Posts Tagged ‘President Donald Trump’

US slams World Bank lending to rich countries like China

November 8, 2017


© AFP | A Trump administration official criticized the World Bank for continuing to lend to countries that should have graduated from the institution’s programs, including China, which has received $2.4 billion this year

WASHINGTON (AFP) – World Bank lending to countries like China that are rich enough to finance their own development hurts poor countries that need help, a senior US Treasury official said Wednesday.

David Malpass, Treasury’s under secretary for International Affairs, cited China as a prime example of the practice, as the World Bank’s biggest borrower with $2.4 billion in loans this year.

The Trump administration will push the World Bank to move countries towards graduation, as their economies grow and they are able to access private sources of financing, he told a House subcommittee.

“Many graduation-eligible countries, even those with strong market access, have continued to demand (World Bank) financing,” he said in prepared testimony. “Adherence to the graduation policy has progressively weakened.”

Malpass said that since 2009, countries eligible for graduation from World Bank aid have received, on average, 40 percent of the institution’s lending. Currently 25 countries have incomes above the graduation threshold, and six are considered high income, exceeding $12,475 per capita.

In addition, the World Bank has failed to follow its own guidance and pursue discussions with countries ready to graduate, to phase them out of the lending program.

“Treasury has not found these graduation discussions to be serious or meaningful,” he said. “We have strenuously argued for a more rigorous, transparent, and rules-based process.”

He acknowledged that lending to richer countries helps the quality of the institution’s portfolio, but said, “We think the World Bank can do a better job meeting its commitments to poorer countries while still pursuing a financially-sound business model.”

“An overriding objective for the administration is to ensure the World Bank is directing its resources to the people who need them most in the countries with the least access to private capital.”

Malpass, who was a senior economic advisor to President Donald Trump during his election campaign, also raised concerns about China slowing the pace of its economic reforms.

While Beijing has made some progress in promoting consumption and addressing financial sector risk, he said, the US is “concerned that the liberalization seems to have slowed or reversed.”

“China’s unfair trading practices are unsustainable and harmful to the growth and prosperity of the US and many other nations,” he said.

“The administration is committed to achieving a fair and reciprocal trading and investment relationship with China, including through market-based reforms.”


Antifa Rallies Planned in at Least 20 U.S. Cities — Won’t ‘Stop Until This Regime Driven from Power’

November 4, 2017

No automatic alt text available.

By Penny Star
Breitbart News

The left-wing, Antifa Refuse Fascism group is planning rallies in at least 20 cities across the United States on Saturday to demand that the duly-elected President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence be “driven from power.”

In a full-page ad in the New York Times on Wednesday, the group advertised its event:

Nov 4 it begins — be there — join with the thousands who will gather in cities and towns across the country. A movement of protests that continue every day and night, growing until we become millions … determined not to stop until this is driven from power.

Newsweek reported on Thursday:

“Refuse fascism,” a nascent protest group with ties to a more explicitly left-wing radical group, “the revolutionary communist party,” doesn’t seem like a typical fit for the left-leaning pages of the paper known as The Gray Lady, but very little has been normal about the Trump era so far, according to organizers.

The regime is destroying the planet by ignoring climate change, they say, and they claim it is turning America into a fascist country through an unprecedented series of executive orders.

“What Trump and his administration are doing could pose an existential threat to humanity,” Andy Zee, a member of the advisory board for Refuse Fascism, told Newsweekin a phone interview.


“We’re in one of the most perilous moments in history right now,” Zee said.

The tremendous joy people felt when Trump’s twitter was down, is nothing compared to joy the planet will feel when we drive his regime out!

The Refuse Fascism website states:

No! In the name of humanity we refuse to accept a fascist America! Take to the streets and public squares in cities and towns across the country continuing day after day and night after night — not stopping until our DEMAND is met: This Nightmare Must End: The Trump/Pence Regime Must Go!

A list follows naming what those nightmares are, including discrimination against Muslims and gays, objectivism and harassment of women, and the danger posed by climate change.

The “about” portion of the Refuse Fascism states:

We launched at an emergency meeting at the Great Hall of Cooper Union in NYC on December 19th, 2016.  Watched by some 200,000 people on HuffPo’s FaceBookLive, Andy Zee, PZ Myers, Carl Dix, Jeremy Scahill, Imam Ayub Abdul-Baki, Rev. Doris Johnson, Sunsara Taylor, Immortal Technique, and Fran Luck spoke along with messages from Gloria Steinem, Chase Iron Eyes, Isabel Cardenas, and others on the fascist character of the Trump/Pence Regime and called on people to get organized to stop it before it came to power.

But some are saying that the reaction to the planned rallies is overplayed and is being characterized by some conservative websites as the start of a civil war.

The Washington Post reported:

Infowars has warned “Antifa Plans ‘Civil War’ to Overthrow the Government.” The John Birch Society put out two recent videos warning Americans to “stay home and tell your children to do likewise” on Saturday.  YouTuber “A Glock Fanboy” notched more than 400,400 views for a clip raising the alarm about “the first day of the revolution or whatnot.”

Time magazine flatly said the claims of an insurrection are: “simply not true.”

There will indeed be anti-Trump rallies in 20 cities around the U.S. on Saturday, from Atlanta to Honolulu, organized by a left-wing political action group called Refuse Fascism whose goal is unseating Trump. But its tactics — including but not limited to a “passionate speak-out with music and participatory art” — are a far cry from violent insurrection.

Nor is it likely that the streets will be teeming with angry mobs: only 990 people have said that they’re attending the demonstration in New York, according to the event’s Facebook group.

