More than 600 members of the United Methodist Church signed on to a letter Monday condemning Attorney General Jeff Sessions for the Trump administration’s policy of separating migrant parents and children at the U.S. border.
In the letter, the group of churchgoers, including clergy and church leadership, accuse Sessions of child abuse, immorality, racial discrimination and dissemination of doctrines contrary to the standards of the doctrine of the United Methodist Church.
They note in the letter that Sessions is a member of Ashland Place United Methodist Church, in Mobile, Ala.
“While other individuals and areas of the federal government are implicated in each of these examples, Mr. Sessions — as a long-term United Methodist in a tremendously powerful, public position — is particularly accountable to us, his church,” the letter reads. “He is ours, and we are his. As his denomination, we have an ethical obligation to speak boldly when one of our members is engaged in causing significant harm in matters contrary to the Discipline on the global stage.”
The letter comes as President Trump and his administration face backlash over its policy to separate migrant families.
Sessions announced the “zero tolerance” policy earlier this year, saying the Department of Justice would criminally prosecute all adults attempting to illegally cross the southern border into the U.S. As a result, families who crossed together would in some cases be separated, he said.
Trump has repeatedly blamed Democrats for the policy, and administration officials have asserted that only Congress can fix the issue by passing immigration reform.
Members of Congress have introduced legislation to end the practice of separating families, while simultaneously urging Trump to unilaterally stop the separations.
U.S. Government Separating Children From Parents At Border: And One Big Lie/Lyers
Today most of the news on the Google News site that I use is loaded with different articles about the child separation from parents at the U.S. Southern Border. One of the things I wonder about is why is this policy not being followed that same way at our Northern Border with Canada? Is this because most Canadians are white folks and most folks at our Southern Border are not white folks? Even though this is an issue that seems to be a non issue at this time maybe one of the major News Agencies will decide to look at the ‘why’ of this issue at some point. Even though this is an important issue it is not the issue that my article today is about. My article today is about what is going on at our Nations Southern Border with Mexico right now.
Like most all things in life, there are at least two sides to every issue, this disaster at our Southern Border is no exception. Technically any person crossing into our country at a non designated entry point is breaking the law and should be arrested. People wanting to live in a country should enter that country legally so that they do not have to always be worried about being deported. The last I heard the U.S. only allows about 55,000 people to legally migrate through the legal system so that they can become legal citizens. That policy, that kind of a number, in my opinion should be raised to about 250,000 for all Americans, North Americans and South Americans. If the legal number was a more realistic number hopefully most people coming to the U.S Borders would choose to try to come in legally so that they could truly feel free once they started working and living here without having worry about ICE arresting them everyday.
I have spoken with many people from Mexico who are here illegally during my decades as a long haul truck driver (1981-2013). Constantly I heard the same thing from them, that they would rather be at home but there was no way to survive there, meaning that the Mexican economy was/is lousy. They were here trying to find a way to send money back home so that their families could afford to pay rent and to buy groceries. Some U.S. people make fun of the reality of having 10-15 Mexican people living in a two bedroom apartment, it is cruel and ignorant to make such comments even though in many cases it is true. Yet the reason you may have 10 working men living in a two bedroom living quarters is because they are pooling their money together so that they can send more money home to their wife and children. I have just been speaking of Mexican folks so far but the reality reaches to the southern end of the South American Continent. People in Central America and South America face the same issues as the poor people from Mexico face. Example, you don’t see Mexican billionaires trying to sneak across the borders do you? This issue in countries south of the U.S. is not going to change until these southern nations are able to get a good strong working economy so that their people can have livable wage jobs. If you are living in (for example) Guatemala and you have a good paying job to where you have a nice home, good food, vehicles, clothes and the such are you really going to give it all up to try to sneak into the U.S. so that you can be a criminal under constant threat of arrest and deportation?
Now let us get to the point of the children being separated from their parents at the U.S. Southern Border. If you break the laws of a Nation that Nations law enforcement agencies are going to consider you to be a criminal whom they will arrest if they possibly can. Lets get away from the Border for a moment and let us look at another angle. If I am a person who lives in Chicago or New York and I commit a crime to where I am arrested and sent to a prison the law does not allow my minor children to be put into prison with me. If I don’t have someone else here in the States the government will give my children to the (DCS) Department of Children’s Services who are going to take my children and house them until they can find someone to give custody to while I am in prison. Would you want your minor children to be thrown into an adult prison with you? This policy that Donald Trump has put into place is cruel, but, what should our government, any government do in these cases?
