was intentional. But when you’re talking tough and getting into stand offs over nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles and a major global city vulnerable to overwhelming artillery fire, you’ve got to have your shit together. You need clarity about what you’re doing and you need to be know what you’re doing and appear to know what you’re doing. Deception is an inherent part of military affairs. Strategic ambiguity is too. But if you’re going to be bluff or deceive, you need to make sure people think you were doing it on purpose. Small errors and confusions can have very, very big consequences. We can parse different quotes from the White House and Pentagon and see how the confusion arose. But step back. When you find out that the global hegemon ‘said’ its ships were in one place when they were actually thousands of miles away, that seems either weirdly duplicitous or stupid in a way that invites mockery or fear.

Here’s text from the Times about one South Korean paper’s coverage …

On Wednesday, after it was revealed that the carrier strike group was actually thousands of miles away and had been heading in the opposite direction, toward the Indian Ocean, South Koreans felt bewildered, cheated and manipulated by the United States, their country’s most important ally.

“Trump’s lie over the Carl Vinson,” read a headline on the website of the newspaper JoongAng Ilbo on Wednesday. “Xi Jinping and Putin must have had a good jeer over this one.”

“Like North Korea, which is often accused of displaying fake missiles during military parades, is the United States, too, now employing ‘bluffing’ as its North Korea policy?” the article asked.

Then there’s this from the political front …

“The 50 million South Koreans, as well as many common-sensical people around the world, cannot help but feel embarrassed and shocked,” said Youn Kwan-suk, spokesman of the main opposition Democratic Party, which is leading in voter surveys before the May 9 presidential election.

The quote from the Democratic Party spokesman centers not just on the Carl Vinson goof but a statement from President Trump claiming that Korea “used to be part of China.” The quote actually comes from the full quote version of his description of that ‘nobody could have known how complicated Korea could be’ exchange he had with President Xi of China at Mar a Lago. Quoting the President from his interview with the Wall Street Journal …

He then went into the history of China and Korea. Not North Korea, Korea. And you know, you’re talking about thousands of years …and many wars. And Korea actually used to be a part of China. And after listening for 10 minutes I realized that not — it’s not so easy. You know I felt pretty strongly that they have — that they had a tremendous power over China. I actually do think they do have an economic power, and they have certainly a border power to an extent, but they also — a lot of goods come in. But it’s not what you would think. It’s not what you would think.

To the extent we can collapse thousands of years of history into simple yeses and nos, Korea was never part of China. It’s a complicated question if you want to dig into it because the two countries’ histories are deeply intertwined. But again, short version: Korea was never part of China. And Koreans, with a strong sense of national identity, certainly don’t think that Korea was ever part of China. It must be even more bewildering and jarring to see that the President thinks this on the basis of a ten minute conversation with the President of China.

To get the full picture of what happened here, it’s important to understand that the reports of the carrier group returning to Korean waters stirred pretty intense anxiety in the first place. That doesn’t mean it was a good or bad idea. Stand-offs provoke tension even when they’re necessary and well-thought-out. But people in the region seemed to be more afraid of precipitous action from President Trump than North Korea – already a bad sign. Finding out that the US either lied or miscommunicated internally about where its ships even were just adds more fuel to the fire.

At the moment, there seems to be an active debate in the region about whether the deception was intentional and whether the US’s two key regional allies were in on it.

As one Japanese expert quoted in the Times puts it, “When it comes to matters that concern Japan, the two militaries communicate essentially in real time.” Given the depth of the US-Japan security relationship, it would be hard to believe this isn’t the case. (Hard for me to believe it’s not the same in the US-ROK (South Korea) military to military relationship.) This same expert argued that by letting the misconception persist, the Japanese were in essence cooperating with the US deception aimed at overawing the North Koreans – one that in a narrow sense may actually have worked. But this means or seems to mean that the Japanese and South Koreans were tacitly furthering a US deception or misdirection – not realizing that it wasn’t so much a deception on the US part as simply a confusion within the US government. As another Japan expert, Narushige Michishita at the National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies in Tokyo puts it with some understatement: “Whatever the case, whether it was deliberate misinformation or a miscommunication between the Pentagon and the White House, it’s quite serious. It undermines the credibility of U.S. leadership.”

Just as a point of perspective, here’s the online front page of The Korea Times, an English language Korean news publication, that I just grabbed as I was writing.

International misunderstandings happen. It is always surprising to see, even in the gravest historical crises, how much of a role chance and accident play in outcomes, sometimes tragic outcomes. That said, this is the kind of stuff that happens when you have a clown serving as President, large numbers of top position at the key departments unfilled and a climate of back-stabbing and organizational chaos.

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(IS JEFF SESSIONS THE BIGGEST IDIOT IN AMERICA OR IS IT ALL THE MONEY HE HAS EXCEPTED FROM THE BIG PHARMACEUTICALS AND THE ALCOHOL INDUSTRY THAT CLOUDS HIS MIND?)

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF NBC NEWS)

(IS JEFF SESSIONS THE BIGGEST IDIOT IN AMERICA OR IS IT ALL THE MONEY HE HAS EXCEPTED FROM THE BIG PHARMACEUTICALS AND THE ALCOHOL INDUSTRY THAT CLOUDS HIS MIND?)