Among the at least 20 cities where rallies are set to occur are Atlanta, Austin, Boston, Chicago, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Honolulu, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, New York City, Philadelphia, San Francisco, and Seattle.

Forbes Magazine Interview With President Donald Trump

October 12, 2017

I edit Forbes Magazine, and post on business, philanthropy–and food!

This story appears in the November 14, 2017 issue of Forbes. Subscribe

President Donald Trump sat down for an interview with Forbes Magazine Editor Randall Lane and Chief Product Officer Lewis D’Vorkin in the Oval Office on Friday, October 6th. White House Communications Director Hope Hicks also sat in. This is the unedited transcript from the interview, which lasted 50 minutes.

Randall Lane: You’ve always talked about having fun as a key to business. Are you having fun?

Donald Trump: I am having fun. I’m enjoying it. We’re accomplishing a lot. Your stock market is at an all-time high. Your jobs, your unemployment is at the lowest point in almost 17 years. We have fantastic numbers coming out. And I think we’ll have, over the course of the next, fairly short period of time, and more importantly over a long period of time, we’re going to have great numbers coming out of our country.

Lewis D’Vorkin: What’s your personal thought?

Trump: I enjoy success. And we’re having tremendous success, as a country. We have some difficulties with respect to North Korea, the Middle East. I inherited– and I’ve said it often–I inherited a mess. The country was having many different problems. Among them, the Middle East, ISIS, which we’ve done more with respect to ISIS in nine months than we’ve done in nine years. But we have really done, we have done, I would say eight months in eight years, to be specific. But we have done a really, really good job with the military. We’re building up our military. We just had an over $700 billion budget, which will be approved. We’re, you know, there’s been few times where the military was more important than what it is right now. And, in addition to that, which is by far the overriding element, it’s lots of jobs in the United States. So, what the country is doing, we’re doing very well. And on an economic front, we’re doing very well.

Photo credit: Jamel Toppin for Forbes

Lane: Now that we’re almost a year from the big upset and the big win, do you think your business background prepared you for this job? And were you ready, now that you have a year in?

Trump: Well, I think it helped. It’s certainly a different kind of job than, really there is anywhere. Because you have so many skills necessary. But certainly the campaign was successful. What people don’t realize is that I spent much less money than Hillary Clinton. So right there, perhaps that’s business. You know, if you look at the numbers it’s astronomically different.

Lane: Yeah.

Trump: I don’t think anybody’s ever written that. You know, in the old days, if you spent less money and won, that was supposed to be a good thing. Today nobody talks about it. But I spent much less money and won. I think that’s–so we start off there–I think that was good. I also think that, yes, being in–just last night I had dinner with all of our generals and admirals, at the highest level. You probably saw that.

Lane: Yeah, I saw the picture right here. Yeah.

Trump: It was lovely. It was fantastic. But I talked about business. I said, “Your equipment is coming in too slowly and at too great a cost.” And I actually got involved in negotiating, as an example, the F-35 fighter with Lockheed. You may call Marillyn [Hewson], the head of Lockheed, who you know, I think.

Lane: Mhmm.

Trump: And she’s a terrific person. But I developed a bidding system between Boeing and Lockheed. And I was able to reduce the price of the Lockheed by billions of dollars. By billions of dollars. And this took me, actually, a very small amount of time. And I read a story, and this when I was president-elect, had not come here yet. And I called the military. I said, “What’s the problem?” We met with the generals. I then met with Lockheed. I then–the generals were unable to get anything off the price. And in fact, they wanted to raise the price and claim extras. And I met with Marillyn [Hewson], from Lockheed. I then went and had a very frank discussion with her. I then met with Boeing, and I said, “Well, we’re going to come out with a competing plane.” And then went back to her. And I went back and forth. And the end result is billions and billions of dollars have been taken off the cost of the plane.

Lane: Well, again, you’re negotiating with them. You have obviously a lot of negotiation skills that you bring.

Trump: And that’s one thing. There are many, many things that I was too late into the game for the President Gerald Ford aircraft carrier. But it took too long to build, and it was way over budget. And you know, those things, we’re being much more conscious as a country about things such as that.

D’Vorkin: So you’ve had pain points in business, obviously.

Trump: Well, I don’t know.

D’Vorkin: If you–

Trump: Pain points?

D’Vorkin: In other words, obstacles that you have to overcome.

Trump: Oh, sure. You always have obstacles.

D’Vorkin: So, if you take away the politics of being president, and what you’re trying to do with the economy, what are the obstacles that you are finding that you necessarily didn’t find in your business life?

Trump: Well, you have Congress. That’s a big obstacle in many cases. You have, in some cases, well-meaning people in Congress that truly feel strongly about something. And I understand that and actually don’t mind that. And then of course you have grandstanders and others that want to try and make a point or want to do something that really isn’t necessarily in the best interests of the country. And those people I fight. And what people don’t know is that I’ve had just about the most legislation passed of any president, in a nine-month period, that’s ever served. We had over 50 bills passed. I’m not talking about executive orders only, which are very important. I’m talking about bills. We’ve had a tremendous amount of legislation passed. Like VA accountability, which nobody could get passed. Meaning people are accountable now, because before you couldn’t do anything if you caught people who worked there doing very bad things. But many, many bills have been passed. And now we’re going for taxes. I will get health care. I’m one vote short of health care. I’ll get health care. And I think block-granting it back to the states is going to be a great thing to do. I think it’ll be great for the people. Smaller government, great for the people. They’ll be able to handle it better. But we’re one–

Lane: Are you talking about the Graham-Cassidy bill?

