‘Don’t ask me. Ask China’: Trump clashes with reporters then abruptly leaves press briefing

Donald Trump abruptly halted a press conference on Monday after being challenged by an Asian American reporter whom he told: “Don’t ask me. Ask China.”

With the stars and stripes at his back, Trump held his first press briefing since 27 April in the White House rose garden, flanked by testing equipment and swabs and signs that proclaimed: “America leads the world in testing.”

But during a question and answer session, Weijia Jiang, White House correspondent of CBS News, asked why the president constantly emphasises that the US is doing better than any other country when it comes to testing.

“Why does that matter?” she queried. “Why is this a global competition to you if every day Americans are still losing their lives and we are still seeing more cases every day?”

Trump retorted: “Well, they are losing their lives everywhere in the world. Maybe that is a question you should ask China. Don’t ask me. Ask China that question. When you ask China that question you may get a very unusual answer.”

The president then called on another reporter, Kaitlan Collins of CNN, but she paused as Jiang interjected: “Sir, why are you saying that to me, specifically?”

The president replied: “I am not saying it specifically to anybody. I am saying it to anybody who would ask a nasty question like that.”

The CBS correspondent pointed out: “That is not a nasty question.”

Collins, at the microphone, then tried to ask her question, but Trump said he was now looking to someone at the back. As Collins repeatedly objected, the president turned on his heel and left the podium.

Trump has frequently been criticised for adopting a particularly harsh or patronising tone at press conferences to women in general and women of colour in particular. Jiang was born in China but immigrated to America at the age of two.

Tara Setmayer, a political commentator, tweeted: “Another disgraceful, racist, temper tantrum by Trump b/c he was asked a pointed question by @weijia… Trump can’t handle smart, assertive women.”

Democratic Congressman Ted Lieu of California tweeted: “Dear @realDonaldTrump: Asian Americans are Americans. Some of us served on active duty in the U.S. military. Some are on the frontlines fighting this pandemic as paramedics and health care workers. Some are reporters like @weijia. Stop dividing our nation.”

Earlier at the briefing, Trump claimed that the US’s testing capacity is “unmatched and unrivalled anywhere in the world, and it’s not even close”. More than 9m tests have now been performed, he said, and where three weeks ago roughly 150,000 per day were done, the total is now 300,000 per day and will go up.

Trump said this week the US will pass 10m tests, nearly double the number of any country and more per capita than South Korea, the UK, France, Japan, Sweden, Finland and many others. But critics point out that South Korea implemented its testing much quicker, flattening the curve of cases so fewer tests were required.

The president announced his administration is sending $11bn to states, territories and tribes to boost testing. He described it as an effort to “back up” states but did not unveil the national testing strategy that many experts have called for.

Trump also claimed without basis that “if somebody wants to be tested right now, they’ll be able to be tested”, echoing a spurious claim he made way back on 6 March.

“In every generation, through every challenge and hardship and danger, America has risen to the task,” he said. “We have met the moment and we have prevailed.”

Trump, who has been encouraging states to reopen, promised: “We will defeat this horrible enemy, we will revive our economy and we will transition into greatness. That’s a phrase you’re gonna hear a lot.”

Democrats expressed scepticism. Daniel Wessel, Democratic National Committee deputy war room director, said: “Trump says we ‘prevailed’ on testing, but his response has been a complete failure and made this crisis worse than it needed to be.

“Trump still hasn’t helped states reach the testing capacity they need, every American who wants a test can’t get a test, and he is only now taking steps that should’ve happened weeks ago. While Trump wants to declare mission accomplished, the American people are still suffering and will not forget how he gave up on them.”

The campaign group Protect Our Care noted that it was 13 days since Trump said the US will run 5m daily tests “very soon” Zac Petkanas, director of its coronavirus war room, recalled that Donald Trump promised that anyone who wants a test could get a test and that the US would soon be testing 5m Americans per day.

“This wasn’t true when he said it and it’s not true today. What is true is that more than 80,000 Americans have lost their lives in large part because Donald Trump still hasn’t taken testing seriously. The only thing that the president has prevailed at is making America first in reported deaths and infections.”