Do not fall for the Trump Administration lies, this is a Presidential Policy, it is not a Law, and it is not a Law that was instituted during the Obama Administration, this one is all on the habitual liar, Donald Trump. This morning the Chief of the Department of Homeland Security Kristen Nielsen angerally told reporters that the Trump Administration has no policy in place to separate the children form their parents at the Border. Yet many documents from the DOJ and Jeff Sessions state very clearly for the security personal at the Mexican Border to do exactly that. That I know of there is no good answer for the Trump Administration to follow on this issue. They can either do what they are doing which is angering many people and is a death dart for Republicans this November in the Mid Term Elections or they can just say the heck with it and just open up the Borders to anyone who wishes to cross it. Folks, I don’t know how to be the most humane here on this issue unless North and South American Countries all totally open up their borders sort of like what the EU has done. Here is my single biggest issue with Donald Trump and his flunkies who work for him, just be honest, quit lying all the time, quit trying to blame everyone else for what you yourself are doing.
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The Trump administration has repeatedly denied that its policy is to separate children from their parents when families cross the US border illegally.
But its own internal documents contradict that.
The Department of Homeland Security’s website put out a press release on Friday saying it would separate children from their families.
A “zero tolerance” policy from Attorney General Jeff Sessions mandates that anyone illegally crossing the border be treated like a criminal.
The Trump administration has repeatedly sought to distance itself from its policy separating children from their parents when families cross the US border illegally, but its own internal documents contradict those efforts.
“The Attorney General directed United States Attorneys on the Southwest Border to prosecute all amenable adults who illegally enter the country, including those accompanied by their children, for 8 U.S.C. § 1325(a), illegal entry.
“Children whose parents are referred for prosecution will be placed with the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR).”
Another FAQ section deals with questions including “Why Are Parents Being Separated From Their Children?”; “Where Are Children Going?”; and “What Happens to Children in HHS Custody?”
The DHS made a step-by-step guide for detained adults who are trying to reach their children called “Next Steps for Families.”
Furthermore, the rise of facilities that house children separated from their families at the border during Trump’s administration has been well documented.
Nielsen’s real argument is that border crossers are criminals
Nielsen continued: “For those seeking asylum at ports of entry, we have continued the policy from previous Administrations and will only separate if the child is in danger, there is no custodial relationship between ‘family’ members, or if the adult has broken a law.”
Unauthorized border crossings have always been illegal, but previous administrations did not criminally prosecute all border crossers the way Trump’s attorney general, Jeff Sessions, has.
Detainees in the US who are charged with criminal wrongdoing have always been separated from their children; by treating all adult border crossers as criminals, Trump’s administration has therefore crafted a policy that leads families to be separated at the border.
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The Trump administration could be holding 30,000 illegal immigrant children by the end of August as a result of its push to enforce federal immigration laws, which has led to the separation of children from their parents and guardians as those adults are prosecuted.
A senior administration official who asked not to be identified said the Department of Health and Human Services has been taking in about 250 children per day in recent weeks. HHS is the agency that is taking in children when they are separated from their families.
An HHS official added that the agency expects to be taking about 250 kids each day at least for the next two months. If that estimate holds, HHS could be caring for 18,500 more children by the end of August.
The HHS official said as of Friday, HHS was already holding 11,500 children, which means the total could hit 30,000 by August.
The practice of separating children from illegal immigrant adults has become highly controversial in the last few weeks, and is something Democrats have highlighted as a practice that needs to stop.
The Trump administration has defended the policy by saying illegal immigrants need to know that if they try entering the U.S., they will be prosecuted, which could lead to separation from their children. Officials have said U.S. citizens face the same risk when they commit crimes.
But administration officials have also said they support a change to the federal law that requires prosecution and family separation, and have blamed Democrats for current law.
Illegal immigration along the southwestern U.S. border has spiked in the last few months, even though administration officials have said they expect Trump’s zero-tolerance policy to eventually dissuade more from coming. A Justice Department spokesman told the Washington Examiner last week the zero-tolerance policy is not expected to lead to a decline in the number of illegal immigrants attempting to make the trek to the U.S. from primarily Central American countries until early fall.
Under current practice, HHS takes care of unaccompanied illegal immigrant children as well as now those under the age of 18 who must be cared for while the adults they were apprehended with are prosecuted for illegal entry. This spring, Sessions directed federal prosecutors stationed at the border to bring charges against all migrants that U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers took into custody.
However, family units that arrive at ports of entry and request asylum will not be prosecuted because they have not attempted to enter the country illegally, several DHS officials confirmed to the Washington Examiner. They will also be kept together as they go through the asylum process. These groups are detained in DHS facilities while minors are directed to HHS.
In an attempt to secure housing for the coming flood of children, HHS selected the Tornillo Land Port of Entry near El Paso, Texas, last week as the first back-up site to temporarily house around 360 minors.
The Trump administration is also advancing a plan to tentatively house unaccompanied minors in tent cities located on three Texas military bases due to increasing border apprehensions and a shortage of beds for the underage immigrants.
“[Health and Human Services] is running out of space because of the implications of the zero tolerance policy, but also because we continue to see this uptick in numbers,” an official confirmed to the Washington Examiner last week.
HHS officials are looking at Fort Bliss near El Paso, Dyess Air Force Base in Abilene, and Goodfellow Air Force Base in San Angelo, the official confirmed.