Trump: Yeah, I like it very much. I do. I like it. It’s block-granting. It’s granting the money back to the states.

Lane: Right, right.

Trump: And you have a smaller form of government that’s going to be able to do–if they do a proper job–that will be able to do. There are certain states where they are very well run. And I could name them. I could name certain states where they really–they will do miracles with that money, in terms of health care. It’ll be far better than it is. Because Obamacare has failed, badly. So I’m working on that now. But we actually, I would say, I either have the votes or I’m one vote short. And I believe we’ll get health care done sometime prior to the election.

Lane: With Obamacare, until you come up with something different, don’t you feel there’s a lot of things going on with Obamacare right now, where, don’t you feel you need, as CEO of America, an obligation to make it run as good as it can while it’s still the law of the land?

Trump: Well, that’s an interesting, that’s a very interesting question. It’s a failed concept. It’s thousands and thousands of pages. It’s been amended by additional thousands of pages. It’s a total mess. The premiums are going up, you know.

Lane: But while it’s still the law, don’t you think, you know, we’re cutting back on advertising, we’re shrinking the window of signing up, so–

Trump: Well, we’re actually, what we’re doing is trying to keep it afloat, because it’s failing. I mean the insurance companies are fleeing and have fled. They fled before I got here. But with that being said, no, Obamacare is Obama’s fault. It’s nobody else’s fault. In fact, if you go back to–

Lane: Yes, but now it’s your administration’s responsibility.

Trump: Yes. But I’ve always said Obamacare is Obama’s fault. It’s never going to be our fault. With that being said, I think the Democrats want to make a deal. At the same time, I think I have a deal with the Republicans. So I have the best of both worlds. That’s business to a certain extent–

Lane: Right.

Trump: –when you asked the business question. And as you have noticed, I’m very able to make deals with Democrats if I have to.

Lane: Who have you found so far are better deal-making partners, the Ryan-McConnell set or the Pelosi-Schumer set?

Trump: Well, the Republicans have something called the filibuster rule. Which is a disaster. And if they don’t get rid of that, it’s always going to be very tough for them. You know what that is.

Lane: Yes, well, of course.

Trump: The filibuster rule is–

Lane: It’s a disaster when you’re in the majority. It’s a friend when you’re in the minority.

Trump: Well, you need eight Democrat votes every time. I mean, they literally need eight Democratic votes. And, they keep it for the sake of history. But history is that, in 1789, when it all began, what it actually, when they started voting, it was 1789, the first votes, that was a simple majority. And we should go back to a simple majority. If we had the filibuster rule, if we had the 60 votes for Justice Gorsuch, he would not be sitting on the bench right now because for the judges that has been taken off. And part of my plan is that the Democrats would take it off in two minutes. And the Republicans–

Lane: Well, they didn’t when they had a majority.

Trump: Well, they were going to. Well, they did it for the judge. Don’t forget, 95 percent of that work was done before we got there. So I think the filibuster rule is very bad. At the same time, I think if we pass taxes, I think we’ll have health care and taxes before. I believe we’ll have a great infrastructure bill before, which is easiest of all of them. In fact, I think I’ll have more Democrat votes for infrastructure than I will Republican votes. And I also have another bill that I think will be very–an economic development bill, which I think will be fantastic. Which nobody knows about. Which you are hearing about for the first time. But I’m going to do that. But before–

Lane: What is that? What does that mean?

Trump: Economic development incentives for companies. Incentives for companies to be here. Incentives for companies to do things.

D’Vorkin: What kind of incentives?

Trump: And it’ll be a great bill. It’s something I’ve had. I just don’t want to do it before I do health care–

Lane: So business, like Carrier? Business incentives to create jobs, keep jobs?

Trump: So that when companies leave our country, they get penalized severely. So that when companies stay in our country, they’re incentivized. But there won’t be any more companies, and it’s really stuck. I hope you have seen–again, this is an interview where I am doing the talking, I guess–but I hope you’ve seen that companies are moving back into our country. You saw Toyota, five plants. Other companies, car companies are moving back into our country. They are expanding their plants.

Lane: So is it a carrot–

Trump: We have a lot of–

Lane: So is it a carrot to get companies to stay and/or grow? Or is it a stick that you penalize?

Trump: It’s both. It’s both. It’s both a carrot and a stick. It is an incentive to stay. But it is perhaps even more so–if you leave, it’s going to be very tough for you to think that you’re going to be able to sell your product back into our country.

Lane: How comfortable are you, as a businessperson, having the government involved in a business decision about where a company wants to locate? And where a company wants to put jobs.

Trump: Very comfortable, because there’s no tax if you stay. There’s no tax. We have to protect our companies. And if you looked at what’s happened, they’ve been ravaged by the stupidity of politics and, frankly, the stupidity of politicians. They’ve been ravaged. And we have to protect our companies. We have to protect our workers. And the only way you’re going to do that is you have to create rules. I mean, when you talk about, Randall, when you talk about fairness, do you think it’s fair that some countries charge us 100% tariff, or tax, to sell a product in their country? And yet the same product coming out of that country coming into our country comes into our country for no tax. See, that makes it unfair for our companies. And what I want to do is reciprocal. See, I think the concept of reciprocal is a very nice concept. If somebody is charging us 50 percent, we should charge them 50 percent. Right now they charge us 50 percent, and we charge them nothing. That doesn’t work with me.