The White House itself is not immune from coronavirus. Katie Miller, the press secretary for vice-president Mike Pence, and a personal valet who works for Trump both tested positive last week. Those entering the West Wing are now required to wear a mask or face covering, after a new memo was issued on Monday. Trump and Pence are being tested every day. Trump, however, is exempt from wearing a mask in the White House. It’s not clear if Pence will wear one or not.

The president said it is “shocking” how many people come in and out of the White House every day. “I’ve felt no vulnerability whatsoever,” he said.

During the press conference, Trump’s presidential election opponent, Joe Biden, tweeted: “Donald Trump and his team seem to understand how critical testing is to their own safety. So why are they insisting that it’s unnecessary for the American people?”

[The Guardian]

Trump lashes out at CBS reporter asking tough questions

President Donald Trump appeared to play it cool at first when he was pressed by CBS News reporter Weijia Jiang on Sunday, asking about the slow response to the coronavirus crisis.

“If you look at what I did banning china from coming in,” Trump began.

“Not American nationals,” she cut in, to mention the 40,000 people who were allowed back into the U.S. from China.

“Nice and easy. Nice and easy. Relax. We cut it off. Everybody was amazed that I did it. We had 21 people in a room. Everybody was against it but me. Dr. Fauci said had I not done that, perhaps tens of thousands and maybe much more than that people would have died. I was very early, very, very early. And we just saw, you saw Bret Baier making a statement. They had a debate well into February and not even mention — it wasn’t mentioned, the Democrats, we were very early. I’m the president, and you know what I just did?”

He then asked her how many people had died by the time Trump had intervened. In fact, no one knows how many people with COVID-19 died or were even infected because there was no testing.

“So do you acknowledge –” she began again before he snapped at her again.

“Keep your voice down!” Trump shouted.

[Raw Story]

Media

Trump defends abandoning the Kurds by saying they didn’t help the US in WWII

President Donald Trump on Wednesday defended his decision to abandon the Kurds to a Turkish military incursion in Syria by saying they didn’t help the US during World War II. 

This came amid reports that Turkish ground troops were crossing the border into Syria after air strikes that began earlier in the day.

“They didn’t help us in the Second World War; they didn’t help us with Normandy,” Trump said of the Kurds. He added, “With all of that being said, we like the Kurds.”

Earlier on Wednesday, Trump said in a statement released by the White House that he did not endorse the Turkish military operation and thought it was a “bad idea.” But he did not refer directly to the Kurds or signal any immediate response from the US to thwart Turkey’s actions. 

The Trump administration on Sunday abruptly announced the US was withdrawing troops stationed in northeastern Syria ahead of a Turkish operation.

The move has been broadly condemned in Washington, including by top congressional Republicans and former Trump administration officials, as many feel Trump paved the way for Turkey to go after key US allies. 

The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) bore the brunt of the US-led campaign against ISIS, losing about 11,000 fighters in the process.

Ahead of the Trump administration’s announcement, Kurdish forces had recently dismantled defensive positions along the Turkey-Syria border under assurances from the US it would not allow a Turkish assault. The SDF described Trump’s decision to withdraw troops as a “stab in the back” and made clear it felt betrayed by the US. 

[Business Insider]

White House press secretary says daily briefings aren’t coming back any time soon

White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said Monday that she is not likely to conduct a White House press briefing anytime in the near future, deriding the once-regular sessions as an act of “theater” for reporters seeking “to get famous” during the televised news conferences.

“Not right now,” Grisham told the hosts of “Fox & Friends,” when asked whether the White House will resume its daily press briefing, a longstanding practice under President Donald Trump’s predecessors.

“I mean, ultimately, if the president decides that it’s something we should do, we can do that, but right now he’s doing just fine,” she continued. “And to be honest, the briefings have become a lot of theater. And I think that a lot of reporters were doing it to get famous. I mean, yeah, they’re writing books now. I mean, they’re all getting famous off of this presidency. And so, I think it’s great what we’re doing now.”

Grisham, who has rarely participated in on-camera interviews since becoming press secretary in June, praised her boss as “his own best spokesperson” and claimed he is “the most accessible president in history, as all of the media knows” — citing Trump’s frequent informal gaggles with the White House press corps.

