Posts Tagged ‘Ivanka Trump’

Israeli forces kill dozens in Gaza as U.S. Embassy opens in Jerusalem — bloodiest single day for Palestinians since 2014

May 15, 2018

Israeli troops shot dead dozens of Palestinian protesters on the Gaza border on Monday when the high-profile opening of the U.S. embassy to Israel in Jerusalem by the Trump administration raised tension to boiling point after weeks of demonstrations.

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Senior White House Adviser Ivanka Trump (L) stands next to the dedication plaque at the U.S. embassy in Jerusalem, and (R) a wounded Palestinian demonstrator is evacuated as others take cover from Israeli fire and tear gas during a protest at the Israel-Gaza border in the southern Gaza Strip, May 14, 2018. REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa

In the bloodiest single day for Palestinians since 2014, Palestinian Health Ministry officials said 58 protesters were killed and 2,700 injured by live gunfire, tear gas or other means.

The bloodshed drew calls for restraint from some countries, including France and Britain, and stronger criticism from others, with regional power Turkey calling it “a massacre”.

The White House declined to join in urging Israel to exercise caution and pinned the blame squarely on Gaza’s ruling Hamas group, backing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who described the Israeli military’s actions as self-defence of his country’s borders.

In siding squarely with Israel, Washington put distance between itself and its European allies for the second time in a week, after angering France, Germany and others last Tuesday by abandoning an international nuclear deal with Iran.

In contrast to the violent scenes in Gaza, Israeli dignitaries and guests attended a ceremony in Jerusalem to open the U.S. Embassy following its relocation from Tel Aviv.

The move fulfilled a pledge by U.S. President Donald Trump, who in December recognized the holy city as the Israeli capital.

Netanyahu thanked Trump for “having the courage to keep your promises”.

U.S. Senator Tim Kaine, the top Democrat on the foreign relations subcommittee that covers the region, told Reuters the situation was “tragic” and said “It’s not viewed as the U.S. trying to solve a problem, it’s viewed as the U.S. just stepping away from the problem, and that’s sad.”

Palestinians seek East Jerusalem as the capital of a state they hope to establish in the occupied West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

Israel regards all of the city, including the eastern sector it captured in the 1967 Middle East war and annexed in a move that is not recognized internationally, as its “eternal and indivisible capital”.

Most countries say the status of Jerusalem – a sacred city to Jews, Muslims and Christians – should be determined in a final peace settlement and that moving their embassies now would prejudge any such deal.

Peace talks aimed a finding a two-state solution to the conflict have been frozen since 2014.

BORDER BLOODSHED

Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in December outraged Palestinians, who said the United States could no longer serve as an honest broker in any peace process.

A senior Hamas leader, Khalil Al-Hayya, said at a border encampment that Monday’s protest was timed to coincide with the “deplorable crime of moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem”.

He said: “Our people went out today to respond to this new Zionist-American aggression, and to draw by their blood the map of their return.”

In Gaza, Palestinian protests quickly turned into bloodshed. Tens of thousands had streamed to the edge of the coastal enclave’s land border, some approaching the Israeli fence.

“Today is the big day when we will cross the fence and tell Israel and the world we will not accept being occupied forever,” said Gaza science teacher Ali, who declined to give his last name.

Clouds of black smoke from tyres set alight by demonstrators rose in the air. Demonstrators, some armed with slingshots, hurled stones at the Israeli security forces, who fired volleys of tear gas and intense rounds of gunfire.

The protests, which have been going on for weeks, are scheduled to culminate on Tuesday, the day Palestinians mourn as the “Nakba” or “Catastrophe” when, in 1948, hundreds of thousands of them were driven out of their homes or fled the fighting around Israel’s creation.

Netanyahu blamed Hamas for the Gaza violence.

“Every country has an obligation to defend its borders,” he wrote on Twitter. “The Hamas terrorist organization declares it intends to destroy Israel and sends thousands to breach the border fence in order to achieve this goal. We will continue to act with determination to protect our sovereignty and citizens.”

Hamas denied instigating the violence, but the White House backed Netanyahu. “The responsibility for these tragic deaths rests squarely with Hamas. Hamas is intentionally and cynically provoking this response,” White House spokesman Raj Shah told reporters.

In a small protest outside the White House, some protesters chanted “Palestine will be free”.

The Israeli military said in a statement: “Rioters hurled firebombs and explosive devices at the security fence and Israeli troops”. The soldiers’ response, it said, was in accordance with “standard operating procedures”.

The dead included at least six people under 18 years of age, including one girl. The total number of fatalities since a series of protests to demand Palestinians’ right to return to their ancestral homes in Israel is now 103.

They also included a medic and a man in a wheelchair who had been pictured on social media using a slingshot. The Israeli military said three of those killed were armed militants who tried to place explosives near the fence.

Sirens of ambulances carrying casualties to hospitals wailed almost non-stop all day. In Gaza mosques, loudspeakers mourned the dead, who were carried for burial in funeral marches.

“These war crimes should not go unpunished and the international community has a responsibility to provide international protection for the Palestinian people,” senior Palestinian official Saeb Erekat said after a meeting of the Palestinian leadership in the West Bank town of Ramallah.

Israel said it would reopen the Kerem Shalom goods crossing, which provides vital supplies for the enclave, from Tuesday. It was shut after Gaza protesters vandalized it on Friday night when they set fire to a gas pipeline and a goods conveyor.

CALLS FOR RESTRAINT

Trump, in a recorded message, said he remained committed to peace between Israel and the Palestinians. He was represented at the ceremony by his daughter Ivanka and his son-in-law Jared Kushner, U.S. envoy to the Middle East.

Kushner said it was possible for both sides in the conflict to gain more than give in any peace deal. “Jerusalem must remain a city that brings people of all faiths together,” he said in a speech.

But Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said the United States had opened an “American settlement outpost in East Jerusalem”. He announced a general strike on Tuesday.

Unlike the previous administration of former president Barack Obama which had a strained relationship with Netanyahu, Trump has firmly supported the Israeli leader.

Netanyahu has long been a critic of the nuclear deal with Iran, which Trump abandoned last week despite complaints from other U.S. allies.

The Pentagon confirmed it had deployed additional U.S. Marine guards to temporarily bolster security at several U.S. embassies after the violence but declined to say which ones. A U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity, confirmed the deployments bolstered security at U.S. embassies including Israel, Jordan and Turkey.

French President Emmanuel Macron said he plans to talk to all involved parties in the region over the next few days.

Britain said it had no plans to move its Israel embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and disagreed with the U.S. decision to do so. French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said the U.S. move flouted international law.

Turkey accused Israeli security forces of carrying out a massacre and said the U.S. embassy move had encouraged them.

The United States on Monday blocked a Kuwait-drafted U.N. Security Council statement that would have expressed “outrage and sorrow at the killing of Palestinian civilians” and called for an independent and transparent investigation, U.N. diplomats said.

More than 2 million people are crammed into the narrow Gaza strip, which is blockaded by Egypt and Israel.

The Trump administration says it has nearly completed a new Israeli-Palestinian peace plan but is undecided on how and when to roll it out.

Additional reporting by Alex Winning, Steve Holland, Yara Bayoumy, Doina Chiacu, Phil Stewart and Ori Lewis; Writing by Jeffrey Heller and Alistair Bell; Editing by Angus MacSwan, Janet Lawrence, Nick Tattersall, David Stamp and James Dalgleish

Reuters

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Israel to boost Gaza border, West Bank forces for US embassy move

May 13, 2018

The Israeli army said it would almost double the number of troops surrounding the Gaza Strip and in the occupied West Bank to tackle Palestinian protests against Monday’s controversial opening of a US embassy in Jerusalem.