Lane: You are also taking steps with the corporate tax rate. Which I think there’s a lot of consensus on that.

Trump: Yes.

See the rest at Forbes:

U.S. flies bombers over Korea as Trump discusses options

October 11, 2017

By Christine KimEric Beech

Many Senate Republicans Reject Bob Corker, Stick Up for President Trump

October 10, 2017


10 Oct 2017

Sen. Bob Corker claimed to speak for his Republican colleagues in an interview with the New York Times, but some in the Senate are not happy with his decision to pick a fight with President Donald Trump.

“Look, except for a few people, the vast majority of our caucus understands what we’re dealing with here,” Corker told the Times, claiming Trump was viewed as a threat to U.S. national security and global stability.

But a spokesperson for Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY) told Breitbart News that the senator did not agree with what the retiring Corker had to say.

“No, he does not agree with Sen. Corker,” the spokesperson revealed in a statement. “Senator Barrasso has worked closely with President Trump and will continue to be a strong ally in Congress.”

Barrasso is facing re-election in 2018 amidst rumblings of a possible Republican primary challenger.

Some Republicans staffers made it clear that Corker’s comments were self-serving and unhelpful — especially after announcing his decision to retire rather than seek re-election.

“Given his severe case of short man syndrome and the fact he would have lost his primary, it’s not surprising Corker is seeking attention and affirmation from the Beltway elites,” a senior Republican aide working for a Senator on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee told Breitbart News.

Although many Senate Democrats celebrated Corker’s criticism of the president, Republican staffers viewed Corker’s outburst as a bad strategy.

“Senator Corker should not be picking this fight, he won’t win it,” a senior Republican aide for one of Corker’s Senate colleagues told Breitbart News.

Trump allies in Congress explain that Corker has joined what they describe as the “naysayers caucus” — veteran Republicans like Senator John McCain who vote based on their shared dislike of Trump rather than on principled opposition.

Corker’s critics also view the Senator as in league with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and actively working against some of Trump’s more controversial foreign policy goals.

“Corker is Tillerson’s lapdog on the Foreign Relations Committee,” the aide working for a senator on the Corker’s committee told Breitbart News. “Our staff cheered when Corker announced his retirement.”

One Republican aide explained that although many Senators thought Corker’s comments were ridiculous, his fellow senators were unlikely to publicly criticize the powerful veteran senator as they still had to work with him for the remainder of his term.

Many of Republican senators serving with Corker on the Foreign Relations Committee did not respond to requests for comment from Breitbart News.

Although Paul serves with Corker on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, he did not criticize him directly.

“Senator Paul considers President Trump a personal friend and has worked with him on numerous issues,” Rand Paul’s press secretary Sergio Gor replied, when asked about Corker’s comments.

Other conservative Republicans declined to criticize Corker, but signaled their support for Trump.

When asked if Cruz agreed with Corker’s comment a spokesperson for the Texas Senator replied, “No.”

“From day one, Senator Cruz has worked closely with President Trump to honor our promises to the voters to repeal Obamacare, cut taxes, rein in job-killing regulations, and confirm strong constitutionalist judges,” the spokesperson said in a statement to Breitbart News.

When asked about Corker’s comments, Sen. Mike Lee spokesman Conn Carroll replied, “Sen Lee speaks for himself.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell reverted to his usual non-combative tone, when asked about Corker’s comments.

“Sen. Corker is a valuable member of the Senate Republican caucus and he’s also on the Budget committee and a particularly important player as we move to the floor on the budget next week and he’s an important part of our team,” McConnell said on Monday.

Trump’s New Iran Strategy Could Keep the ‘Worst Deal Ever’ Intact

October 8, 2017


By Nick Wadhams and Steven T. Dennis

  • President has until Oct. 15 to certify Iran’s compliance
  • Proposal would ask Congress to toughen law related to the deal

President Donald Trump is weighing a new strategy to confront Iran’s nuclear ambitions that would leave a 2015 agreement intact for now but ask Congress to toughen a law overseeing the Islamic Republic’s compliance with the accord, according to three administration officials.

The goal behind the strategy, which Trump is expected to announce next week, would be to present a unified front from the administration and Congress to European allies, according to the officials, who asked not to be identified discussing an issue on which the president hasn’t announced a final decision. The officials declined to say if Trump would also “decertify” Iran’s compliance with the deal, a decision he has to make every 90 days under U.S. law.

Trump meets with senior military leaders on Oct. 5.

Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

Trump has railed against the accord, which was brokered during the Obama administration, as the “worst deal ever” and an “embarrassment to the United States.”

Asked in an interview broadcast on Saturday if he would pull the U.S. out of the Iranian nuclear deal, Trump said, “I won’t say that.”

“A few days from now, almost a week and a half to be exact, you’ll see,” Trump said in an interview with former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee on the Trinity Broadcasting Network. The segment was taped Friday at the White House. Trump repeated his view that the 2015 deal with Iran was “terrible.”

Before meeting with senior military leaders at the White House on Thursday evening, Trump told reporters, “We must put an end to Iran’s aggression and nuclear ambitions.” Saying that Iran hasn’t “lived up the spirit of the nuclear agreement,” Trump said “you’ll be hearing about Iran very shortly.”

Read More: A QuickTake Q&A on Whether the U.S. Will Blow Up the Iran Deal

But U.S. allies that are part of the accord, as well as China and Russia, say it’s been effective. They point to assessments by the International Atomic Energy Agency that Iran is meeting requirements to curb its nuclear program.