Grisham also suggested that reporters’ criticisms of the president’s previous press secretaries, Sean Spicer and Sarah Huckabee Sanders, played a role in Trump’s decision to discontinue the briefings.

“I think that it’s so important that, you know, the spokesperson for the president can adequately speak to his policies and get his message out there, and I think the president saw that that’s not what was happening,” she said. “It had become, again, theater, and they weren’t being good to his people. And he doesn’t like that. He’s very loyal to his people, and he put a stop to it.”

Spicer was widely mocked for his combative and sometimes stumbling performances during the daily White House news briefings, which memorably became a subject of parody by actress Melissa McCarthy on “Saturday Night Live.”

Sanders oversaw the end of the daily briefings amid mounting questions from journalists regarding her credibility. She opted to develop a regular presence on cable news programs, especially “Fox & Friends,” where she would bludgeon the president’s detractors.

Grisham has been largely reluctant to advocate on-air for the administration’s priorities, but she weighed in Monday on the controversy surrounding Trump’s summer conversation with Ukraine’s president that is quickly consuming the White House and Capitol Hill.

“The president made it very clear he did absolutely nothing wrong. This is just another reason for Democrats and for the media to attack and look for things that just aren’t there,” she said.

The Wall Street Journal initially reported on Friday that Trump urged newly elected Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy roughly eight times during a July 25 phone call to work with Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden’s son.

Trump confirmed Sunday that he discussed Biden, the front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination, during his call with Zelenskiy.

“The conversation I had was largely congratulatory, was largely corruption, all of the corruption taking place,” he told reporters outside the White House. “Was largely the fact that we don’t want our people, like Vice President Biden and his son, creating to the corruption already in the Ukraine.”

[Politico]

Trump fires John Bolton

President Donald Trump abruptly announced in a tweet Tuesday that he has asked national security adviser John Bolton to resign, noting that he “strongly disagreed with many” of Bolton’s suggestions “as did others in the administration.””I thank John very much for his service. I will be naming a new National Security Advisor next week,” Trump wrote.The tweet came just one hour after the White House press office said Bolton was scheduled to appear at a Tuesday press briefing alongside Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin.Asked during the briefing whether he and Mnuchin were surprised that Bolton was fired, given that he was supposed to appear alongside them, Pompeo said, “I’m never surprised.”Bolton tweeted minutes after Trump’s announcement, “I offered to resign last night and President Trump said, ‘Let’s talk about it tomorrow.'”

Bolton reiterated the point that it was he who offered to resign on Fox News Tuesday.Trump has plowed through an unprecedented number of national security professionals while multiple geopolitical crises have played out.The President has had three national security advisers — Bolton, Michael Flynn and H.R. McMaster. He has summarily fired a secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, by tweet after undercutting the former ExxonMobil CEO for months.

Secretary of Defense James Mattis resigned, reportedly in frustration over Trump’s decision to pull out of Syria.The President has also churned through two Homeland Security secretaries, John Kelly and Kirstjen Nielsen, and a National Security Agency director, Mike Rogers. He’s lost a deputy national security adviser, K.T. McFarland and an ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley. Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats and his deputy, Sue Gordon, left their posts last month.Bolton’s departure comes as tensions with Iran are escalating in the Persian Gulf, North Korea continues to develop its weapons capabilities, arms control experts are warning of a potential nuclear arms race with Russia and trade tensions with China are intensifying, while Trump is discussing a drawdown of forces in Afghanistan.White House deputy press secretary Hogan Gidley told reporters that Charles Kupperman is the acting national security adviser.

“John Bolton’s priorities and policies just don’t line up with the President’s and any sitting president has the right to put someone in that position that can carry out his agenda. That became no longer tenable so the President made a change,” Gidley told reporters.He claimed there was “no one issue” that led to Bolton’s firing, and referred reporters to the forthcoming briefing for more information.Yet, Bolton’s ouster was so sudden that the now-former National Security Adviser even led a meeting of top administration officials, known as a principals committee meeting, Tuesday morning prior to Trump’s tweet, a source familiar told CNN.The source said the meeting went on as planned and there was no indication that Bolton’s firing was imminent.