After a few weeks on the job, President Trump’s attorney Rudy Giuliani is beginning to sound like the Vince Shlomi of constitutional law. Shlomi became a household name for his mesmerizing low-grade “ShamWow” commercials promising a towel that “holds 20 times its weight” and “doesn’t drip, doesn’t make a mess.” He would ask, “Why do you want to work twice as hard?” when you could just pull out a ShamWow.
Asked about the jailing of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort for witness tampering, Giuliani declared, “Things might get cleaned up with some presidential pardons.” The only thing missing to complete the Shlomi comparison was a picture of a pardon soaking up a bowlful of special counsel Robert Mueller’s indictments.
The pardon power is not a ShamWow for presidents to clean up scandals. True, the Constitution gives a president total discretion in the granting of pardons and commutations. However, it was not designed, and should not be used, to protect figures like Manafort or Trump personal attorney Michael Cohen. Shortly after Manafort was thrown into jail pending trial, Trump lamented, “Wow, what a tough sentence for Paul Manafort, who has represented Ronald Reagan, Bob Dole and many other top political people and campaigns. Didn’t know Manafort was the head of the mob.”In waving around the pardon power, Giuliani essentially offered a Shlomiesque, “Not wow, Mr. President, ShamWow!” The problem is that Manafort would be the least compelling pardon recipient since President Clinton pardoned his own half brother and Marc Rich, a fugitive Democratic donor. It is true that Manafort is not “the head of the mob,” but he is facing compelling allegations of an array of criminal acts running the gamut of the criminal code. Indeed, the list of indictments would have made mob boss John Gotti blush.
For months, I have written about Manafort’s longstanding reputation for being reckless. It was the reason some observers expressed surprise when he was chosen as Trump’s campaign chairman. He is now accused, however, of an act of sheer stupidity that is truly breathtaking: A grand jury indicted him on additional charges of witness tampering after he allegedly tried to coach witnesses over the telephone while under the continual monitoring of a house arrest.
Trump has complained that Manafort is being prosecuted for things that happened “12 years ago.” However, that is why a pardon would be so problematic. Most independent observers view the charges against Manafort as exceptionally strong. Trump would need to pardon him for crimes ranging from fraud to conspiracy and witness tampering to money laundering and tax violations to false statements.
The same is true with Michael Cohen. This pardon talk notably got louder when reports surfaced that Cohen had fired his lawyers and was considering “flipping” as a cooperating witness. However, he also faces a long list of criminal allegations, ranging from business fraud to tax violations to lobbying violations to false statements. The vast majority deal with dubious business practices unrelated to the Trump campaign.
While it is true that none of these alleged crimes might have been identified had Manafort and Cohen not assumed such visible positions, that does not mean they are not criminals or should not be punished for their crimes. In the end, pardons could certainly keep associates loyal and uncooperative with prosecutors, but a pardon may not be quite as legally absorbent as Giuliani suggests. A president cannot pardon away future crimes. Thus, Manafort and Cohen could be called to testify under oath and could be charged with any new acts of perjury or other crimes. A pardon would make it more difficult for the men to refuse to testify under their privilege against self-incrimination.
Finally, a presidential pardon does not protect against state crimes, which, for Cohen, is a particular concern. Giuliani noted that a potpourri of pardons could come “when the whole thing is over.” It is not clear what that time frame might mean. Ironically, if Mueller is slow-walking the investigation, Giuliani’s words would encourage him to reduce that to a glacial pace. Yet, if it comes too early, they could still be forced to testify and require a daisy chain of pardons for any new false statements or criminal acts. The pardons would also have to cover not only the alleged crimes being investigated by Mueller but alleged crimes uncovered by career prosecutors in the Southern District of New York.
Presidential pardons were meant to address manifest injustices. No matter how you feel about the original basis of the special counsel investigation, it is hard to say that the prosecution of Manafort or Cohen would be an injustice to any degree. Indeed, using this power to relieve them of any accountability for crimes worth tens of millions of dollars would be a manifest injustice. They agreed to take high-profile positions and, when one does so, one accepts greater scrutiny. Hence the old expression, “One day on the cover of Time, next day doing time.”
Trump is correct that he and his campaign had nothing to do with these crimes. That is the point: Just as Manafort and Cohen should not be accused of crimes simply because of their connection to Trump, they should not be excused for prior crimes on the same basis. If Trump is going to grant immunity for any crime of any kind at any time, all of the ShamWows in the world won’t absorb the stain that would be left behind.
WASHINGTON (AP) – President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman is going to jail.
Paul Manafort was ordered into custody Friday after a federal judge revoked his house arrest, citing newly filed obstruction of justice charges. The move by U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson came after prosecutors accused Manafort and a longtime associate of witnesses tampering.
Manafort is the first Trump campaign official to be jailed as part of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation. His attorneys have argued that Manafort didn’t do anything wrong and accused prosecutors of conjuring a “sinister plot” out of “innocuous” contacts with witnesses.
Manafort will remain in jail while he awaits two trials in the next few months. He faces several felony charges related to his Ukrainian political work and money he funneled through offshore accounts.