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AFP

Three additional infantry brigades will be deployed next week, two around the Gaza Strip and one in the West Bank, army spokesman Jonathan Conricus told reporters on Saturday.

The move nearly doubles the number of fighting units currently serving, he said, without giving specific figures on troops to be deployed.

The announcement does not concern Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem, where responding to protests is the responsibility of the police.

US President Donald Trump will not attend the opening of the new embassy in Jerusalem on Monday, but his daughter Ivanka and son-in-law and key adviser Jared Kushner will.

A signature campaign promise, Trump’s December announcement of the embassy move led to major protests in Gaza and the West Bank.

Palestinians consider the eastern part of the city as their capital.

Tens of thousands of Palestinians are expected to protest along the Gaza border Monday, with the strip’s Islamist rulers Hamas voicing support in recent days for attempts to breach the fence into Israel.

“What’s the problem with hundreds of thousands breaking through a fence that is not a border?” the organisation’s Gaza head Yahya Sinwar said, arguing Israel has never defined its borders.

Palestinians in Gaza have been protesting for seven weeks to be able to return to their historic homes they fled in 1948 and which later became part of Israel.

A 15-year-old teenager who was shot in the head Friday succumbed to his wounds on Saturday evening, the Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza said.

The death brought to 54 the number of Palestinians killed since clashes began on March 30, with hundreds of others injured.

No Israelis have been injured.

Israel has vowed to use the necessary force to prevent any breach on Monday and has accused Hamas of using the protests as a pretext to carry out attacks.

On Saturday Conricus said the rules of engagement had not been changed.

The United Nations and the European Union have called for an independent investigation into the deaths, but the Jewish state has rebuffed them.

The United States has defended its ally and accused Hamas of using Palestinians, including children, as human shields by encouraging them to protest along the border.

Israel and Hamas have fought three wars since 2008.

Separately Saturday Israeli aircraft carried out a number of strikes against what the army said was a Hamas attack tunnel near the Gaza border.

AFP

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Israel: Jerusalem Embassy, Gaza, Palestinian Protesters, Hamas, Iran — a Busy Week

May 13, 2018
The Islamic State issues calls to show devotion to religion through violent action — Hamas plans a mass storming of the Gaza border with Israel on Nakba Day, just hours after the United States moves its embassy to Jerusalem. Israel is a busy place again this week….

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Israeli firefighters try to extinguish a fire near Gaza on May 8, 2018 after it was caused by incendiaries tied to kites flown by Palestinians.
Israeli firefighters try to extinguish a fire near Gaza on May 8, 2018 after it was caused by incendiaries tied to kites flown by Palestinians. Menahem Kahana / AFP

Israelis are no strangers to short stretches packed with historic and transformative events. But even for a country that has experienced turbulent times, the potential highs and lows of the upcoming week feel unprecedented.

Much of what will happen has been planned carefully, though surely no one behind the planning expected that the festivities and commemorations would follow the first significant exchanges of fire across the Syrian border in 40 years — which also marked the first military aggression on Israel directly attributable to Iran.

The drama on Israel’s border has yet to play out fully — neither has the previous week’s figurative bombshell — President Donald Trump’s announcement of the United States’ withdrawal from the Iranian nuclear deal and the reestablishment of economic sanctions.

The next chapter in this eventful week — and month — begins when the Jewish Sabbath ends Saturday evening and continues through Sunday: Jerusalem Day, the holiday marking the victory in the 1967 Six-Day War in which Israel gained territory including the Old City of Jerusalem and the rest of East Jerusalem.

Increasingly, Jerusalem Day events have become a rallying point for the religious-Zionist community. In the Flag March, thousands pass through the Old City, entering from the Damascus Gate and Jaffa Gate and gathering at the Western Wall. The growth of the event has been accompanied by unrest between the marchers and Palestinian residents of the Old City, including racist chants and physical harassment by the marchers as well as stone-throwing and scuffling between the two sides.

On Sunday evening, Jerusalem Day will transition into the celebration of the move of the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. The guest list for the Foreign Ministry reception includes Trump’s daughter and adviser Ivanka Trump, his son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and other U.S. officials.

Israeli attendees will include the cabinet, the heads of Knesset committees, members of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, and members of the governing coalition. Also on hand will be some 30 foreign diplomats — out of 86 who were invited. Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and move the embassy there drew sharp criticism from the Arab world and U.S. allies, who said the unilateral step could spark violence and damage peace prospects.

Men gather at the Western Wall on May 11, 2018 after the U.S. withdrawal from the Iranian nuclear deal and to celebrate the moving of the embassy.
Men gather at the Western Wall on May 11, 2018 after the U.S. withdrawal from the Iranian nuclear deal and to celebrate the moving of the embassy. Thomas Coex / AFP

Peace Now prepares

The embassy move is slated for Monday at 4 P.M. Israel time; 800 guests received gold-edged invitations from U.S. Ambassador David Friedman and his wife Tammy. The event marks the relocation of a limited number of offices from the Tel Aviv embassy, including Friedman’s office. The event will be attended by President Reuven Rivlin and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, along with Ivanka Trump, Kushner and Mnuchin. Other attendees include Jason Greenblatt, Trump’s special representative for international negotiations, and members of Congress.

At least one major demonstration is expected. Peace Now plans to gather outside the dedication ceremony for the new embassy, protesting the move and warning that it may harm Israeli security and chances for peace, given that the Palestinians want their future capital in Jerusalem as well.

On Tuesday, Nakba Day events begin. Nakba is the Arabic word for catastrophe; the Palestinians mark Nakba Day every year on May 15 — Israel declared independence on May 14, 1948. The embassy move was deliberately set for this 70th anniversary. Israel celebrates its Independence Day according to the Hebrew calendar, so its festivities took place on April 18, leaving May 14 free for the embassy fest.

For Palestinians, Nakba Day is a day of mourning and anger, lamenting the more than 700,000 Arabs who fled or were expelled from their homes during the 1947-49 war. Nakba Day commemorations locally and internationally often call for a full return of the refugees, and in some cases, Israel’s destruction.

Hamas threatens the border

Events are scheduled to take place across the West Bank and Israel itself, including a large march in Nablus, several events in Ramallah and a ceremony in front of Tel Aviv University. But this year the spotlight will be on Gaza, where Hamas’ leaders have threatened a mass storming of the border to destroy the border fence, symbolizing the suffering in Gaza and the Palestinian refugees’ claim to a right of return to Israel. Israel is bracing for a mass eventthat day that could lead to more deaths; more than 40 people have been killed in clashes with the Israeli army since March 30.

The announcement in February that the United States had chosen the day before Nakba Day for the embassy move angered Palestinians.

A demonstrator uses a racket to return a tear gas canister fired by Israeli troops at the border in southern Gaza, May 11, 2018.
A demonstrator uses a racket to return a tear gas canister fired by Israeli troops at the border in southern Gaza, May 11, 2018.Ibraheem Abu Mustafa / Reuters

“They deliberately chose a tragic day in Palestinian history, the Nakba, as an act of gratuitous cruelty adding insult to injury,” tweeted a Palestinian official, Hanan Ashrawi, when the date was first announced. Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat has said it would “provoke the feelings of the Palestinian people, as well as of all Arabs, Muslims and Christians around the globe.”