That hasn’t persuaded Trump. Although the president has twice certified Iran’s compliance with the agreement, which lifted a range of economic sanctions in exchange for restrictions on the nuclear program, he signaled in a July interview with the Wall Street Journal that he wouldn’t do so again before an approaching Oct. 15 deadline.

‘Unified Team’

White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders gave a hint about the new approach in a briefing with reporters Thursday, saying Trump will propose “a comprehensive strategy on how to deal with Iran” and will have “a unified team behind him supporting that effort.”

Sarah Sanders

Photographer: Zach Gibson/Bloomberg

Staying in the accord but decertifying Iran’s compliance would meet a standard set publicly this week by Defense Secretary Jim Mattis. He told congressional committees that it’s in the U.S. interest to stay in the Iran deal but that decertification is a “distinct” matter.

The approach the officials mapped out is similar to one proposed by Republican Senator Tom Cotton this week. Cotton, a longtime opponent of the accord, suggested Trump could “decertify” Iran’s compliance with the deal without leaving the agreement, citing the Islamic Republic’s continued ballistic missile tests and its meddling in countries from Syria to Yemen.

Cotton added that he wouldn’t immediately seek a “snapback” of sanctions eased by the deal. Doing so would be considered a breach of the agreement, allowing Iran to reconstitute its nuclear program.

“Congress and the president, working together, should lay out how the deal must change and, if it doesn’t, the consequences Iran will face,” Cotton, who’s close to Trump’s national security advisers, said in a speech Tuesday at the Council on Foreign Relations.

Doubts on Congress

Specifically, the proposal hashed out by Trump’s national security team would ask Congress to amend the 2015 Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act, according to the officials. One possible change would be to require that Congress periodically certify that Iran remains at least a year away from developing a nuclear weapon.

Bob Corker

Photographer: Pete Marovich/Bloomberg

Senator Bob Corker, the Tennessee Republican who heads the Foreign Relations Committee, is currently working on legislation to amend the original law, according to one of the officials. Corker declined Thursday to discuss prospects for action on the Iran accord.

An outside expert familiar with the administration’s thinking, who asked not to be identified because the talks are private, said the proposal put forward by Trump’s advisers would offer a “third way” — decertify that the deal is in the U.S. interest, roll out a comprehensive pressure campaign against Iran and use that to build leverage for negotiations with European allies in the future.

It’s not clear, though, that Congress, where Republicans have only a narrow majority in the Senate, would be able to approve any changes to the law. Another concern is that Republicans will come under pressure from opponents of the deal to kill it before a “third way” proposal could be put together.

“The administration is going to face an uphill battle to convince Republicans, who only begrudgingly supported the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act in 2015, to now reinforce it instead of reimposing sanctions and killing the JCPOA,” said Jamie Fly, a senior fellow at the German Marshall Fund, using an acronym for the Iran deal. “It’s also not clear whether Democrats will want to give the president a win on this issue.”

Oct. 15 Deadline

Trump will unveil his new strategy next week, ahead of the Oct. 15 deadline, according to the officials.

While Trump said last month that he’s made his decision — and much of the focus in recent days has been on whether he will certify Iranian compliance — administration officials say no final decision has been made. Even if Trump he doesn’t certify that the deal is in U.S. interests, the multinational accord will remain intact.

The administration’s approach may help assuage European allies, who have privately expressed a willingness to work on other ways to control Iran as long as the U.S. agrees to remain in the nuclear deal. But that’s where they draw the line.

U.K. Foreign Minister Boris Johnson, standing alongside U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson at a press briefing in London last month, said “it’s important that we make it work and that we keep it alive.”

— With assistance by Justin Sink

Trump Jr. defends dad’s response to racial protest

October 6, 2017

By Bill Barrow

The Associated Press

MONTGOMERY, Alabama (AP) — Donald Trump Jr. on Thursday stood by his father’s declarations that “both sides” were to blame after August’s racially driven violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, where a white supremacist killed a counter-protester.

President Donald Trump’s eldest son said his father was criticized only because of an “atmosphere of hatred” on the left that the younger Trump blamed on liberal university campuses and traditional media.

“He condemned … the white nationalists and the left-wingers,” Trump Jr. said during the annual fundraising gala for Faulkner University, a private Christian university in Alabama. “That should not have been controversial, but it was.”

Trump Jr., who was paid as Faulkner’s keynote speaker, went on to cite examples of violence on the left. He mentioned antifa, far-left-leaning militant groups that call themselves anti-fascist, for outbursts in Berkeley, California. He alluded to the former Bernie Sanders supporter who shot at Republican congressmen gathering for baseball practice, nearly killing Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana.

“He went out looking for Republicans to kill,” Trump Jr. said, “and we’re supposed to forget that.”

Trump Jr. did not go into detail about the Charlottesville melee, never mentioning the woman who was killed after a white nationalist drove a car into a crowd of counter-protesters.

Besides defending his father, Trump Jr. used much of his 35-minute address to mock the culture on most of the nation’s college campuses, which he said teaches young Americans to “hate their country” and “hate their religion” while squelching conservative voices.

He noted instances where conservatives have been denied speaking opportunities or encountered protests upon their appearances.

“Today’s conservative speech is violence. Unprovoked liberal violence is self-defense,” Trump Jr. complained. “Words have lost their meanings.”

He continued: “‘Hate speech’ is that America is a good country … that we need borders … anything that comes out of the mouth of the president … the moral teaching of the Bible.”