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(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF ROLLING STONE MAGAZINE)
Trump Defies Sessions by Saying He Will ‘Probably’ Support Marijuana Bill
The president appears to be joining a group of lawmakers pushing back on the attorney general’s marijuana policy
Before heading on a trip abroad that will take him to the G-7 summit in Canada on Friday, and then to Singapore to meet with Kim Jong-un early next Tuesday, President Trump hinted that he is likely to support a bill introduced Thursday that would protect state marijuana laws from federal interference. “I really do,” Trump said when asked outside the White House on Friday whether supports the bill, which was co-authored by Senator Cory Gardner, a Republican from Colorado. “I support Senator Gardner. I know exactly what he’s doing. We’re looking at it. But I probably will end up supporting it, yes.”
Though over half of all states have passed some form of legislation legalizing marijuana, the drug is still illegal under federal law, which classifies it as a Schedule I narcotic along with heroin, LSD and other drugs the government deem to have “no currently accepted medical use.” Marijuana business is growing rapidly in states where it is legal, but federal restrictions have led to a number of complications. Most banks, for instance, refuse to have relationships with marijuana-related companies, for fear prosecution from federal law enforcement.
“There are federal laws about not being able to put your money into banks if the money comes from illegal activities,” Senator Elizabeth Warren, who co-authored the bill with Gardner, explained Thursday morning on MSNBC. “So long as the sale of marijuana is illegal at the federal level, that means that marijuana stores that are perfectly legal in Colorado or Massachusetts or other states have to do an all-cash business. It’s dangerous and it’s dumb.”
The STATES – or Strengthening the Tenth Amendment Through Entrusting States – Act would remove marijuana from the federal schedule of controlled substances in states where it is legal, and allow financial institutions to deal with marijuana businesses as long as those business are legal under state law. The Tenth Amendment reserves that states are in control of all “powers” not outlined in the Constitution. “Our founders intended the states to be laboratories of democracy and many states right now find themselves deep in the heart of that laboratory, but its created significant conflict between state law [and] federal law,” Gardner said alongside Warren as they introduced the bill on Thursday.
Though the bill would largely strip away federal influence from how states are able to enforce their marijuana laws, there are a few caveats. The bill holds that employees of marijuana businesses must be 18 years or older, and that recreational marijuana may only be sold to people 21 and over. It also stipulates that dispensaries may not be set up at rest stops along interstate highways.
Though the president has in the past voiced a desire to leave marijuana legalization up to the states, many have wondered if this latest expression of support may be a result of his intensifying feud with his attorney general, Jeff Sessions, who is a staunch opponent of marijuana legalization and has used his position as the government’s chief legal authority to crack down on convictions related to the drug. In January, Sessions put an end to an Obama administration policy that limited the degree to which federal authorities could enforce marijuana law in states where the drug was legal. Gardner, whose home state of Colorado has legalized recreational use of marijuana, criticized the move immediately.
This reported action directly contradicts what Attorney General Sessions told me prior to his confirmation. With no prior notice to Congress, the Justice Department has trampled on the will of the voters in CO and other states.
I am prepared to take all steps necessary, including holding DOJ nominees, until the Attorney General lives up to the commitment he made to me prior to his confirmation.
Gardner isn’t the only lawmaker pushing back against Sessions’s draconian stance on the drug, and those supporting reform have stressed the bipartisan nature of their efforts. In April, Republican Senator Orrin Hatch and California Democrat Kamala Harris wrote a letter to the attorney general asking him to cease blocking research in to marijuana’s medicinal properties. As Gardner and Warren introduced the STATES bill on Friday, Representatives Earl Blumenauer, a Democrat from Oregon, and David Joyce, a Republican from Ohio, introduced a companion bill in the House. At a news conference Thursday, Warren said, “lining them up like Noah’s Ark as they come on two-by-two,” in reference to her and Gardner’s desire to match each of the bill’s co-sponsors with one from the other party.
Despite the attorney general’s vigilant opposition to any form of legalized pot Gardner has said he’s received multiple assurances from President Trump that he would support a bill giving power back to the states, and the president’s comments Friday morning reinforce the belief that he will ultimately endorse the bill. Trump has in recent months made good on several controversial campaign promises, including removing American from the Iran deal and relocating the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem. Marijuana reform could soon be added to the list.
“In terms of marijuana and legalization, I think that should be a state issue, state-by-state,” Trump told the Washington Post while campaigning back in 2015. “Marijuana is such a big thing. I think medical should happen – right? Don’t we agree? I think so. And then I really believe we should leave it up to the states.”
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Almost exactly one year ago, North Korea returned an imprisoned 22-year-old American college student to his family in the United States. It was not a happy reunion.
Otto Warmbier, whom the North Koreans had imprisoned for more than a year, arrived in a coma and died a few days later — spurring President Donald Trump to rail against the “brutality” of a North Korean government that lacked “basic human decency.” Trump gradually focused his attacks on the regime’s leader, Kim Jong Un, calling him a “sick puppy” and a “madman who doesn’t mind starving or killing his people.”