As if the scheduling weren’t potentially explosive enough, the evening of Nakba Day — Tuesday — also marks the beginning of the month-long observance of Ramadan, when Muslims embark on a month of intense prayer, dawn-to-dusk fasting and nightly feasts. In recent years, encouraged by calls from the Islamic State to show devotion to religion through violent action, Ramadan has seen an increase in Islamist-inspired terrorist incidents around the world.

Last year’s Ramadan, while starting peacefully in Israel and the West Bank, was marred by an attack that killed a woman in the Border Police, Hadas Malka, and wounded a number of others. Israel then revoked permits letting Palestinians visit Israel for the holiday. Normally, during the month-long observance, Israel gives thousands of Palestinians special permission to enter Israel to visit family on weekdays, allowing them greater access to the Temple Mount.

Finally, following Nakba Day, there will be another embassy move to mark. Although technically Guatemala moved its embassy to Jerusalem’s Malha Technology Park last week, the ceremony celebrating the event is set for Wednesday — two days after the U.S. ceremony. Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales is expected to be on hand.

Paraguay also announced plans last week to move its embassy to Jerusalem. President Horacio Cartes will attend the ceremony, which the country says will take place by the end of May — though presumably not during the already action-packed upcoming week.

As Trump Cleans House, Who Gets Swept Out Next? — “There is no Chaos, only great Energy!”

March 14, 2018

A look at seven members of the administration whose futures appear uncertain

President Trump and chief of staff John Kelly in the Oval Office last month. Photo: andrew caballero-reynolds/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images

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WASHINGTON—The White House is bracing for more changes in the administration’s senior ranks following the recent departures of top officials including Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Gary Cohn, director of the National Economic Council.

President Donald Trump prefaced a further shuffle as he departed for California Tuesday. “I’m really at a point where we’re getting very close to having the cabinet and other things that I want,” Mr. Trump said, hours after announcing via Twitter that he was replacing Mr. Tillerson with  CIA Director Mike Pompeo.

Last week, on the day Mr. Cohn resigned, Mr. Trump said he was “always seeking perfection” in staffing the White House. But, he added: “There is no Chaos, only great Energy!”

In the past Mr. Trump has privately discussed ousting aides, only to reconsider, and at times he has publicly criticized cabinet members but taken no further action.

But White House officials say they are expecting more changes, which can come quickly once the president decides to show a colleague the exit. Some say Mr. Trump is keen to make the changes he wants to the lineup in advance of his meeting with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un, expected by May.

Here is a look at members of the Trump administration whose futures appear uncertain, based on Wall Street Journal reporting.

Veteran’s Affairs Secretary David Shulkin, here last August, has been a target of criticism since an inspector general’s report last month said he had misspent taxpayer money. Photo: Kevin lamarque/Reuters

Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin

Mr. Trump has been considering replacing Dr. Shulkin since an inspector general’s report released last month said the VA secretary had misspent taxpayer money during an official trip to Europe last year. Among the candidates Mr. Trump is considering: Energy Secretary Rick Perry, with whom the president lunched on Monday, according to an administration official. For much of Mr. Trump’s first year in office, Dr. Shulkin had been a bright spot in the cabinet. But the inspector general’s report infuriated many inside the White House and set off scorching criticism from lawmakers on Capitol Hill. Hours after the news that Mr. Tillerson was out, The Wall Street Journal and others reported that Mr. Trump is now considering Mr. Shulkin’s ouster.

People familiar with the conversations say the military is actively looking for a new job for national security adviser Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, here in Washington last October. Photo: yuri gripas/Reuters

National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster

Gen. McMaster is working with strained alliances both inside and outside the White House and faces persistent speculation that he will be pushed out as soon as the Pentagon finds a suitable new job for him—or the White House settles on someone to take his place. Gen. McMaster has little chemistry with the president, and has often frustrated Mr. Trump with lengthy policy dissertations in the Oval Office, according to people familiar with the conversations.

The military is actively looking for a new job for Gen. McMaster, but it could take time, according to U.S. officials. That search has been made more difficult in part by his advocacy on behalf of the president’s views and actions which hasn’t always sat well with his military colleagues.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions, here at a press conference last month, has been showered with presidential scorn for a year. Photo: Shen Ting/Zuma Press

Attorney General Jeff Sessions

Few cabinet members have faced as much public battering as Mr. Sessions, a frequent target of Mr. Trump’s criticism since the attorney general recused himself last spring from the Justice Department’s probe of Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election. In his most recent public insult, the president last month called Mr. Sessions “disgraceful” for referring a probe of the Justice Department’s handling of secret surveillance warrants to the department’s inspector general—the usual venue for such allegations—rather than another office. Mr. Sessions’s retort, that he had acted with “integrity and honor,” only infuriated the president further, according to people close to the White House.

For all his apparent frustration with his attorney general, Mr. Trump hasn’t sought to replace him. His advisers have told him that firing Mr. Sessions could prolong the special counsel’s Russia probe, which Mr. Trump is eager to see conclude.

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein in Washington last month; Mr. Trump has accused the leadership of the Justice Department of politicizing the ‘sacred investigative process’ against Republicans. Photo: Leah millis/Reuters

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein

Mr. Trump internally has expressed displeasure with Mr. Rosenstein, who last spring—after Mr. Sessions’s recusal—appointed Special Counsel Robert Mueller to oversee the FBI’s probe of possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. Last month, Mr. Trump authorized the release of a memo written by House Republicans alleging surveillance abuses against a former Trump campaign adviser, in part because the president believed the memo would undermine Mr. Rosenstein’s credibility. The memo noted that Mr. Rosenstein, who was nominated to his post by Mr. Trump, had approved a renewal of surveillance of the Trump adviser, Carter Page, in the spring of 2017.

Asked last month if he had confidence in Mr. Rosenstein, the president responded: “You figure that one out.”

Some friends of Mr. Trump say he has been floating names to replace Mr. Kelly, here in the Capitol in November. Photo: Aaron p. Bernstein/Reuters

White House Chief of Staff John Kelly

Mr. Kelly, who joined the White House last summer, has faced scrutiny from the president in recent weeks over his handling of domestic-abuse allegations against Rob Porter, who resigned as staff secretary last month. Mr. Trump and other White House officials had harsh words for Mr. Kelly, who initially vouched for Mr. Porter’s integrity and privately urged him to fight the allegations and remain in the job, according to White House officials, before later reversing himself.

Mr. Trump has already found workarounds to some of Mr. Kelly’s measures to limit access to the president, such as relying on first lady Melania Trump to field calls from friends. Some Trump friends said last month that the president has started to ask them about Mr. Kelly’s performance, and two people said he has sought opinions on potential replacements, such as Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney.

White House senior advisers Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, here at a cabinet meeting in the White House earlier this month, have been losing allies lately. Photo: Kevin lamarque/Reuters

Senior White House Advisers Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump

The president has held conflicting views about what to do with Mr. Kushner and Ms. Trump, his son-in-law and daughter who serve as senior advisers in the White House. Mr. Kushner’s security clearance was downgraded to secret from top secret late last month, following a push by White House chief of staff John Kelly to tighten control of classified information inside the administration. And Mr. Kushner has figured prominently in the special counsel’s Russia probe, which is focusing on a number of episodes during the campaign that involved him. He has denied any wrongdoing.

