Allies Distance Themselves From U.S. After Trump’s First Foreign Trip

President Trump received a largely cordial welcome on the first overseas trip of his presidency. But now that he’s returned to Washington, the foreign leaders he met with are increasingly blunt in their reviews of the American president.

In separate remarks intended mostly for domestic consumption, leaders of Germany, France and Israel all sought to distance themselves from Trump, just days after meeting with the president during his nine-day foreign trip to Saudi Arabia, Israel, Vatican City, Brussels and Italy.

Among the sources of friction: Trump’s reluctance to unreservedly commit to the North Atlantic alliance, his skepticism of a climate change accord signed on to by his predecessor, President Obama, and outreach to Palestinians in pursuit of a Middle East peace agreement.

“It’s clear that in Europe at least, that anti-Trump position plays well domestically,” said Ivo Daalder, a former U.S. ambassador to NATO in the Obama administration. “But the larger issue is that the trip didn’t go well in Europe.”

The dynamic is partly one of Trump’s brash style. “I think what grates on European leaders is the sense that he does not treat them as equals, let alone as allies,” Daalder said. “He approaches them in this confrontational way, in an attempt to constantly get a better deal out of them.”

Trump hasn’t spoken about the trip publicly, avoiding press conferences for the entire journey. But on Twitter, he pronounced the mission a triumph. “Just returned from Europe. Trip was a great success for America. Hard work but big results!” Trump tweeted on Sunday.

The reaction abroad was more cautious:

France: New French President Emmanuel Macron said his now-famous white-knuckled handshake with Trump was a deliberate attempt to demonstrate that he wouldn’t be bullied by the American president. “One must show that you won’t make small concessions, even symbolic ones, but also not over-publicize things, either,” he told the French newspaper Journal du Dimanche“My handshake with him — it wasn’t innocent.”

Germany: Chancellor Angela Merkel said Sunday at a Bavarian beer hall that Europe can no longer “fully rely” on its overseas allies. On climate issues, she said, the Group of Seven meeting was “seven against one” — counting the European Union as part of the seven (and the United States as the one). Her chief political rival took umbrage at the way Trump sought to “humiliate” Merkel in Brussels. “I reject with outrage the way this man takes it upon himself to treat the head of our country’s government,” said Martin Schulz, who is challenging Merkel for the chancellorship as an “anti-Trump” candidate. He said Trump was “acting like an autocratic leader.”

United Kingdom: British Prime Minister Theresa May is upset that American intelligence officials leaked information about the Manchester concert bombing to the media. Trump acknowledged that he got an earful from May, tweeting Sunday that she was “very angry” about the leaks. “Gave me full details!”

Israel: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has said Israel has “no better friend” than Trump, appeared to hold the president at arm’s length on Monday. Speaking to members of his conservative Likud party, Netanyahu warned that a Trump-brokered peace negotiation with the Palestinians “comes at a price.” And while he welcomed U.S. support for Israel, he emphasized that “there is no such thing as innocent gifts.”

Palestinian Authority: An Israeli television station reported that Trump shouted at Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, during their meeting in Bethlehem last week yelling, “You tricked me!” and accusing the Palestinian Authority of inciting violence in the West Bank. (The Palestinians denied the report.)

Trump’s trip began in Saudi Arabia with a summit of Muslim Arab leaders — and they’re perhaps the least likely to grumble. After feeling neglected by Obama, the Saudis welcomed a $110 billion arms package and Trump’s more bellicose rhetoric toward mutual enemies like Iran and the Islamic State.

But in Europe, Trump’s “America First” foreign policy appeared to alienate other members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, the 68-year-old alliance intended to contain Russia — the country at the center of a growing controversy over ties to Trump aides.

At a ceremony meant to solemnize the collective defense provision of the NATO charter in Brussels, Trump failed to explicitly reassure European allies that the U.S. would come to their aid in the event of an attack. Instead, he renewed his complaints that they were not paying their fair share. (In doing so, he misrepresented the commitment by NATO allies to spend at least 2% of their economies on defense.)