Pot Advocates Worry Marijuana Protections Are Burning Down Under Trump

Marijuana advocates worried that President Donald Trump’s administration will crack down on state weed laws used the unofficial holiday celebrating the drug to call for a “joint session” of Congress — pun intended.

The pro-cannabis rights group DCMJ used April 20th — or 4/20 — to organize a free joint giveaway just steps from the Capitol in an effort to encourage Congress to reauthorize an expiring provision preventing the federal government from meddling in medicinal marijuana programs.

Even as approval ratings for legalized marijuana reach new highs, the new administration is pushing for pro-pot policies to go up in smoke.

Play
Marijuana Legalization Has Record-High Support in New Poll

A CBS News poll released Thursday found 61 percent of Americans support legal marijuana use, up five points from one year ago. More than 70 percent of Americans said they do not think the federal government should block marijuana sales in states that have legalized the drug.

Eighty-eight percent of Americans favor medical marijuana, the poll found.

Weed legalization has been a tricky subject for members of both parties as states continue to approve recreational use of the drug. Justice Department guidance under President Barack Obama called for prosecutors to enforce federal statutes outlawing the drug in a limited set of cases.

But Attorney General Jeff Sessions, a longtime foe of marijuana, is reviewing the nation’s weed laws.

“I don’t think America will be a better place when more people, especially young people, smoke pot,” he said in February.

“It remains a violation of federal law,” he added.

Play
Sessions: ‘We Don’t Need To Be Legalizing Marijuana’

Homeland Secretary John Kelly as recently as Sunday on “Meet The Press” said, “Marijuana is not a factor in the drug war.” But he changed his tune in a speech just days later, vowing to uphold federal laws barring weed.

“Its use and possession is against federal law and until the law is changed by the United States Congress, we in DHS, along with the rest of the federal government, are sworn to uphold all the laws that are on the books,” he said.

Many states, however, have legalized some form of marijuana use. And its acceptance has increasingly become a bipartisan issue.

Pot giveaway @DCMJ2014 of 2joints to credentialed feds &cong staffers. Ron of DC is retired USArmy

Four members of the House of Representatives, two Democrats and two Republicans, announced the formation of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus in February to help integrate federal and state laws governing weed.

Oregon Democratic Rep. Earl Blumenauer, a co-founder of the caucus, said in a Reddit “Ask Me Anything” on Thursday said he has issued clear warnings to the White House not to impede on what Oregon and other states have done to legalize the drug.

“We’ve pointed out repeatedly in the press and with advocate groups that marijuana got more votes than Donald Trump last November and that the American people are on our side,” Blumenauer wrote.

Support has come from even the opposite side of the political spectrum, like longtime Trump ally Roger Stone. “Don’t let Jeff Sessions’ draconian views on 420 run roughshod over states,” he tweeted to Trump Thursday.

Though recreational marijuana use is legal in the nation’s capital, it is not legal to consume it in public or to possess more than two ounces. And under federal law it is illegal to possess pot. Capitol Police said they arrested seven volunteers with DCMJ on Thursday, four for possession and two for possession with intent to distribute.

More arrests are expected on Monday when another demonstration is planned on the Capitol.

“Possession of cannabis on the Capitol grounds is not legal. Consuming cannabis anywhere in DC outside of a home is not legal either,” organizers warned in a statement announcing the protest. “But sitting quietly while the Trump administration rolls back our freedoms is not something we plan to do. We need to be loud and proud!”

China Is Getting Fed Up With North Korea’s Little Fat Boy With The Bad Haircut

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

(CNN) China may be getting fed up with continued nuclear bluster from long-time ally North Korea and tilting toward the United States.

A day after North Korea’s Vice Foreign Minister said Pyongyang would test missiles weekly and use nuclear weapons if threatened, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman said Beijing was “gravely concerned” about North Korea’s recent nuclear and missile activities.
In the same press conference, spokesman Lu Kang praised recent US statements on the North Korean issue.
“American officials did make some positive and constructive remarks… such as using whatever peaceful means possible to resolve the (Korean) Peninsula nuclear issue. This represents a general direction that we believe is correct and should be adhered to,” Lu said.

Watch: N. Korea performance shows US in flames

 Watch: N. Korea performance shows US in flames

That direction was not evident from North Korean leadership, as state-run TV highlighted a propaganda video showing missile strikes leaving the US in flames.
North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Han Song-ryol ratcheted up the rhetoric in an interview with the BBC.
“If the United States is reckless enough to use military means, it would mean from that very day an all-out war,” Han said.
Statements of that vein do not help the situation, according to the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman.

Trump: North Korea pushed off by past presidents

 Trump: North Korea pushed off by past presidents

“China firmly opposes any words or actions that would escalate rivalry and tension,” Lu said.
US President Donald Trump has been pressing China to rein in North Korea, suggesting that doing so could ease US-China relations over trade and other issues.
Experts point out that China also wants to prevent North Korea from becoming a full-fledged nuclear power — and certainly wants to prevent a war on its southern border that could send millions of refugees flooding into China and potentially risk bringing a US military presence to China’s borders.

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