Inside the West Wing, the president has repeatedly wondered whether the couple would be better off returning to their private-sector lives in New York. Mr. Kushner and Ms. Trump have also clashed with Mr. Kelly, who has sought to curtail access to the president. In recent weeks they have also lost several White House allies, including communications director Hope Hicks, deputy communications director Josh Raffel and Mr. Cohn.

Write to Rebecca Ballhaus at Rebecca.Ballhaus@wsj.com

High-level N. Korean delegates arrive in the South — Where many express hate, scorn

February 25, 2018

AFP

© YONHAP/AFP / by Jung Hawon | South Korean protesters hold placards showing a picture of North Korean general Kim Yong Chol

SEOUL (AFP) – A blacklisted North Korean general arrived in the South on Sunday for the Winter Olympics closing ceremony, which will also be attended by US President Donald Trump’s daughter Ivanka.The visit by Kim Yong Chol, who led an eight-member high-level delegation that crossed the Demilitarized Zone in the morning, is the final piece of the Games-led diplomacy that has dominated headlines from Pyeongchang.

The nuclear-armed North has gone on a charm offensive over the Games, sending athletes, cheerleaders and performers and with leader Kim Jong Un’s sister Kim Yo Jong attending the opening ceremony.

Analysts say it is seeking to loosen the sanctions imposed against it over its banned nuclear and missile programmes, and trying to weaken the alliance between Seoul and Washington.

But Kim Yo Jong had no interaction with US Vice President Mike Pence at the opening ceremony, even though they were just a few seats apart in the same VIP area. According to the US, a planned meeting between the delegations from Washington and Pyongyang the following day was cancelled at short notice by the North Koreans.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in — who has long pushed for engagement with the North to bring it to the negotiating table — also did not immediately accept an invitation passed on by Kim Yo Jong from her brother to a summit in Pyongyang, saying the right conditions must be created.

Washington, which describes its approach to Pyongyang as “maximum pressure and engagement”, announced a series of new sanctions on Friday.

Pence also condemned Kim Yo Jong as part of an “evil family clique” and “murderous regime”, prompting a denunciation from Pyongyang on Sunday — which said it would not talk to the Trump administration for “even 100 years or 200 years”.

– Overnight protest –

Kim Yong Chol’s delegation was greeted by Seoul’s vice unification minister Chun Hae-sung.

Kim, wearing a long dark coat, was later seen checking into the Walkerhill luxury hotel in Seoul with other delegates and leaving a few hours later amid heavy security involving hundreds of police officers.

Kim’s nomination as the leader of the group is controversial in the South, where he is widely blamed for a spate of attacks including the torpedoing of Seoul’s Cheonan warship in 2010 with the loss of 46 lives. Pyongyang denies responsibility.

Conservative lawmakers staged an overnight protest near the border with the North, joined by hundreds of other activists.

The protesters waved banners including “Arrest Kim Yong Chol!” and “Kim Yong Chol should kneel in front of the victims’ families and apologise!”

Kim is blacklisted under Seoul’s unilateral sanctions against the North, meaning he is subject to an assets freeze.

– ‘Crazy remarks’ –

Officials from both Seoul and Washington say there will be no meeting between Kim Yong Chol and Ivanka Trump — who is travelling with Korea specialists from the US administration and White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders.

But the North’s delegation includes Choe Kang Il, the deputy director general for North American affairs at the North’s foreign ministry, suggesting Pyongyang may be open for talks.

On Friday the US Treasury blacklisted 28 ships, 27 companies and one person, imposing an asset freeze and barring US citizens from dealing with them, in what Donald Trump described as the “heaviest sanctions ever” levied on Pyongyang.

The UN Security Council has already banned North Korean exports of coal — a key foreign exchange earner — iron ore, seafood and textiles, and restricted its oil imports.

Washington is also seeking to have the United Nations ban 33 vessels from ports worldwide and blacklist 27 shipping businesses for helping North Korea circumvent sanctions.

Kim Yo Jong’s trip at the start of the Games — the first visit to the South by a member of the North’s ruling dynasty since the Korean War ended in 1953 — made global headlines.

But Pence told an audience of thousands at the Conservative Political Action Conference: “The sister of Kim Jong Un is a central pillar of the most tyrannical and oppressive regime on the planet, an evil family clique that brutalises, subjugates, starves and imprisons its 25 million people.”

Pyongyang denounced his comments Sunday, with the official Korean Central News Agency carrying a statement from the North’s Korea Asia-Pacific Peace Committee saying Pence would discover “what quagmire his crazy remarks threw the US and himself into”.

Trump, it said, should know that the North would “have no dealings with those viciously slandering the dignity of our supreme leadership and government”.

“We will never have face-to-face talks with them even after 100 years or 200 years.”

by Jung Hawon

Trump Announces Another Round of Sanctions Against North Korea

February 23, 2018

Bloomberg

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North Korean Hwasong15

By Terrence Dopp and Jennifer Jacobs

 Updated on 
  • New restrictions target North Korean shipping transactions
  • Sanctions aimed at pressuring North Korea on nuclear program

President Donald Trump said Friday his administration is imposing the largest U.S. sanctions package yet against North Korea for its nuclear weapons program.

The sanctions, which Trump planned to unveil at a meeting of conservatives near Washington, aims to disrupt shipping and trading companies and vessels that deal with North Korea in an effort to further isolate the regime of Kim Jong Un.

“The Treasury Department will soon be taking new action to further cut off sources of revenue and fuel that the regime uses to fund its nuclear program and sustain its military by targeting 56 vessels, shipping companies, and trade businesses that are assisting North Korea in evading sanctions,” Trump will tell the meeting, according to excerpts released in advance by the White House.

The action targets one individual, 27 entities, and 28 vessels, according to a statement from the Treasury Department Friday. Those vessels may be located, registered or flagged in a number of countries, including North Korea, China, Singapore, Taiwan, Hong Kong and the Marshall Islands.

While the new sanctions focus on international shipping, the administration is also working on a response to the regime’s illicit cyber activities, a senior administration official said.

Olympic Games

The latest sanctions send a message of continued U.S. determination as its ally South Korea hosts athletes and officials from North Korea in a show of detente at the Winter Olympics. Ivanka Trump, the president’s daughter and adviser, is in South Korea for the closing ceremony of the games. “We cannot have a better, or smarter, person representing our country,” Trump said in a tweet on Friday morning.

North Korea already faces the most severe sanctions imposed by the U.S. The additional sanctions follow a year of escalating tensions between the U.S. and North Korea over its ballistic missile testing and nuclear development programs.

Vice President Mike Pence hinted at the new sanctions earlier this month during an Asia trip, promising the administration would bring “maximum pressure” to bear on the Kim government.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in the statement that the new prohibitions will deter North Korea from evading previous sanctions. He said they’re being lodged under 2016 and 2017 laws passed by Congress and signed by the president.

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-02-23/trump-to-announce-new-round-of-sanctions-against-north-korea

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File photo: Kim Yong-Chol and North Korean soldiers marching
Kim Yong-chol
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Donald Trump to Unveil ‘Largest Ever’ Set of Sanctions on North Korea

February 23, 2018

The president says the new actions will ‘further cut off’ sources of revenue and fuel for Pyongyang’s nuclear program

WASHINGTON—The Trump administration plans to levy its “largest ever” sanctions package against North Korea, President Donald Trump was set to announce on Friday.

The sanctions will target shipping and trading companies as the U.S. seeks to further cut off foreign-currency revenues keeping the nuclear-armed regime afloat, Mr. Trump will say Friday, according to excerpts of his planned remarks released by the White House.