And in Sicily, where leaders of the G-7 economic powers gathered, Trump continued his hard-line stance on climate and trade issues. He reportedly told Merkel that Germany was “bad” or “evil” (depending on the translation) because of its trade imbalance with the United States.

But among Trump supporters, his tough talk to foreign leaders drew raves. Sen. Bob Corker, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said he “could not be more pleased” with Trump’s international travels.

“The trip was executed to near perfection and it appears the president has made great progress on the broad range of objectives,” he said after speaking with Trump on Sunday.

[USA Today]

Trump Sunday Morning Tweet Promises ‘Love and Strength’ of GOP Will Eventually Take Away Obamacare

President Donald Trump was off and running on Twitter Sunday morning, once again attacking the media for saying his plan to repeal and replace Obamacare is “dead.”

Ten days after House Majority leader Paul Ryan (R-WI) pulled his Trumpcare bill in the face of certain defeat and Trump administration officials said the president was moving on to budget and tax matters, Trump declared on Sunday that he still intends to get rid on Obamacare.

The president then asserted the real story the press should be covering is “surveillance and leaking.”

“Anybody (especially Fake News media) who thinks that Repeal & Replace of ObamaCare is dead does not know the love and strength in R Party!” Trump tweeted before adding, “Talks on Repealing and Replacing ObamaCare are, and have been, going on, and will continue until such time as a deal is hopefully struck.”

Trump’s mention of “love and strength in the R party” strikes a conciliatory tone from his recent Twitter attacks on the hard right Republican Freedom Caucus that torpedoed Trumpcare.

On Saturday, Trump’s social media director Dan Scavino called for the defeat of Freedom Caucus Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI) to be defeated at the polls.

You can see Trump’s Sunday tweets below:

(h/t Raw Story)

Trump Praises Exxon Announcement on Old Investments

President Donald Trump heralded ExxonMobil’s announcement Monday that it’s investing in manufacturing jobs in the U.S. — even though at least some of the investment started years ago.

Exxon CEO Darren Woods said the company would invest $20 billion in manufacturing projects along the Gulf Coast. But at some of the spending started in 2013 and is expected to continue through at least 2022, Exxon said in a statement. Exxon said at least one of the projects — an aviation lubricants plant in Baton Rouge, Louisiana — had already been completed.

Those facts didn’t deter Trump, who used the occasion to shower praise on the giant oil and gas company that until recently was led by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

“45,000 construction & manufacturing jobs in the U.S. Gulf Coast region,” Trump tweeted Monday afternoon. “$20 billion investment. We are already winning again, America!”

In a statement from the White House, Trump said: “This is exactly the kind of investment, economic development and job creation that will help put Americans back to work.”

The White House statement quoted Woods praising Trump. “Private sector investment is enhanced by this Administration’s support for smart regulations that support growth while protecting the environment,” the CEO said.

Woods took over as Exxon’s CEO in January, following Tillerson’s departure. Tillerson, who had lunch with Trump on Monday, has appeared to be out of the loop on a number of key issues and has kept a low profile within the administration.

Under his agreement with the Office of Government Ethics, Tillerson is barred from any matter involving Exxon through the end of the year. And he has until May 2 to finish divesting his stock holdings in the company, which are estimated at about $55 million. That raises the possibility Tillerson still holds a stake in the company for now. The federal law against conflicts of interest exempts the president but does apply to the secretary of state.

Spokesmen for the White House and the State Department did not immediately answer questions about whether Trump and Tillerson discussed the investment at their lunch Monday and whether Tillerson has already liquidated his holdings in Exxon.

In his announcement, Woods said that Exxon’s goal is to create 35,000 construction jobs and 12,000 full-time jobs, Woods said. The company has not said how many of the 11 projects announced Monday were planned under Tillerson.

The strategy of CEOs re-announcing old investments in the Trump era is not new. Softbank CEO Masayoshi Son announced after a December meeting with Trump a tech fund that would invest $50 billion in the U.S. Trump publicized Son’s plan despite the fact that the investment had been part of a previously announced plan.

(h/t Politico)


Without Evidence, Trump Tells Lawmakers 3 Million to 5 million Illegal Ballots Cost Him the Popular Vote

Days after being sworn in, President Trump insisted to congressional leaders invited to a reception at the White House that he would have won the popular vote had it not been for millions of illegal votes, according to people familiar with the meeting.