[CNN]

Trump says he won’t debate primary opponents

President Trump on Monday indicated he would not be willing to debate the Republicans seeking to run against him in a primary for the party’s 2020 nomination.

“They’re all at less than 1 percent. I guess it’s a publicity stunt,” Trump told reporters as he left the White House for North Carolina.

“To be honest, I’m not looking to give them any credibility,” he added.

Former Rep. Joe Walsh (Ill.), former Rep. Mark Sanford (S.C.) and former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld have each announced campaigns against Trump.

The Arizona Republican Party earlier Monday canceled its 2020 presidential primary contest, joining the GOP in South Carolina and Kansas. Nevada may follow suit as the Republican Party seeks to clear Trump’s path to reelection.

Trump defended the decisions, saying those states “don’t want to waste their money.”

The move to cancel a primary is not unprecedented. The Arizona Democratic Party did not have primaries in 2012 and 1996, when former Presidents Obama and Clinton, respectively, were running for reelection.

[The Hill]

John Bolton Reportedly ‘Sidelined’ by Trump Admin on Afghanistan: Has ‘Irritated’ POTUS

White House national security adviser John Bolton is apparently being “sidelined” by the Trump administration on Afghanistan amid discussions of a potential peace deal.

There’s been some reporting this year about the hawkish Bolton losing some standing with President Donald Trump. The Washington Post said earlier this year Trump was “frustrated” with Bolton on Iran, while the New York Times saidTrump “makes no secret” of his dislike of Bolton in private.

Now the Post reveals that Bolton — who’s opposing the peace deal being worked out — has essentially been sidelined on Afghanistan policy, to the point where he was not allowed to view the draft agreement by himself when he requested it:

His opposition to the diplomatic effort in Afghanistan has irritated President Trump, these officials said, and led aides to leave the National Security Council out of sensitive discussions about the agreement…

In a recent standoff, Bolton asked for a copy of the draft agreement the United States is trying to strike with the Taliban. But the U.S. envoy leading the negotiations, Zalmay Khalilzad, denied the request, saying Bolton could read the agreement in the presence of a senior official but not leave with it in hand, U.S. officials said. One official said the incident infuriated Bolton while another downplayed it, saying the draft was eventually sent to the National Security Council staff.

One anonymous senior administration official said Bolton’s team “has a reputation for losing and leaking.” Bolton responded in a statement saying, “I categorically deny leaks by me or anyone authorized to speak to the press. Those alleging such leaks should look in the mirror.”

You can read the full report here.

[Mediaite]

Trump says he wanted to give himself Medal of Honor

President Donald Trump claimed to laughter on Wednesday that he sought to give himself a Medal of Honor, but decided not to after being counseled against the move by aides.

The offhand remark from the president came during his address to the 75th annual national convention of American Veterans, a volunteer-led veterans service organization also known as AMVETS.

At the event in Louisville, Kentucky, Trump singled out for praise WWII veteran and Medal of Honor recipient Woody Williams.

“Thank you, Woody. You’re looking good, Woody. Woody’s looking good,” Trump said.

“That was a big day, Medal of Honor. Nothing like the Medal of Honor,” he continued. “I wanted one, but they told me I don’t qualify, Woody. I said, ‘Can I give it to myself anyway?’ They said, ‘I don’t think that’s a good idea.’”

Amid scattered chuckles, Trump concluded: “Great, great people. These are great, great men and women that get congressional Medal of Honor. Thank you, Woody.”

The president’s assessment that he should receive the nation’s highest award for acts of military valor followed his statement earlier Wednesday afternoon that he is “the chosen one” in relation to his administration’s trade conflict with China — a proclamation he turned to the sky to deliver.

Trump never served in the military and was granted five draft deferments — four for college and one for bone spurs in his heel.

[Politico]

Trump on guns: ‘We do have a lot of background checks right now’

President Donald Trumpon Sunday emphasized a need for the country to focus on “a very big mental health problem” in the wake of two mass shootings in one weekend that left 32 people dead earlier this month as he appeared to defend current US gun control measures, stating “we do have a lot of background checks right now.”