He also mocked some universities’ focus on diversity, singling out the concept of “safe spaces” for women, minorities and LGBT students. He went on to praise two Alabama figures who played defining roles in the civil rights movement: Martin Luther King Jr. and federal jurist Frank Johnson, who enforced many of the Supreme Court’s civil rights decisions.

Neither Trump Jr. nor his hosts at Faulkner mentioned his place at the center of ongoing FBI and congressional inquiries into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election. Trump Jr. moved to the fore of the Russia investigation in July amid revelations about a June 2016 meeting he helped arrange with a Russian attorney tied to the Kremlin.

Senate Intelligence Committee leaders from both parties this week declared that the issue of Russian meddling has not been settled, despite the president’s claims of a “hoax” and “fake news.” The committee staff has yet to interview Trump Jr., who has admitted he took the meeting with the Russian attorney expecting to get damaging information about his father’s general election opponent, Hillary Clinton.

Trump Jr. made no mention of Alabama’s looming Senate election for the seat previously held by Attorney General Jeff Sessions. The president endorsed Sessions’ appointed successor, Luther Strange, but GOP voters sided with former Judge Roy Moore, who faces Democrat Doug Jones in a Dec. 12 general election.

The address was part of Trump Jr.’s periodic paid speaking schedule that began before his father’s election. A Faulkner spokeswoman confirmed the school paid Trump Jr. but declined to disclose his fee.

The North Texas Daily, the student newspaper at the University of North Texas, has reported Trump Jr. will be paid $100,000 to speak at a university fundraising event Oct. 24. An archived web page of Trump Jr.’s agency, All American Speakers, shows his speaking fee as “$50,001 and above.” NBC News has reported the page was removed from the agency’s website after NBC inquiries.


Follow Bill Barrow on Twitter at

Senator Endorses Intel on Russia (Except the Part About Trump)

October 5, 2017
The Senate Intelligence Committee’s update on Kremlin interference wasn’t much of an update.
They’ve got answers. You’ve got questions.

 Photographer: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Leaving aside the bloviating protests of President Donald Trump, there are two ways to understand Russia’s influence campaign against the 2016 election.

The first is obvious. The Russians tried to elect Trump. You don’t need access to top-secret U.S. government documents to reach this conclusion. It happened in real time. Russians hacked the emails of leading Democrats and distributed them on the internet. Trump touted the disclosures in the final weeks of the campaign.

The other explanation of Russian meddling is that it was more insidious. The Russians aimed to undermine the public’s faith in the electoral system itself. This is what former FBI director James Comey told the House Intelligence Committee early this year. He said the Russian hacks were “unusually loud,” and that they “wanted us to see what they were doing.” In this sense, the Russian operation succeeds by persuading voters that the vote was rigged, no matter who wins.

The intelligence community assessment of Russian electoral influence released by the Obama administration on Jan. 6 endorses both views. It says one aim of the Russian operation was to undermine “public faith in the U.S. democratic process.” It also concludes the Russians helped try to elect Trump.

On Wednesday, the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Richard Burr, muddied the waters. On the one hand he said, “We trust the conclusions” of the Jan. 6 assessment, though he added the caveat that the committee had not yet closed its consideration of the matter.

On the other hand Burr said he was still agnostic on whether Russia tried to help elect Trump. Indeed, a component of the Russian influence operation — its purchase of advertisements on social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter — suggests their main goal was to sow chaos. When asked by a reporter about Russia’s preference for Trump, he said: “We have not come to any determination on collusion or Russia’s preferences. If we use solely the social media we have seen, there is no way you can say this was to help the right side of the political divide or vice versa.”

It’s hard to square that answer with Burr’s remarks that the committee trusts the conclusions of intelligence community assessment. The first bullet point of that document says: “Putin and the Russian government aspired to help President-elect Trump’s election chances when possible by discrediting Secretary Clinton and publicly contrasting her unfavorably to him.”

It’s likely that the Russians initially hoped to simply undermine the election, but then modified their strategy as Trump gained momentum.

There’s an important lesson here for Democrats. Russia’s intelligence agencies have no allegiance to either major U.S. political party. The next candidate Russia decides to help could be one of their own.

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.

See also POLITICO:

5 things we learned from the Senate’s Russia probe update

Image may contain: 2 people, suit

Senate Intelligence Committee Ranking Member Mark Warner (left) and Chairman Richard Burr answer questions after updating the press on the state of the Russia investigation by the panel on Oct. 4. | John Shinkle/POLITICO

Say It Isn’t So: Trump Administration Weighs Withdrawal From South Korea Trade Pact

September 3, 2017

President Donald Trump has been a critic of the five-year-old bilateral deal

U.S. President Donald Trump, right, and President of South Korea Moon Jae-in at a White House press conference in June.
U.S. President Donald Trump, right, and President of South Korea Moon Jae-in at a White House press conference in June. PHOTO:MICHAEL REYNOLDS/EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

Updated Sept. 3, 2017 6:59 a.m. ET

The Trump administration is weighing giving notice to South Korea of plans to withdraw from a five-year-old bilateral trade pact, with a decision arriving as soon as this coming week, according to people familiar with the matter.

President Donald Trump has repeatedly complained about the pact and the sharp increase in the U.S. trade deficit that followed the 2012 implementation of the agreement. Trade negotiators from the two countries held a series of tense meetings over the summer with American officials leaving unhappy with what they felt was Seoul’s unwillingness to make significant changes to the U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement, known as Korus, according to people briefed on the meetings.

Talk of an exit comes as the Trump administration is simultaneously trying to round up support in South Korea and around the region to more aggressively oppose North Korea’s effort to build nuclear missiles that can hit the U.S.