Trump has repeatedly claimed, without evidence, that widespread voter fraud caused him to lose the popular vote to Hillary Clinton, even while he clinched the presidency with an electoral college victory.

Two people familiar with the meeting said Trump spent about 10 minutes at the start of the bipartisan gathering rehashing the campaign. He also told them that between 3 million and 5 million illegal votes caused him to lose the popular vote.

The discussion about Trump’s election victory and his claim that he would have won the popular vote was confirmed by a third person familiar with the meeting.

The claim is not supported by any verifiable facts, and analyses of the election found virtually no confirmed cases of voter fraud, let alone millions.

Clinton won the popular vote by more than 2.8 million votes. Trump won 304 electoral college votes to Clinton’s 227.

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) alluded to Trump’s comments as he returned to the Capitol from the meeting Monday night.

“We talked about different electoral college, popular votes, going through the different ones,” McCarthy said. “Well, we talked about going back through past elections. Everyone in there goes through elections and stuff, so everybody’s giving their different histories of different parts.”

Asked by reporters after the meeting if Trump made any surprising statements at the gathering, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) replied, “Well, I won’t even go into that.”

(h/t Washington Post)


Interior Department Banned From Twitter After Retweet of Smaller-Than-Usual Trump Inauguration Crowd

The Interior Department was ordered Friday to shut down its official Twitter accounts — indefinitely — after a National Park Service employee shared two tweets that noted President Trump’s relatively small inaugural crowds compared to the numbers former President Obama drew in 2009.

‘‘All bureaus and the department have been directed by incoming administration to shut down Twitter platforms immediately until further notice,’’ said an e-mail circulated to Park Service employees Friday afternoon.

The e-mail described the stand-down as an ‘‘urgent directive’’ and said social media managers must shut down the accounts ‘‘until further directed.’’

Interior has dozens of official Twitter accounts at its multiple offices and 10 bureaus, which include the Park Service, US Fish and Wildlife Service, and US Geological Survey.

As Trump’s inauguration ceremony got underway Friday, a Park Service employee involved in social media officially retweeted a tweet from New York Times reporter Binyamin Appelbaum (@BCAppelbaum) that pictured the crowd at Obama’s inauguration next to Friday’s gathering on the Mall.

‘‘Compare the crowds: 2009 inauguration at left, 2017 inauguration at right,’’ Appelbaum wrote. The Park Service Twitter account then shared a second tweet from someone else with a similar message.

A government official familiar with the stand-down said the agency is investigating whether the retweets were purposeful, ‘‘errant,’’ or ‘‘whether we’ve been hacked.’’

‘‘They were not reflective of Park Service policy,’’ said the official, who requested anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the directive. The stand-down was ‘‘precautionary’’ until the agency completes a review of its Twitter accounts, the official said. The Park Service tweeting ban was first reported by

A retweet is a sharing of another person’s tweet. Seen straightforwardly, it’s a way to share an interesting piece of information. In the government’s case, the agency doing the retweeting must have a policy that agrees with the information.

In this case, the Park Service didn’t. Or someone was nervous that the retweets would be seen as endorsements of a relatively low crowd estimate and rankle the new administration.

It was unclear who at Interior made the decision to ban tweeting for now. The agency is being led temporarily by a team of career civil servants while the Senate considers Representative Ryan Zinke, Republican of Montana, as Trump’s nominee for secretary.

It was unclear Friday if the retweeting Park Service employee had been identified. But the offending shares from @NatlParkService had been removed from the agency’s Twitter feed.

National Park Service spokesman Thomas Crosson declined to comment on the tweeting ban. But he said that it is against Park Service policy to estimate the size of crowds at events, because they are often inaccurate.

‘‘Due to the difficulty in accurately assessing crowd estimates for large events, most notably following 1995’s Million Man March, the National Park Service no longer makes it a practice to provide crowd estimates for permitted events,’’ Crosson said in an e-mail.

‘‘While we make internal estimates for staffing, security, and emergency response purposes, it is left to the discretion of event organizers to make a determination of the event attendance.’’