“The Treasury Department will soon be taking new action to further cut off sources of revenue and fuel that the regime uses to fund its nuclear program and sustain its military by targeting 56 vessels, shipping companies, and trade businesses that are assisting North Korea in evading sanctions,” Mr. Trump planned to say in a speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference.

The U.S. says North Korea, China and a host of other countries are allowing ships and trading companies to aid North Korea in evading an international ban on coal exports and fuel imports, a vital source of income and goods that help leader Kim Jong Un maintain power as he pursues an intercontinental ballistic missile that can target the U.S. mainland.

More

  • Ivanka Trump Meets South Korean Leader

Write to Ian Talley at ian.talley@wsj.com

Trump to announce new sanctions against North Korea as South Korea readies more talks — “The largest package of new sanctions against the North Korea regime”

February 23, 2018

Tougher sanctions may jeopardise the latest detente between the two Koreas.PHOTO: AFP

SEOUL/WASHINGTON (REUTERS) – The United States is due to announce its largest package of sanctions yet against North Korea to further pressure Pyongyang over its nuclear and missile programme, as South Korea readies itself for more talks with the North’s officials.

Tougher sanctions may jeopardise the latest detente between the two Koreas amid their preparations to create conditions appropriate to hold a summit between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and South Korean President Moon Jae In.

A senior US administration official, who spoke to Reuters on condition of anonymity, called the new penalties “the largest package of new sanctions against the North Korea regime”, without giving details.

The new US sanctions will be announced while President Donald Trump’s daughter, Ivanka, is visiting South Korea to attend a dinner with President Moon and the closing ceremony of the Games. In addition to the dinner which will feature a kosher menu for Ms Trump’s dietary restrictions, the Blue House has planned a small traditional Korean music performance for her delegation.

US Vice-President Mike Pence had hinted at a plan for more sanctions two weeks ago during a stop in Tokyo that preceded his visit to South Korea for the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics.

Mr Kim said he wants to boost the “warm climate of reconciliation and dialogue” with South Korea after a high-level delegation including his sister returned from the Winter Olympics.

Last year (2017), North Korea conducted dozens of missile launches and its sixth and largest nuclear test in defiance of United Nations sanctions. However, it has now been more than two months since its last missile test in late November.

Ms Trump’s visit coincides with that of a sanctioned North Korean official Kim Yong Chol, blamed for the deadly 2010 sinking of a South Korean navy ship that killed 46 sailors. His delegation will also meet with Mr Moon.

Image may contain: 2 people

Kim Yong Chol

The Blue House has said there are no official opportunities for US and North Korean officials to meet.

Mr Kim Yong Chol is the vice-chairman of the Central Committee of North Korea’s ruling Workers’ Party and was previously chief of the Reconnaissance General Bureau, a top North Korean military intelligence agency which South Korea blamed for the sinking of its navy corvette the Cheonan.

North Korea has denied any involvement in the sinking.

South Korea on Friday that said it approved the Winter Olympic visit by Mr Kim Yong Chol in the pursuit of peace and asked for public understanding.

“Under current difficult circumstances, we have decided to focus on whether peace on the Korean peninsula and improvement in inter-Korean relations can be derived from dialogue with (the visiting North Korean officials), not on their past or who they are,” said Unification Ministry spokesman Baik Tae Hyun at a media briefing.

A South Korean lawmaker briefed by the country’s spy agency said on Friday that Mr Kim was the “right person” for inter-Korean and denuclearisation talks.

“Kim Yong Chol is the top official regarding inter-Korean relations and he is being accepted (here) as the right person to discuss various issues like easing military tension, improving inter-Korean ties and denuclearisation,” said Mr Kang Seok Ho to reporters.

Mr Kim Yong Chol currently heads the United Front Department, the North’s office responsible for handling inter-Korean affairs.

South Korea’s decision on Thursday to allow Mr Kim Yong Chol, currently sanctioned by the US and South Korea, across the border has sparked protest from family members of the dead Cheonan sailors and opposition parties.

Some 70 members from the main opposition Liberty Korea Party staged a protest in front of the presidential Blue House on Friday, demanding the government withdraw its decision.

“President Moon’s decision to accept the North’s facade of peace is a serious issue and it will go down in history as a crime eternal,” said the party in a statement.

A group of family members of those killed in the Cheonan sinking has said it will hold a press conference against the decision on Saturday.

Acknowledging public angst over Mr Kim Yong Chol’s pending visit, Mr Baik said the South’s stance that the Cheonan sinking was instigated by the North has not changed.

“However, what’s important are efforts to create actual peace on the Korean peninsula so these kind of provocations don’t occur again,” said Mr Baik, adding that the government would make “various efforts” to assuage the public’s concerns.

South Korean MPs demand execution of North’s Olympic delegate — “Kim Yong Chol is a diabolical war criminal”

February 23, 2018

North Korea will send one of its highest ranking figures, General Kim Yong-chol, to the closing ceremony of the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang.

AFP

South Korean lawmakers protested Friday over a visit by a top North Korean general for the Pyeongchang Olympics, labelling him a war criminal over the 2010 sinking of a warship and calling for his execution.

Kim Yong Chol will head an eight-member delegation to arrive on Sunday for the Games’ closing ceremony — which will also be attended by US President Donald Trump’s daughter Ivanka.

Kim is widely blamed for a spate of attacks against the South including the torpedoing nearly eight years ago of the Seoul’s Cheonan corvette, with the loss of 46 lives.

File photo: Kim Yong-Chol and North Korean soldiers marching
Kim Yong-chol 

Some 70 lawmakers of the conservative Liberty Korea Party staged a protest outside the presidential Blue House, urging President Moon Jae-in to scrap the visit.

“Kim Yong Chol is a diabolical war criminal who attacked the South… He deserves death by hanging in the street,” the party’s parliamentary floor leader Kim Sung-tae said in a statement.

“Even if the heavens split in two, we cannot allow such a heinous criminal — who must be sliced to death — to be invited to the Olympics closing ceremony,” he said.

Unification ministry spokesman Baek Tae-hyun said the South Korean government was aware of widespread misgivings about Kim Yong Chol’s visit to the South, but accepted it as the “chances for improving inter-Korean ties and a peace settlement might be improved”.

The Pyeongchang Olympics have seen a charm offensive by the North, which sent leader Kim Jong Un’s sister to the opening ceremony as it seeks to loosen sanctions against it and weaken the alliance between Seoul and Washington.

US Vice President Mike Pence was also present for the start of the Games, and sat only a few seats away from Kim Yo Jong, without exchanging words with her — having earlier visited a memorial to the Cheonan and condemned the North for abusing human rights.

Officials from both Seoul and Washington say there is little or no prospect of a meeting between Ivanka Trump — a businesswoman and former model turned key adviser to her father — and the North Korean representatives.

But Seoul authorities are still struggling over how to manage their presence at the same event.

 

Reince Priebus on the Donald Trump White House

February 15, 2018
Months after his chaotic resignation as chief of staff, and with his successor on the hot seat, Priebus comes clean about everything: the inauguration crowd-size fiasco, the decision to fire Comey, the Mooch, the tweets, how he helped saved Jeff Sessions’s job, and his mercurial former boss. “I still love the guy,” he says.
Reince Priebus (right) with President Donald Trump in the Oval Office, January 2017.
Photograph by Andrew Harnik/A.P. Images.
Just after six a.m. on January 21, 2017, at his home in Alexandria, Virginia, Reince Priebus was watching the cable morning news shows, getting ready to leave for the White House. Suddenly his cell phone went off. It was Donald Trump. The new president, sworn in less than 24 hours earlier, had just seen The Washington Post, with photos showing Trump’s inaugural crowd dwarfed by that of his predecessor, Barack Obama.