In Singapore this week, Trump warmly embraced that so-called madman.
He called Kim a “smart” and “funny guy” who “loves his people.” He predicted the two of them would have a “terrific relationship.” Trump told reporters that human rights had come up only briefly, but he gave no indication that he had confronted Kim about Warmbier’s death, whose precise cause remains unclear.
Still, Trump described what happened to Warmbieras a catalyst for the sudden, if uncertain, rapprochement between America and North Korea, saying the University of Virginia student “did not die in vain.”
Trump’s public turnabout on Kim and his regime’s atrocious human rights record was among the most dizzying developments of the past 48 hours, which saw the two leaders meet in Singapore for an unprecedented nuclear summit. It dismayed lawmakers, human rights activists and others who — while supportive of diplomacy — fear that Trump went overboard in his flattery of Kim to the point of normalizing his rule.
“Kim’s gulags, public executions, planned starvation, are legitimized on the world stage,” Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut raged on Twitter. “What the hell?”
“Talking to dictators is one thing; embracing them is another,” former Vice President Joe Biden said in a statement, denouncing “the horrendous human rights abuses North Korea’s leaders perpetrate against their own people.”
“It was really over the top and excessive,” added Sarah Margon, Washington director for Human Rights Watch.
Amid the outrage is the question of what, practically speaking, Trump could have accomplished.
Past American presidents have pressed Middle Eastern and Asian autocrats over lists of political prisoners numbering in the dozens or hundreds. Kim has imprisoned many thousands of people for what amount to thought crimes, and political executions are commonplace.As a self-proclaimed supreme ruler, it may be nearly impossible for him to concede that he has governed in anything but a judicious way.
Some activists nevertheless argued that Trump could have used his interaction with Kim to win a broad gesture such as granting the United Nations access to his forced labor camps, and that if Kim agreed, it would have bolstered the credibility of his pledge to denuclearize. But Kim offered no hint that he is prepared to address the subject, and a joint statement he and Trump signed after their meeting made no mention of it.
Kim’s totalitarian regime may be the world’s cruelest, with practices reminiscent of the Nazis and the Soviet Union under Josef Stalin. The government, run by Kim’s father and grandfather before him, is believed to keep as many as 100,000 people— quite possibly more — in gulags and other detention sites, many in slave-like conditions. Defectors describe a terror state with zero tolerance for dissent, in which entire families are often punished for the actions of one member.
The young Kim — thought to be in his early- to mid-30s — has ruled just as ruthlessly as his father, who died in 2011. He’s alleged to have consolidated power by having an uncle executed — reportedly by anti-aircraft guns — and ordering his half-brother’s murder with nerve agent in a Malaysian airport.
Few observers expected Trump to challenge Kim vigorously on human rights. The subject in general hasn’t been a priority for the Republican president.
Just a few months ago, however, North Korea was an exception to that rule: Throughout 2017, as Trump ramped up sanctions on Pyongyang, he repeatedly highlighted the “depraved” Kim regime’s human rights abuses.
During a visit to South Korea last fall, Trump denounced the “horror of life” across the border, saying that people “would rather be slaves than live in North Korea.” In January, Trump invited to his State of the Union address Ji Seong-ho, a North Korean amputee who’d fled the country on crutches that he raised in defiance as Trump hailed his bravery on national television.
And by all accounts, Trump was genuinely distressed by the fate of Warmbier, whom the North Koreans held captive for 17 months for allegedly trying to steal a propaganda poster from a hotel wherehe was staying during a visit. (In a statement Tuesday, Warmbier’s family said: “We appreciate President Trump’s recent comments about our family. We are proud of Otto and miss him. Hopefully something positive can come from this.”)
But Trump is a real estate mogul who puts great stock in personal relationships, and he appears to have decided it’s more productive to be nice to a ruthless autocratalready accustomed to being treated like a god.
When asked by Voice of America’s Greta Van Susteren how Kim reacted when Trump raised human rights, Trump said: “Very well,” before acknowledging it was only a small part of the conversation. Trump went on to indicate that the reason Kim has been a “rough guy” is because that’s the only way his family has known how to rule.
“He’s doing what he’s seen done,” Trump said, suggesting that Kim can change. “He’s smart, loves his people, he loves his country. He wants a lot of good things, and that’s why he’s doing this.”
Although Trump is the first sitting president willing to meet face-to-face with a North Korean leader, other U.S. presidents have sat down with autocrats from friendly and adversarial countries alike.
Former President Richard Nixon made history when he met China’s Mao Zedong in February 1972. Trump’s immediate predecessor, Barack Obama, met with Cuba’s Raúl Castro. Plenty of U.S. presidents have met, and even held hands, with the monarchs who’ve led Saudi Arabia.
James Carafano, a foreign policy analyst with the Heritage Foundation, said thatin the long run the United States must engage North Korea on its human rights practices but that diplomacy at this stage requires prioritization.