(h/t Boston Globe)


New photos released via a FOIA request absolutely prove Trump’s crowd sizes were drastically smaller that Obama’s inauguration.

Trump Questions Veracity of Ballot Counting in Colorado

Donald J. Trump has found a new reason to question the legitimacy of the 2016 election — ballots — and he wasted little time here on Saturday before taking issue with the voting system in this largely vote-by-mail state.

“I have real problems with ballots being sent,” Mr. Trump said, pantomiming a ballot collector sifting envelops and tossing some over his shoulder while counting others.

“If you don’t have a ballot, they give you another one and they void your one at home,” he told the crowd at an afternoon rally. “And then, of course, the other side would send that one in too, but, you know, we don’t do that stuff. We don’t do that stuff.”

Mr. Trump’s repetitive accusations of a “rigged” election and a slanted electoral system are grounded in the belief that fraudulent behavior would only help his opponent.

Yet it was a Trump supporter in Des Moines who was charged on Thursday with a Class D felony in Iowa, having sent in two absentee ballots, both supporting Mr. Trump.

The voter, Terri Rote, told Iowa Public Radio that she had not planned to send in two ballots, but made a “spur of the moment” decision.

“The polls are rigged,” she added, repeating a line often said by Mr. Trump.

The Polk County attorney, John P. Sarcone, told Iowa Public Radio that it was one of the very few instances of voter fraud that he had come across in his more than three decades of service. And nationally, voter fraud is rare, despite Mr. Trump’s insistence.

Nonetheless, Mr. Trump seemed undeterred in his wariness of the security of ballots, despite the same process having been in place when Cory Gardner, a Republican, defeated the incumbent Democratic senator, Mark Udall, in 2014. Mr. Trump closed his rally by encouraging his supporters to “follow their ballots” to make sure they are registered and counted.

“You can follow your ballot, make sure that ballot is registered, make sure that ballot is counted,” he said, later adding, “So follow your ballot, and if you do I, really think were gonna win Colorado and maybe win it big.”

The most recent polling out of Colorado, a Quinnipiac poll from two weeks ago, found Mrs. Clinton had a lead of eight points in the state.

(h/t New York Times)

Trump Admits He Lost Iowa Because He Has No Idea How to Run a Campaign

Trump came in second place in the Iowa caucus, despite polls showing he had a good chance of winning the state.

At the beginning of his Wednesday interview on “Morning Joe,” it seemed Trump was not thrilled to talk about his second place finish.

“So let’s talk about Iowa. What happened?” “Morning Joe” co-host Mika Brzezinski asked Trump.

After a long pause, Trump simply responded, “OK.”

The hosts then asked if Trump could hear them, and he said he could.

When asked again what happened in Iowa, Trump responded, “Well, I think I did well there,” adding that he could have done better if he “did a little more work there.”

“The caucus system is a complex system that I was never familiar with,” the Republican presidential candidate continued. “I mean, I was never involved with the caucus system. Don’t forget, Joe, I’m doing this for the first time. I’m like a rookie. And I’m learning fast, and I do learn fast.”


Another example of how Trump is dangerously unqualified.


Trump Declares Wages Are ‘Too High’

GOP presidential front-runner Donald Trump opened the 4th primetime GOP debate by suggesting that Americans’ wages are “too high” and that it’s part of a problem with the country’s competitiveness.

“Taxes too high, wages too high,” he said, responding to a question about New York state’s decision to raise the minimum wage for certain workers to $15. “We’re not going to be able to compete against the world.”

Trump rejected calls to raise the minimum wage. His rival for pole position in the Republican primary, Ben Carson, agreed.

“I would not raise it specifically because I’m interested in making sure that people are able to enter the job market and take advantage of opportunities,” he said.

Trump later doubled-down on his wage too high stance and also explained it right to the faces of auto workers.

(h/t Politico)


Is anyone really surprised that a billionaire businessman wants to keep wages low?

According to the Pew Research Center, real wages are not at all high and instead have been stagnant for decades. This means we’ve seen bigger paychecks, but that paycheck goes far less than before when buying stuff.


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