The president was livid, screaming at his chief of staff. “He said, ‘This story is bullshit,’ ” recalled Priebus. “He said, ‘There’s more people there. There are people who couldn’t get in the gates. . . . There’s all kind of things that were going on that made it impossible for these people to get there.’ . . . The president said, ‘Call [Interior Secretary] Ryan Zinke. Find out from the Park Service. Tell him to get a picture and do some research right away.’ ” The president wanted his chief of staff to fix this story. Immediately.

Priebus tried to talk Trump off the ledge. “It doesn’t matter,” Priebus argued. “It’s Washington, D.C. We’re in an 85 percent Democrat area. Northern Virginia’s 60 percent. Maryland’s 65 percent. . . . This is a Democrat haven, and nobody cares.” But Trump was having none of it. Priebus thought, “Is this something that I really want to go to battle over on day one? Who needs a controversy over the inauguration?” Priebus realized he faced a decision: “Am I going to go to war over this with the president of the United States?”

Hours later, Press Secretary Sean Spicer stepped into the White House briefing room. “What happened,” Priebus remembered, “was Spicer decided to say that actually, if you combine online and television, radio, and in-person, it was the most watched inauguration.” The trouble with that reasoning was that Spicer’s response—a belligerent, Orwellian performance beamed around the world—was a lie. From the very start, the credibility of the Trump presidency became a laughingstock, immortalized by actress Melissa McCarthy in her devastating parody of Spicer on Saturday Night Live.

On day one, instead of going to war with Donald Trump, Priebus had gone along.

Adapted from a new edition of The Gatekeepers: How the White House Chiefs of Staff Define Every Presidency, by Chris Whipple, published in paperback on March 6, 2018, by Crown.

Priebus cannot say he wasn’t warned. Just a month before the inauguration, he had been invited to lunch by Barack Obama’s outgoing chief of staff, Denis McDonough. Following the example of a memorable breakfast hosted eight years earlier by George W. Bush’s chief Josh Bolten—when 12 former White House chiefs had come to give advice to Obama’s incoming chief, Rahm Emanuel—McDonough was joined by 10 chiefs, Republicans and Democrats, in his West Wing office. And as they gathered around a long table, none doubted the enormity of the challenge facing Priebus. “We wanted to help Reince in any way we could,” said Jack Watson, who served President Jimmy Carter. “But I don’t think there was a chief in the room that thought he was going to be able to do the job, given Trump as his president.” Most of the former chiefs believed Trump was intellectually and temperamentally unfit for office—and few thought Priebus could rein him in or tell him hard truths. “We were thinking, God bless him. Godspeed. Good luck,” said Watson. “But he doesn’t have a prayer.”

Priebus was hobbled by two other factors. A former Republican National Committee chairman from Kenosha, Wisconsin, he barely knew his new boss, and he was part of the establishment that Trump had vilified. Moreover, during the campaign, the two men had been known to feud. Trump had been especially resentful of Priebus’s reaction to the campaign’s existential crisis just a month before Election Day: the release of the tawdry Access Hollywood tape, in which Trump had made graphic misogynist comments that were caught by an open microphone.

The morning after the video surfaced, Trump’s candidacy had been pronounced all but dead in the media. In response, the beleaguered nominee’s top aides—campaign C.E.O. Stephen Bannon, former New York mayor Rudy Giu­liani, New Jersey governor Chris ChristieJared Kushner, and Ivanka Trump—gathered at Trump Tower for a war council to advise the candidate on whether he should stay in the race or quit.

The nominee, sleep-deprived, surly, his jaw clenched, posed the crucial question: in light of the videotape, what were his chances of winning? Priebus went first: “If you decide to stay in, you will lose in the biggest landslide in American political history.” One by one, Trump’s other advisers danced around the question—until finally it was Bannon’s turn. “One hundred percent,” he declared. “One hundred percent you’re going to win this thing. Metaphysical.” (Priebus recalled things differently, saying no one was that emphatic.)

Trump, of course, pulled off an astonishing upset. And a month later, McDonough met his successor as chief of staff in the West Wing lobby and escorted him to his office. As the former chiefs went around the table, giving Priebus advice, they were unanimous about one thing: Trump would be unable to govern unless Priebus was empowered as first among equals in the West Wing. Trump’s incoming chief dutifully took notes on a yellow pad.

Suddenly there was a commotion; Barack Obama was entering the room. Everyone stood and shook hands, then Obama motioned for them to sit. The 44th president’s own chiefs—Rahm Emanuel, Bill Daley, Jack Lew, McDonough, and Pete Rouse (who served unofficially)—were all pres­ent, and Obama nodded toward them. “Every one of these guys at different times told me something that pissed me off,” Obama said, flashing his familiar grin. “They weren’t always right; sometimes I was. But they were right to do that because they knew they had to tell me what I needed to hear rather than what I wanted to hear.” Obama looked at Priebus. “That’s the most important function of a chief of staff. Presidents need that. And I hope you will do that for President Trump.” With that, Obama said his good-byes and departed.

The chiefs were not sure Priebus got the message. “I caught the eye of several of the others and we exchanged worried expressions,” one Republican in attendance remembered. “He seemed much too relaxed about being able to navigate a difficult job. I think he struck a lot of us as clueless.” Another was even more blunt about Priebus’s nonchalance: “He was approaching the job like it was some combination of personal aide and cruise director.”

Former chief strategist Steve Bannon and Priebus; Priebus and Spicer.

Left, by Martin H. Shannon/Redux; right, by Susan Walsh/A.P. Images.

Dining alone with Priebus a few weeks earlier, Bush’s chief Josh Bolten had been alarmed: Priebus seemed to regard himself as Trump’s babysitter and had given little thought to governing. “I could tell that he was nervous about leaving Trump alone and was kind of candid about ‘If I’m not there, Lord knows what happens,’” Bolten recalled. In his view, Priebus seemed “neither focused on organizing his White House staff nor in control of his own life. He was just responding to the fire of the day.”

And there was another ominous sign. Obama’s staff had spent months preparing voluminous transition briefs, thick binders designed to help the next administration get up to speed on subjects ranging from Iran to Cuba to climate change. Every previous incoming team had studied such volumes with care. But as the inauguration drew near, McDonough realized that the binders had not even been opened: “All the paperwork, all the briefings that had been prepared for their transition team, went unused,” he said. “Unread. Unreviewed.”

The inept start of the Trump presidency—with the flagrant lying about crowd sizes—confirmed the ex-chiefs’ worst fears. “It told me that Reince wasn’t in control,” observed Jack Watson. “It told me Reince had no power to say to the president, ‘Mr. President, we can’t do that! We are going to get killed if we do that.’ ” George W. Bush’s first chief, Andrew Card, watched with a sinking feeling: “I said to myself, ‘They don’t know what they’re doing. They have no process. And they don’t have discipline. You must taste your words before you spit them out!’”