“In good U.S. diplomacy human rights is always on the menu. That doesn’t mean it’s always the first course,” Carafano wrote in an email.
Several U.S. lawmakers, including top Democrats, sent out carefully crafted statements that either didn’t raise or made scant mention of human rights — reflecting a widespread belief that ridding North Korea of its nuclear weapons through diplomacy is a much higher priority.
“We must remain sober about who Kim Jong Un is: a brutal dictator who has killed his family, overseen campaigns of mass murder and starvation, and masterfully manipulated his rivals on the global stage,” Rep. Eliot Engel of New York, the ranking Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said at the end of a lengthy statement.
One concern is that Kim — who rarely leaves North Korea and has limited diplomatic experience — will take Trump’s lack of emphasis on human rights as a sign of American indifference to how he treats his people.
Amnesty International spearheaded a letter to Trump in advance of the summit urging him to seize the opportunity this week to ask Kim for immediate positive moves on human rights. Francisco Bencosme, who handles Asia-related issues for Amnesty, stressed that it’s not known exactly what Trump said to Kim about human rights, but it doesn’t appear the president took a strong stance.
Bencosme said Trump could have asked Kim to give U.N. officials access to North Korean prisoners, or urged him to help reunite North and South Korean families torn apart by the Korean War. Such moves would have been “a way of opening up the aperture on human rights issues,” Bencosme said.
And such moves are not without precedent.
The Obama administration’s outreach to Myanmar, long an isolated, pariah regime, included requests that the government free hundreds of political prisoners to help demonstrate its seriousness about improving ties with the United States. That led to freedom for at least 1,500 people, including some very prominent opponents of the junta that had run the country. But even within the Obama administration there were fierce debates over how much to push Myanmar on human rights.
When asked by a reporter Tuesday whether he had “betrayed” the people trapped in North Korea’s gulag system, Trump grew defensive — then suggested those prisoners should think long-term.
“I think I’ve helped them because I think things will change,” Trump said. “That large group of people that you’re talking about — I think ultimately they are going to be one of the great winners as a group.”
Asked about Warmbier, Trump said the college student’s tragic death had played a pivotal role in bringing about the summit — even though he had not previously mentioned it as a reason for his diplomatic push with Kim.
“I think without Otto, this would not have happened. Something happened from that day. It was a terrible thing. It was brutal. But a lot of people started to focus on what was going on, including North Korea,” Trump said.
“I really think that Otto is someone who did not die in vain.”
“The only thing that Kim has done is suspend testing of weapons, that’s not giving them away,” said Bruce Bechtol, a professor of political science at Angelo State University who has authored several books on North Korea.
North Korea had declared earlier this year that since the country had satisfactorily achieved all it wanted with regard to its nuclear program, it would suspend its tests. Since then, it has closed down two test sites. Trump announced on Tuesday that Kim had informed him that he would be shutting down a third, one that tested missile engines.
Stunning press conference
But perhaps the most stunning moment of the summit came after Kim had left the summit venue. In a freewheeling press conference lasting more than an hour, Trump was pressed by reporters to elaborate on the security guarantees he could provide to North Korea. In response, Trump pointed to the presence of nearly 30,000 US troops in South Korea, something that has long irked not only North Korea, but also its biggest backer: China.
“I want to get our soldiers out. I want to bring our soldiers back home,” Trump said.
While the US President qualified that a troop withdrawal was “not part of the equation right now,” he made it clear that it could be, in the future.
And to the apparent surprise of South Korea, Trump promised to halt what he called “the war games” — joint military exercises with South Korea — that North Korea has long regarded as a provocation. They were expensive, inappropriate — and “provocative,” he said.
Trump: We will stop ‘war games’01:21
To Korea-watchers, the commitment to suspend these regular training drills would raise questions about the continued presence of US forces in the region.
“If we have a force of 28,500 military personnel that does not conduct training, then we may as well bring them home and this is what I fear from President Trump’s comments that war games cost a lot of money and South Korea does not pay sufficient funds,” said David Maxwell, a retired US Army Special Forces colonel and a fellow at the Institute of Korean American Studies. “A force that does not train is of no value to deterrence and no value to war fighting and does a disservice to those military personnel and our national security.”
Low expectations on human rights
There were few expectations that Trump would confront Kim on the many issues North Korea faces, like its appalling human rights record, the North Koreans who slave in labor camps, the kidnapped foreign nationals from South Korea and Japan, and beyond, its arsenal of medium and short range missiles.
Trump: North Koreans in prison camps are ‘winners’
Those have been high on the list of priorities for North Korea’s neighbors including Japan and South Korea. The leaders of both countries spoke to Trump while he was in Singapore before he met with Kim to ensure their fears were firmly in Trump’s mind when he spoke to Kim Jong Un.
As he spoke to reporters, Trump rejected the suggestion that even by meeting with Kim, he’d given the young leader a win.
“It’s not a big deal to meet,” he insisted.
Experts watching the talks disagreed.