A White House spokeswoman said Saturday that “discussions are ongoing” with Korea over the pact but declined to elaborate further. “We have no announcements at this time,” the spokeswoman said.

It is unclear whether the White House is really considering abrogating the pact, or wants to use the threat as a negotiating tactic to bring Seoul back to the bargaining table.

“It’s a real question how serious this is,” said one person outside the administration who was familiar with its discussions.

South Korea’s trade ministry declined to comment.

Trade officials in Seoul said it wasn’t appropriate to talk about what the two governments have yet to officially discuss. “The government is thoroughly preparing for all possibilities,” said a South Korean trade ministry official. Seoul would keep discussing the issue with Washington in an “open-minded” manner, the official said.

Inside the White House, Mr. Trump and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer have shown interest in withdrawing from the deal, said multiple people familiar with the internal debate. Mr. Trump has been frustrated with the slow pace of negotiations over Nafta and is eager to deliver on campaign promises to rewrite the nation’s free-trade agreements, the people said.

On the other side are the former and current military officers advising the president, including National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster, who have urged more caution and questioned the timing of such a move, the people said.

Escalating trade pressure on South Korea is also likely to face resistance from the U.S. State Department and the Defense Department, which have been working closely with the Asian ally on a coordinated strategy to counter the rising threat from North Korea’s nuclear program— including Seoul’s willingness to install U.S.-made antimissile launchers over deep domestic political opposition.

Jon Wolfsthal, a fellow at Harvard University’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, said killing the free-trade agreement would make North Korea’s goal of driving a wedge between the U.S. and South Korea easier to reach.

With North Korea’s capabilities steadily advancing, “this would seem the worst time to engage an economic warfare with a close ally,” said Mr. Wolfsthal, senior director for arms control and nonproliferation at the National Security Council during the Obama administration.

In a similar way, Mr. Trump threatened in April to withdraw from the North American Free Trade Agreement, before dropping that warning to renegotiate the deal with Canada and Mexico. Those talks are continuing this weekend in Mexico City, and Mr. Trump has in recent days revived his Nafta withdrawal threat should he be unhappy with the results.

Still, U.S. business groups that lobbied heavily for the pact under the Obama administration have taken seriously the potential Korus break, which was first reported by news publication Inside U.S. Trade, and launched a furious weekend effort to quell the prospect.

The National Association of Manufacturers sent an “alert” email to members shortly after 8 a.m. Saturday that said “we understand through multiple sources that. a notice of intent to withdraw. has been drafted.” The trade group urged its members “to weigh in as soon as possible with senior administration officials, Members of Congress and governors.” A similar flurry of business activity helped block the threatened Nafta withdrawal in April.

Mr. Trump is scheduled to meet with top advisers in the White House on Tuesday to discuss the potential withdrawal, according to a person familiar with the planning.

A break in the South Korea trade pact also would be seen by some critics as a sign of further American withdrawal from economic engagement in the region, following Mr. Trump’s January pullout from the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact, which had been negotiated by former President Barack Obama with Japan, Australia, Malaysia, Vietnam, and others, but was never ratified by Congress.

Under the terms of the Korus pact, either side can pull out by giving 180 days notice.

Mr. Trump has branded Korus as “horrible,” and during a June White House meeting with South Korean President Moon Jae-in he said the two sides had agreed to renegotiate the deal.

Mr. Moon and his aides have repeatedly denied that they were willing to go that far, though they have agreed to discussions to review possible amendments to the pact.

Under the provisions of the agreement, each side has the right to request a meeting to discuss possible changes, and the Trump administration triggered that clause for the first time under the pact, leading to an Aug. 22 meeting.

That session was tense, according to people who were briefed on it, and the two sides didn’t reach any agreements about how to proceed. “Unfortunately, too many American workers have not benefited from the agreement,” Mr. Lighthizer said in a statement released after the discussion with his South Korean counterpart. “President Trump is committed to substantial improvements in the Korean agreement that address the trade imbalance,” added Mr. Lighthizer, who participated via videoconference.

A USTR fact sheet released with the statement said the U.S. trade deficit in goods with South Korea had more than doubled from $13.2 billion in 2011 —the year before the pact took effect—to $27.6 billion in 2016. It noted that the bilateral auto deficit made up about 90% of that deficit.

President Trump and some of his aides have cited bilateral deficits with trading partners as a clear indication of problems in an economic relationship —a view rejected by many economists, who say that broader macroeconomic factors like savings and investment levels drive trade imbalances, and those can’t be altered through trade agreements. But the Trump administration has told the South Korean government it wants to use their pact to address the deficit. At the August meeting, the South Korean government proposed a joint study to examine the causes of the imbalance.

While Mr. Lighthizer cited ongoing trade barriers in South Korea as a factor behind the growing imbalance, some economists say that a sharp economic downturn in the country in recent years has reduced South Korean imports across the board, and they argue that U.S. exports would have fallen much more than the 3% drop registered over the past five years.

Korus advocates also say that some sectors have benefited under the agreement and would suffer from a breach. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which also rallied its members Saturday to fight a pullout, circulated a fact sheet saying that “aerospace exports to Korea have doubled to $8 billion” under the pact, while “exports of key agriculture products have soared as Korus has begun to phase out double digit tariffs.”

The Chamber notice warned that a pullout “would rupture White House relations with the business and agriculture community”—ties that have already been strained in recent weeks over other issues, including the dissolution of various White House business councils in the wake of Mr. Trump’s handling of the mid-July Charlottesville, Va., protests.