In late October 2017, almost three months after he resigned as chief of staff, Priebus met me for dinner at a posh but empty restaurant near the White House. Wearing a blazer, tieless, and without his usual American-flag pin, he had been off the radar and had given no extensive interviews since his abrupt departure six months into his job as Trump’s chief. Unlike his friend Sean Spicer, who had struggled to find employment after his turn as Trump’s disgraced White House spokesman, Priebus had landed back at his old Washington law firm, Michael Best & Friedrich LLP—as president. He was drumming up paid engagements on the lecture circuit. And he was conferring frequently by phone with Donald J. Trump.

The president, Priebus said, speaks with him often on a phone that is unmonitored by John Kelly, who replaced him as Trump’s chief of staff—sometimes just to chat, sometimes for counsel. Trump often called Bannon too—at least before his excommunication following his comments in Michael Wolff’s book Fire and Fury. Priebus insisted, contrary to Wolff’s description, that he never called Trump an “idiot.” In fact, for all the humiliation he endured, he said, “I still love the guy. I want him to be successful.” While visiting South Korea last November to give a speech, Priebus made a side trip to the demilitarized zone between South and North, and recommended to Trump that he go there during his Asia trip. (The president and his party tried but were forced to turn back due to bad weather.)

Even so, Priebus’s account of his tenure as Trump’s chief confirms the portrayal of a White House in disarray, riven by conflict. “Take everything you’ve heard and multiply it by 50,” Priebus said as we sat down. Being White House chief had been even more arduous than it looked from the outside. “No president has ever had to deal with so much so fast: a special counsel and an investigation into Russia and then subpoenas immediately, the media insanity—not to mention we were pushing out executive orders at rec­ord pace and trying to repeal and replace Obama­care right out of the gate.” Priebus was nervous, repeatedly asking, “This is all off the record, right?” (He later agreed to be quoted.)

“People mistake me for a laid-back guy from the Midwest,” he continued. “I’m much more aggressive, and much more of a knife fighter. Playing the inside game is what I do.” Before Priebus, 45, accepted the job, he had had an impressive, if modest, track rec­ord. “I took the R.N.C. from oblivion,” he explained. “Our team raised a ton of money, built the biggest full-time political-party operation ever, ran two conventions, won more races than anyone else, and hit all the marks—without drama, mistakes, or infighting.”

At first, Priebus had been stung by the relentless criticism of his White House run and was especially sensitive to the brickbats hurled by the pundits. But with time he had understood where they came from—including a jab or two thrown by me during interviews on television news shows. “You got me real good one time on Fox,” he said. “My point is, I know what you were saying. You were saying that Trump needed someone in control, and that we had set up a weak structure. But you have to remember: the president was the Trump campaign. The R.N.C. was the organization—but he accomplished almost everything in his life by himself. The idea that he was suddenly going to accept an immediate and elaborate staff structure regulating every minute of his life was never in the cards.

“One of the things all [the chiefs] told me,” Priebus said, “was: don’t take the job unless you’re designated A number 1, in charge of everything, beginning to end.” All of that was right for a typical president, Priebus thought, but Trump wasn’t typical; he was one of a kind.

As it turned out, there was a moment on Election Night when it looked as though the chief’s job might go to Bannon, who eventually became Priebus’s ally in the West Wing. (Others would be considered as well.) But he didn’t look the part. “Trump looked around and I remember I had a combat jacket on and I hadn’t shaved in a week,” said Bannon, who spoke with me at length just before the release of Fire and Fury. “I had the greasy hair [hanging] down. . . . I’m the senior guy—but look, it was obvious Reince had to be chief of staff.” Priebus, however, would be chief in name only: Trump, instead, anointed Bannon as Priebus’s co-equal, with Bannon, Trump’s chief strategist, getting top billing.

Priebus with ousted communications director Anthony Scaramucci.

By T. J. Kirkpatrick/Redux.

From the beginning, Priebus would face a challenge unique to this presidency: how to curb the commander in chief’s tweets. “We can get thrown off our message by tweeting things that aren’t the issues of the day,” he told Trump. At first Priebus thought he had succeeded in wresting Trump’s phone from him. “I talked about the security threat of having your own cell in the West Wing and got the Secret Service to go along with me to mothball his phone.” Priebus had managed to silence one device. But it turned out Trump had another.

Early on, the staff wrote daily tweets for him: “The team would give the president five or six tweets every day to choose from,” said Priebus, “and some of them would real­ly push the envelope. The idea would be at least they would be tweets that we could see and understand and control. But that didn’t allow the president to be fully in control of his own voice. Everybody tried at different times to cool down the Twitter habit—but no one could do it. . . . After [last year’s] joint session [of Congress] we all talked to him, and Melania said, ‘No tweeting.’ And he said, ‘O.K.—for the next few days.’ We had many discussions involving this issue. We had meetings in the residence. I couldn’t stop it. [But] it’s now part of the American culture and the American presidency. And you know what? In many ways, the president was right. And all of us so-called experts might be totally wrong.

“[Trump] is a man who fears no one and nothing,” continued Priebus, “and there is absolutely nothing he’s intimidated by. . . . And that’s very rare in politics. Most people in politics are people who have sort of an approval addiction. Now, granted, President Trump does too, but he’s willing to weather one storm after the next to get to an end result that most people are not willing to weather. . . . He doesn’t mind the craziness, the drama, or the difficulty, as long as an end goal is in sight. He will endure it.”

Soon after the inauguration, the president began to lash out wildly at members of the Justice Department who were poised to open probes into possible misconduct or overreach by members of his administration. On his 11th day in office, he fired Acting Attorney General Sally Yates for refusing to enforce his controversial travel ban. Then Preet Bharara, U.S. attorney for New York’s Southern District. Next up: F.B.I. director James Comey.

Priebus and White House counsel Donald McGahn tried to stall the freight train coming toward them, sensing that sacking Comey would be a fateful political mistake. But Jared Kushner supported Trump’s decision, and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein’s memo—criticizing the F.B.I. director’s handling of the Hillary Clinton investigation—gave Trump the pretext. On May 9, Trump fired Comey. It would trigger the appointment of Robert Mueller as special counsel and would prove to be among the most politically disastrous decisions since Richard Nixon fired Watergate prosecutor Archibald Cox.

“[WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL] DON MCGAHN SAID, ‘WE’VE GOT A PROBLEM. . . . [JEFF] SESSIONS JUST RESIGNED.’”

While Priebus and Bannon watched the fiasco explode as the pundits excoriated the Trump White House on every cable news show, Kushner did a slow burn. He was livid, furious that the communications team could not defend Comey’s firing. Bannon blew his stack. “There’s not a fucking thing you can do to sell this!,” he shouted at Kushner. “Nobody can sell this! P. T. Barnum couldn’t sell this! People aren’t stupid! This is a terrible, stupid decision that’s going to have massive implications. It may have shortened Trump’s presidency—and it’s because of you, Jared Kushner!

The screaming matches and white-knuckle showdowns continued. Eight days later, Priebus got an unexpected visit from the White House counsel—a story he has not told publicly before. “Don McGahn came in my office pretty hot, red, out of breath, and said, ‘We’ve got a problem.’ I responded, ‘What?’ And he said, ‘Well, we just got a special counsel, and [Attorney General Jeff] Sessions just resigned.’ I said, ‘What!? What the hell are you talking about?’ ”

It was bad enough that Trump, having fired Comey, would now be the target of a special prosecutor. Even worse, unbeknownst to Priebus, the president, only moments before, had subjected Sessions to a withering tirade in the Oval Office, calling him an “idiot” and blaming Sessions’s recusal from the Russia investigation for the whole mess. Humiliated, Sessions said he would resign.