“It’s the people that pull the trigger, not the gun that pulls the trigger so we have a very, very big mental health problem and Congress is working on various things and I will be looking at it,” Trump told reporters on the tarmac before heading back to Washington after a vacation at his golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey. 

The White House, Trump said, is “very much involved” in the discussions Congress is having to address gun violence and while “a lot of things are happening on the gun level” he said “the concept of mental institutions” must be addressed.

“These are people that have to be in institutions for help, I’m not talking about as a form of a prison, I’m saying for help and I think it’s something we have to really look at, the whole concept of mental institutions,” he said. “I remember growing up we had mental institutions, then they were closed — in New York, I’m talking about — they were, many of them closed. A lot of them were closed and all of those people were put out on the street.”

“So I think the concept of mental institutions has to be looked at,” he said. 

Guns in America

Trump’s comments Sunday mark an increased focus from the President on mental health measures over gun control legislation to address gun violence as lawmakers remain skeptical gun control legislation could pass a divided Congress. 

Trump, who has previously expressed support for tighter gun restrictions only to back off under pressure from the National Rifle Association, added Sunday that he’s “very concerned about the Second Amendment.”

Meanwhile, two gun control groups mobilized to increase the pressure on senators to pass legislation in the wake of the two mass shootings in Dayton, Ohio, and El Paso, Texas.

Everytown for Gun Safety and Moms Demand Action held rallies across the country this weekend after announcing Thursday that they would spend nearly $1 million on ads against a handful of Republican lawmakers. 

The effort from Everytown and Moms Demand comes as the NRA, its biggest adversary, has been noticeably absent from applying pressure on Capitol Hill allies to hold fast against strong forces for gun reform.

Support for background checks 

The Democrat-controlled House passed a universal background check bill in February, but the measure has not been considered by the Republican-led Senate. Trump last week expressed an openness to background checks.

Speaking to a Kentucky radio station last week, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said that the Senate will put the issues of background check legislation in addition to “red flag” laws “front and center” when the body reconvenes after its summer recess, but it will not return early as Democrats are demanding.

A mid-July NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll found that 89% of Americans considered it a “good idea” to implement background checks for gun purchases at gun shows or other private sales, with a nearly nonexistent partisan divide: 96% of Democrats, 89% of independents and 84% of Republicans called it a good idea.

[CNN]

Trump praises North Korean dictator’s ‘great and beautiful’ vision for his country

Donald Trump has heaped fresh affection on North Korea’s Kim Jong-un– praising his “great and beautiful” vision for the country.

Earlier this week, the US president played down the significance of a series of short-range missile tests carried out by Pyongyang, saying they were “very standard” and would not impact his ongoing diplomatic engagement with Mr Kim.

Speaking to reporters before he left the White House for a rally in Ohio, Mr Trump was asked about the missile tests, the latest of which was fired from North Korea’s South Hamgyong province.

“I think it’s very much under control, very much under control,” he said, saying the tests were of short-range missiles. “We never made an agreement on that. I have no problem. We’ll see what happens. But these are short-range missiles. They are very standard.”

Mr Trump, who in June made history by becoming the first sitting US president to visit North Korea when he met Mr Kim at the demilitarised zone between the two countries on the Korean peninsula and stepped into the north, on Friday repeated his claim the missile tests were not a problem.

“Kim Jong-un and North Korea tested 3 short range missiles over the last number of days. These missiles tests are not a violation of our signed Singapore agreement, nor was there discussion of short range missiles when we shook hands,” he said on Twitter. 

He added: “I may be wrong, but I believe that chairman Kim has a great and beautiful vision for his country, and only the United States, with me as president, can make that vision come true.

“He will do the right thing because he is far too smart not to, and he does not want to disappoint his friend, president Trump!”

Mr Trump’s outreach to the North Korean dictator, accused of overseeing widespread human rights abuses, has divided opinion. 

Some have accused the president of giving legitimacy to the North Korean regime, while securing little in return. 

Others, including some of those who frequently criticised the president, have praised his outreach, and said it is better the nuclear-armed nations are talking to each other, after decades of hostility and mutual suspicion.

[The Independent]

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