A Korus pullout announcement would also likely aggravate Mr. Trump’s already tense ties with Capitol Hill. Lawmakers have repeatedly complained in recent months about what they consider insufficient consultation with the administration over trade policy. In a rare bipartisan move, the four Republican and Democratic leaders of the House and Senate trade committees sent Mr. Lighthizer a letter in mid-July urging him to consult them closely as he reviewed Korus, and to be careful about any dramatic breaks. “The U.S. trade agreement with South Korea remains a key cornerstone of U.S. economic and strategic engagement in the Asia-Pacific region,” their letter began.

The administration’s debate over a possible Korus pullout comes amid a wide-ranging exploration of changing American trade policy. In addition to renegotiating Nafta, officials are ramping up trade pressure on China, and have studied the possibility of imposing new trade curbs on steel and aluminum imports in the name of national security. Beyond the TPP pullout, though, the administration has done little to change trade policy so far, despite the strong rhetoric.

Write to Jacob M. Schlesinger at, Michael C. Bender at and Jonathan Cheng at

Analysis: Trump vows to win the seemingly unwinnable war

August 22, 2017

The Associated Press

Donald Trump

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump is vowing to win what has seemed to be an unwinnable war.

How he plans to do so is still murky despite the months of internal deliberations that ultimately persuaded Trump to stick with a conflict he has long opposed.

In a 26-minute address to the nation Monday, Trump alluded to more American troops deploying to Afghanistan, but refused to say how many. He said victory would be well-defined, but outlined only vague benchmarks for success, like dismantling al-Qaida and preventing the Taliban from taking over Afghanistan. He said the U.S. would not offer Afghanistan a “blank check,” but provided no specific timetable for the end of an American commitment that has already lasted 16 years.

Instead, Trump projected an “I got this” bravado that has become a hallmark of his presidency.

“In the end, we will win,” he declared of America’s longest war.

Victory in Afghanistan has eluded Trump’s predecessors: President George W. Bush, who launched the war after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, and President Barack Obama, who surged U.S. troop levels to 100,000, but ultimately failed in fulfilling his promise to bring the conflict to a close before leaving office.

President Donald Trump gave a prime time address Monday announcing a policy shift on Afghanistan and South Asia. Jarrett Blanc, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, argues Trump’s announcement marked little change. (Aug. 21)

As Trump now takes his turn at the helm, he faces many of the same challenges that have bedeviled those previous presidents and left some U.S. officials deeply uncertain about whether victory is indeed possible.

Afghanistan remains one of the world’s poorest countries and corruption is embedded in its politics. The Taliban is resurgent. And Afghan forces remain too weak to secure the country without American help.

“When we had 100,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan, we couldn’t secure the whole country,” said Ben Rhodes, who served as Obama’s deputy national security adviser.

Trump offered up many of the same solutions tried by his predecessors. He vowed to get tough on neighboring Pakistan, to push for reforms in Afghanistan and to moderate ambitions. The U.S. will not be caught in the quagmire of democracy-building abroad, he said, promising a “principled realism” focused only on U.S. interests would guide his decisions.

Obama promised much of the same.

By simply sticking with the Afghan conflict, Trump’s plan amounts to a victory for the military men increasingly filling Trump’s inner circle and a stinging defeat for the nationalist supporters who saw in Trump a like-minded skeptic of U.S. intervention in long and costly overseas conflicts. Chief among them is ousted adviser Steve Bannon, whose website Breitbart News blared criticism Monday of the establishment’s approach to running he war.

After Trump’s speech, one headline on the website read: “’UNLIMITED WAR.” Another said: “What Does Victory in Afghanistan Look Like? Washington Doesn’t Know.”

Now Trump leads Washington and that question falls for him to answer. As a candidate, he energized millions of war-weary voters with an “America First” mantra and now faces the challenges of explaining how that message translates to U.S. involvement in a war across the globe, likely for years to come.

In a rare moment of public self-reflection, Trump acknowledged that his position on Afghanistan had changed since taking office and sought to sway his supporters who would normally oppose a continuation of the war.

“My original instinct was to pull out,” Trump said. “But all my life I’ve heard that decisions are much different when you sit behind the desk in the Oval Office, in other words, when you’re president of the United States.”

Trump pointed to “three fundamental conclusions” about U.S. interests in Afghanistan — all of which appeal to patriotism and nationalistic pride.

The president said the nation needs to seek “an honorable and enduring outcome worthy of the tremendous sacrifices” made by U.S. soldiers — a line that harkened back to promises made by Richard Nixon during the 1968 campaign to bring “an honorable end” to the war in Vietnam.

Trump also warned that a rapid exit would create a vacuum that terrorists like the Islamic State group and al-Qaida would fill, leading to conditions similar to before the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. And he noted that the security threats in Afghanistan are “immense,” and made the case that it is key to protecting the U.S.

The U.S. currently has about 8,400 troops in Afghanistan. Pentagon officials proposed plans to send in nearly 4,000 more to boost training and advising of the Afghan forces and bolster counterterrorism operations against the Taliban and an Islamic State group affiliate trying to gain a foothold in the country.

To those U.S. service members, Trump promised nothing short of success.

“The men and women who serve our nation in combat deserve a plan for victory,” he said. “They deserve the tools they need and the trust they have earned to fight and to win.”


EDITOR’S NOTE — Washington Bureau Chief Julie Pace has covered the White House and politics for The Associated Press since 2007. Follow her at .

Ken Thomas has covered the White House and national politics for the AP since 2011. Follow him at .