“Throughout the tenure of Kim Jong Il [Kim Jong Un’s father], a meeting with a sitting US president was the ultimate sign of the country’s international recognition,” said Catherine Dill, a research associate at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies.
How North Korea got its nuclear program01:16
“Through parsing North Korean state media during Kim Jong Un’s tenure, North Korea plainly seeks the legitimacy that a summit might confer. I think it would only be more priceless for Kim Jong Un if President Trump was coming to North Korea.”
That, by the way, was a possibility Trump told reporters he would consider. He also said he would “absolutely” invite Kim Jong Un to the White House.
On the North Korean laborers, Trump said: “I think I’ve helped them,” adding: “Not much I can do right now, but at some point. I think they are one of the great winners today.”
On human rights, Trump steered the conversation to the matter of the remains of American servicemen missing in action and presumed dead from fighting during the Korean War. About 5,300 of the nearly 7,800 U.S. troops who are still unaccounted for from the 1950-53 war were missing in North Korea. “Human rights were discussed and will be discussed in the future,” Trump said. “What was also discussed in great detail and I must have had countless calls and letters, they want the remains of their sons back. I asked for it today and I got it.”
Little that wasn’t in past statements
The document Trump and Kim signed had little of the detail that past agreements with North Korea had laid out. It echoed statements already agreed to by North Korea when Kim Jong Un met with South Korean President Moon Jae-in last April.
Tuesday’s communiqué said that North Korea “commits to work towards the complete denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.”
North Korea, South Korea Meet to discuss summit
In contrast, the agreement signed in 2005 between North Korea and the US, China, Japan, Russia and South Korea, committed Pyongyang “to abandoning all nuclear weapons and existing nuclear programs and returning, at an early date, to the Treaty on the Nonproliferation of Nuclear Weapons and to IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency] safeguards.”
“The North Koreans have given nothing so far, while the Americans on the other hand have given Kim Jong Un a summit with the US president,” said Andrew O’Neil, the dean of research at the Griffith Business School in Australia.
“Whatever happens from now, Pyongyang comes out of this looking like it’s scored a major victory. It’s an instructive and compelling lesson on how weak states can achieve asymmetrical outcomes if they are prepared to stand tough against materially stronger powers,” he said.
South Korea: North Korea committed to denuclearization
The White House told reporters Tuesday that it had largely agreed to North Korea’s demand for parity in all aspects of the summit, from the number of officials during the bilateral meetings to the number of US and North Korean flags side by side during the arrival ceremony. The images of the six US and six North Korean flags in the background of the Trump-Kim handshake will undoubtedly be used by North Korean propaganda to suggest the US and North Korea are on level footing, another boost to Kim’s legitimacy at home.
The North Koreans have spent decades negotiating with the West, and have studied the Trump White House and were prepared for this meeting, and it showed, said Jean H. Lee, director of the Hyundai Motor-Korea Foundation Center for Korean History and Public Policy.
“To see President Trump and Kim Jong Un shaking hands warmly and chatting so easily was both stunning and chilling,” she told CNN. “It’s a powerful moment that augers a change in the tense relationship between these two countries. But it also legitimizes the path Kim took to get here: Building and testing illicit nuclear weapons that have the potential to wreak unimaginable destruction.”
For Kim Jong Un, this momentous day was one for North Korea’s history books that won’t require exaggeration.
CNN’s Jeremy Diamond contributed to this report
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Watch the video shown before the Trump-Kim news conference
Before the news conference President Trump held at the end of his June 12 summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, a propaganda-style film was played.(The Washington Post)
Reporters crowded into a Singapore auditorium Tuesday, expecting President Trump to walk out and announce the results of his historic meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
Suddenly, two huge screens on either side of the empty podium came to life. Soaring music boomed over the speakers, and the reporters were bombarded with a montage portraying North Korea as some sort of paradise.
Golden sunrises, gleaming skylines and high-speed trains. Children skipping through Kim Il Sung square in Pyongyang. North Korean flags fluttering between images of Egyptian pyramids, the Taj Mahal and the Lincoln Memorial.
In a split-screen shot, Kim Jong Un waved to an adoring crowd while President Trump stood beside him with his thumb in the air. The pair appeared over and over again, like running mates in a campaign video.
The film went on like this for more than four minutes, with brief interludes of missiles, soldiers and warships interrupting the pageantry. Some journalists, unable to understand the Korean-language narration, assumed they were watching one of Pyongyang’s infamous propaganda films. “What country are we in?” asked a reporter from the filing center.
They are playing a propaganda video before Trump presser. Not kidding. What is happening??!!
But then the video looped, playing this time in English.And then Trump walked onto the stage and confirmed what some had already realized.
The film was not North Korean propaganda. It had been made in America, by or on the orders of his White House, for the benefit of Kim.
“I hope you liked it,” Trump told the reporters. “I thought it was good. I thought it was interesting enough to show. … And I think he loved it.”
The crowd sounded skeptical. Some wondered if Trump had not, in fact, just provided U.S.-sanctioned propaganda to one of the country’s oldest adversaries.