Priebus was incredulous: “I said, ‘That can’t happen.’” He bolted down the stairway to the West Wing parking lot. He found Sessions in the backseat of a black sedan, with the engine running. “I knocked on the door of the car, and Jeff was sitting there,” Priebus said, “and I just jumped in and shut the door, and I said, ‘Jeff, what’s going on?’ And then he told me that he was going to resign. I said, ‘You cannot resign. It’s not possible. We are going to talk about this right now.’ So I dragged him back up to my office from the car. [Vice President Mike] Pence and Bannon came in, and we started talking to him to the point where he decided that he would not resign right then and he would instead think about it.” Later that night, Sessions delivered a resignation letter to the Oval Office, but, Priebus claimed, he ultimately persuaded the president to give it back.

In June, Trump was still on a tear. He considered dumping special counsel Mueller, according to The New York Times, but was dissuaded from doing so. And by July, Trump was back on Sessions’s case, tweeting insults and calling him “weak.” “Priebus was told to get Sessions’s resignation flat out,” said a White House insider. “The president told him, ‘Don’t give me any bullshit. Don’t try to slow me down like you always do. Get the resignation of Jeff Sessions.’ ”

Once more, Priebus stalled Trump, recalled a White House insider. “He told the president, ‘If I get this resignation, you are in for a spiral of calamity that makes Comey look like a picnic.’ Rosenstein’s going to resign. [Associate Attorney General] Rachel Brand, the number three, will say, ‘Forget it. I’m not going to be involved with this.’ And it is going to be a total mess.” The president agreed to hold off. (Sessions didn’t comment on the resignation letter and last July publicly stated that he planned to stay on the job “as long as that is appropriate.” Brand, in fact, resigned this month.)

The Trump presidency’s first six months were the most incompetent and least accomplished in modern history. And its very survival was clouded by the gathering storm of the special prosecutor’s probe.

When it came to Mueller’s investigation, Priebus insisted he personally had nothing to worry about. But Bannon warned that the hounds had been loosed. “You’ve got Mueller’s team, which has got 19 killers who are all experts in wire fraud, money-laundering, and tax evasion,” Bannon said. “Doesn’t sound like collusion to me. But they’ve got unlimited budgets and subpoena power. And here’s what we’ve got on our side: two guys who’ve got legal pads and Post-Its.

Trump, Priebus, Vice President Mike Pence, Bannon, onetime communications director Sean Spicer, and embattled national-security adviser Michael Flynn.

By Jonathan Ernst/Reuters.

“It’s like [certain members of the administration think that] no one took down the Gambino family,” Bannon continued. “Mueller’s doing a roll-up just like he did with the Gambinos. [Former campaign manager Paul] Manafort’s the caporegime, right? And [Rick] Gates [Manafort’s deputy] is a made man! [George] Papadopoulos is equivalent to a wiseguy out in a social club in Brooklyn. This is like a Wagner opera. In the overture you get all the strands of the music you’re going to hear for three hours. Well, Mueller opened with a bang. He totally caught these guys by surprise. So if you’re not going to fight, you’re going to get rolled over.”

Meanwhile, Trump’s campaign to eradicate Obamacare went nowhere. “Repeal and replace” crashed and burned—not once but twice, the second time when John McCain delivered a dramatic 1:30 a.m. thumbs-down on the Senate floor. The debacle proved that Priebus could not count—or deliver—votes. “When McCain voted against it,” Bannon recalled, “I said to myself, Reince is gone. This is going to be so bad. The president is going to get so lit up.”

Priebus soon became a target of Trump’s ritual belittling as the president took to referring to him as “Reincey.” At one point, he summoned Priebus—to swat a fly. Priebus seemed to have been willing to endure almost any indignity to stay in Trump’s favor. There was that scene right out of The Manchurian Candidate when, at a Cabinet meeting, the president’s most powerful advisers virtually competed to see who could be more obsequious; Priebus won hands down, declaring what a “blessing” it was to serve the president.

By the summer, however, Priebus knew that his job hung by a thread. According to insiders, he was already in the crosshairs of “Javanka/Jarvanka”—as Bannon would take to calling the president’s daughter and son-in-law—for refusing to help Kushner in his efforts to oust Bannon. And then came the last straw: the sudden arrival of a new, flamboyant communications director, Anthony Scaramucci. Priebus had opposed his hiring. Scaramucci immediately turned the West Wing into a circular firing squad, calling Trump’s chief of staff a “fucking paranoid schizophrenic” in an interview with The New Yorker. He went on, in a tweet, to all but accuse Priebus of leaking classified information about Scaramucci’s finances (which were publicly available). “When he accused me of a felony,” recalled Priebus, “I thought, What am I doing here? . . . I went in to the president and said, ‘I gotta go.’ ” Trump would say nothing publicly in Priebus’s defense. The president accepted his resignation.

Priebus had hoped to exit gracefully within a week or two, but the next day, as Air Force One sat on the tarmac at Andrews Air Force Base, Trump tweeted, “I am pleased to inform you that I have just named General/Secretary John F Kelly as White House Chief of Staff. He is a Great American. . . . ” The sudden shake-up was vintage Trump; the timing blindsided Priebus, who stepped off the plane into a drenching rain and was whisked away by car.

John Kelly, a four-star Marine general who had run the Southern Command, was 22 years Priebus’s senior. At the start, he had the president’s full confidence and wasted no time transforming the West Wing into a tighter ship. All visitors to the Oval Office—including Bannon, Kushner, and even the president’s adviser-daughter, Ivanka—were now vetted by the chief. Kelly also started heaving loose cannons over the side: Scaramucci was fired within 72 hours of Kelly’s appointment; Sebastian Gorka, another overzealous White House staffer, would soon follow; even Bannon himself would be gone within a month. Kelly declared that he was not put on earth to manage the president; instead, he would impose discipline on the staff and streamline the flow of information to the Oval Office.

Still, expectations were high that Kelly would be the “grown-up in the room,” who would smooth over Trump’s authoritarian edges. And yet, week after week—during the president’s fulminations against “fake news,” his sympathetic comments toward white supremacists who marched through Charlottesville, his taunting of “Rocket Man” before the U.N. General Assembly, and his racist slurs against “shithole countries”—Kelly stood at Trump’s side. He not only reinforced the president’s worst instincts; he doubled down on them. He maligned Congresswoman Frederica Wilson from the White House Press Briefing Room with a false story after she criticized Trump’s handling of a Gold Star widow. In early February, the news broke that Kelly’s deputy Rob Porter—accused of beating both of his ex-wives (Porter denied the allegations)—had served in the sensitive post of staff secretary for more than a year without a permanent security clearance. The debacle surrounding his abrupt resignation showed that Kelly could not manage the West Wing, let alone Trump.

Suddenly Kelly’s future looked uncertain. And Priebus looked more effective in hindsight. “Reince was better than his press,” said Bannon. “If Reince had the exact track record that Kelly has, he would be deemed the worst chief of staff in the history of politics—and that’s not a slam on Kelly. . . . Folks felt [Priebus] didn’t have the gravitas. He’s always the little guy from Kenosha, right?”

Adapted from The Gatekeepers: How the White House Chiefs of Staff Define Every Presidency, by Chris Whipple, to be published in paperback on March 6, 2018, by Crown, an imprint of The Crown Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House LLC; © 2017, 2018 by the author.