But as the president explained it, the video was more like an elevator pitch. It was the type of glitzy production that Trump might have once used to persuade investors to finance his hotels, and now hoped could persuade one of the most repressive regimes in the world to disarm its nuclear weapons and end nearly 70 years of international isolation and militant hostility to the United States.
The nearly five-minute movie even had its own Hollywood-style vanity logo: “A Destiny Pictures Production,” though a film company by the same name in Los Angeles denied any involvement in making it, and the White House has not yet responded to questions about it.
“Of those alive today, only a small number will leave a lasting impact,” the narrator said near the beginning, as alternating shots of Trump, Kim and North Korean pageantry flashed on the screen. “And only a very few will make decisions or take actions to renew their homeland, or change the course of history.”
The message was clear: Kim had a decision to make. Then the film progressed from grim black-and-white shots of the United States’ 1950s-era war with North Korea into a montage of rose-colored parades and gold-tinted clouds.
“The past doesn’t have to be the future,” the narrator said. “What if a people that share a common and rich heritage can find a common future?”
The same technique repeated even more dramatically a minute later in the film, when the footage seemed to melt into a horror montage of war planes and missiles bearing down on North Korean cities — much like the apocalyptic propaganda videos Pyongyang had produced just a few months ago, when Kim and Trump sounded as if they were on the brink of nuclear war.
But in Trump’s film, the destruction rewound itself. The missiles flew back into to their launchers, and a science fiction-like version of North Korea took its place — one of crane-dotted skylines, crowded highways, computerized factories and drones, all presided over by a waving, grinning Kim.
“You can have medical breakthroughs, an abundance of resources, innovative technology and new discoveries,” the narrator said, the footage more and more resembling a Hollywood movie trailer as it built to its finale:
“Featuring President Donald Trump and Chairman Kim Jong Un in a meeting to remake history,” the narrator concluded, as Korean words flashed on a black background: “It is going to become a reality?”
Haven’t seen this before: Before POTUS comes out for press conference, WH shows a Michael Bay-esque video showing Trump and Kim, military weapons, bombs
The reporters had many questions.
“Do you now see Kim Jong Un as an equal?” asked a Time magazine correspondent.
“In what way?” Trump asked.
“You just showed a video that showed you and Kim Jong Un on equal footing, and discussing the future of the country.”
The president may have misunderstood the question, as he referred in his answer to his closed-door talks and a few carefully negotiated photo ops with Kim — not the U.S.-made video that presented the totalitarian autocrat as a hero.
“If I have to say I’m sitting on a stage with Chairman Kim and that gets us to save 30 million lives — it could be more than that — I’m willing to sit on a stage, I’m willing to travel to Singapore, very proudly,” Trump said.
“Are you concerned the video you just showed could be used by Kim as propaganda, to show him as …”
Trump cut the question off. “No, I’m not concerned at all. We can use that video for other countries.”
The president was more talkative when discussing how Kim had reacted to the video, which Trump had presumably played for him during a brief, private meeting hours earlier.
“We didn’t have a big screen like you have the luxury of having,” Trump said. “We didn’t need it, because we had it on cassette, uh, an iPad.
“And they played it. About eight of their representatives were watching it, and I thought they were fascinated by it. I thought it was well done. I showed it to you because that’s the future. I mean, that could very well be the future. And the other alternative is just not a very good alternative. It’s just not good.”
International reviews of the video were decidedly mixed.
“Schlocky” — Vanity Fair.
“Odd.” — The Canadian Broadcasting Corp.
“One observer dismissed it as ‘a word salad topped with gratuitous appeasement of a monstrous regime,'” the South China Morning Post reported.
The Daily Mail noted that as the narrator described North Korea’s glorious future of technology and international investment, the video showed stock footage of the Miami Beach shoreline, not far from a Trump-owned hotel. The Spectator called the whole sequence “real-estate politik” — which wasn’t necessarily a bad thing.
“The text reads like some godawful martial-arts movie trailer crossed with a corporate advertisement for an ambitious construction project,” Freddy Gray wrote for the British newspaper. “But clearly, in some peculiar way, it works.”
The president acknowledged that some of the film’s imagery may seem far-fetched. North Korea is mired in poverty, internationally isolated, and has been mismanaged for decades by a family of dictators — Kim, his father and grandfather.
“That was done at the highest level of future development,” Trump told the reporters in Singapore, as if he had just offered Kim a multi-tiered vacation package. “I told him, you may not want this. You may want to do a much smaller version. … You may not want that, with the trains and everything.”
He waved his hands. “You know, with super everything, to the top. It’s going to be up to them.”
And then, in his usual style, Trump was thinking out loud about the “great condos” that might one day be built on the “great beaches” of North Korea.
“I explained it,” he said. “You could have the best hotels in the world. Think of it from the real estate perspective.”
As the screens above Trump emphasized, he certainly had. Anne Gearan, Min Joo Kim and Philip Rucker contributed to this r
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