Conway concedes ‘alternative facts’

I think it’s appropriate to quote a Time story on Donald Trump’s counselor, Kellyanne Conway, describing debunked claims by White House press secretary Sean Spicer as ‘alternative facts’.

Spicer on Saturday gave a five-minute statement to the press riddled with falsehoods and claimed photos showing clearly that the audience for Barack Obama’s 2009 inauguration was significantly larger than Trump’s on Friday was an attempt by the media to “minimize enormous support that had gathered on the National Mall.”

Appearing on NBC’s Meet the Press, Conway staunchly defended Spicer, and said his untrue statements were “alternative facts.” When asked by host Chuck Todd why Spicer used his first appearance in front of the press to proclaim falsehoods, Conway said Todd was being “overly dramatic” about the statement.

“You’re saying it’s a falsehood, and they’re giving- Sean Spicer, our press secretary, gave alternative facts to that,” she said.

Pointing out the obvious:

Todd countered Conway: “Alternative facts are not facts. They are falsehoods.”

In the interview Conway had already tried to divert and deny, and threaten the reporter, and she brings up the Martin Luther King story as an example of false news (and it is pointed out to her the reporter retracts and apologises as soon as he found out he was incorrect)

Chuck Todd: It does not excuse, and you did not answer the question, no you did not, you did not answer the question of why the President asked the White House press secretary to come out in front of the podium, for the first time, and utter a falsehood. Why did he do that? It undermines the credibility of the entire White House press office on day one.

Kellyanne Conway: Don’t be so overly dramatic about it . You’re saying it’s a falsehood, and they’re giving, Sean Spicer our press secretary gave alternative facts to that. But the point really is…

conwayalternativefacts

Chuck Todd: Alternative facts? Alternative facts, four of the five facts he uttered. The one thing he got right was Zeke Miller [the MLK bust reporter’s name]. Four of the five facts he uttered where just not true. Look, alternative facts are not facts, they’re falsehoods.

Kellyanne Conway: Chuck do you think it’s a fact or not that millions of people who have lost their plans or health insurance and their doctors under President Obama, do you think it’s a fact that everything we heard from these women yesterday happened on the watch of Barack Obama, he was president for eight years, Donald Trump’s been here for about eight hours, do you think it’s a fact that millions of women, 16.1 million as I stand here before you today are in poverty along with their kids, do you think it’s a fact that million don’t have health care, do you think it’s a fact that we spent billions of dollars on education in the last eight years only to have millions of kids stuck in schools that fail them every single day, these are the facts that I want the press core to cover, this is why I’m here at the White House to change awful numbers like that…

Diversion overdrive.

Chuck Todd: I understand this, what I don’t understand is that is not what yesterday was about.

Kellyanne Conway: Yes it is.

Chuck Todd: So you have not answered the question, you did not answer the question. You sent the press secretary out there to utter a falsehood on the smallest pettiest thing…

Kellyanne Conway: I don’t think anyone can prove the numbers…

Chuck Todd: …and I don’t understand why you did it.

Kellyanne Conway: …look I actually don’t think, maybe this is me as a pollster Chuck and you know data well, I don’t think you can prove those numbers one way or the other, there’s no way to really quantify crowds, we all know that. You can laugh at me all you want, but I’m very glad…

Chuck Todd:  I’m not laughing, I’m just befuddled.

Kellyanne Conway: Well but you are, and i think it’s actually pretty symbolic of the we’re treated by the press, the way that you just laughed at me is actually symbolic of the way, very representative of the way  we’re treated by the press. I’ll just ignore it. I’m bigger than that, I’m a kind and gracious person.

So she has turned herself into the victim with false claims she was being laughed at, and repeating the meme of the Trump team being the victim of bad treatment by the press.

That’s from Time (with video) Kellyanne Conway Defends White House’s Falsehoods as ‘Alternative Facts’

The way Sean Spicer and Kellyanne Conway have kicked off their representation of the Trump White House is not a good sign at all.

Their strategy seems to be to attack hard on trivial matters, then claim to be the victims.

Will this approach gain support, or shed support? Many like it, and many can see through it.

King bust, honesty bust

A lot has been made of a non story about the removal of a bust of Martin Luther King from the White House oval office after Donald Trump moved in.

It has been cited as an example of dishonest reporting and fake news, with some going as far as blaming ‘the media’, but it was far less than that.

It was one Time journalist (Zeke Miller) with one tweet (which he has deleted), and when his error was pointed out to him he corrected himself:

Trump’s press secretary:

That is an ongoing problem with instant reporting via social media.

Snopes reports:

For the record, the MLK bust dust-up never attained the status of a “big story” in the media. Zeke Miller corrected his error — via Twitter — within an hour of making it — via Twitter. There was never any published story to retract.

This didn’t stop Trump elevating it as a story in his CIA speech. Slate reports:

Trump then got specific and berated a Time magazine journalist by name for writing an inaccurate eport claiming Trump had removed the Martin Luther King Jr. bust from the Oval Office. “So Zeke from Time magazine writes the story,” Trump said. “But this is how dishonest the media is.” (The reporter has already publicly apologized.)

And then the president went on to brag about the number of times he has been on the cover of Time.

As far as I’m aware there was no story written by the Time reporter. It seems to have been Trump making up that story.

And this probably suits Trump. Hasn’t he just signed away Obamacare or something?  And didn’t he mention something about maybe going back to Iraq and taking their oil?:

From Foreign Policy:

At one point, Trump regurgitated parts of his stump speech about how the United States “should have kept the oil” after invading Iraq. “Maybe we’ll have another chance,” he added. Aside from being physically impossible to sequester billions of barrels of underground oil, that would constitute a breach of international law. U.S. troops are currently embedded with forces of the country that Trump suggested again invading.

Reaction on Fox News:

Krauthammer: “The point is that when you become the president of the United States, your words…they are incredibly important, you can say one sentence and the dollar will lose its value…”

Baier: “Well for example, when he said that [we] should have taken the oil from Iraq and maybe we’ll have another shot at it…I mean, if you’re Iraq, you’d raise your eyebrows.”

Hemingway: “Again though…people in America are wanting us to not just be careful about which wars we fight, but when we fight them, win them…That’s a message that goes over extremely well with people.”

Baier: “I get that, Mollie. But words matter. They do matter.”

Krauthammer: “Pondering the oil is a war crime.”

Video clip here.

Spiced up crowd sizes

Despite Donald Trump saying he would hit the ground running in his presidency, dealing with the important things, his first appearance was in front of a receptive (and self selected) CIA crowd where he blasted media as amongst the most dishonest human beings he knows, and blew his own trumpet. He is well known for his self praise.

Trump is known to be very keen on ratings, and has made claims about false reporting of crowd sizes at his inauguration.

His press secretary Sean Spicer called a special press conference, which turned out to be a little more than an attack on media while making more claims about crowd sizes. Claims that have been proven to be false, which is ironic given he blasted the media for false reporting.

Gezza reports:

Aljazeera 7am News. “Kellyanne Conway says Sean Spicer inaccurately described crowds.”

The Atlantic reports: Trump’s Press Secretary Falsely Claims: ‘Largest Audience Ever to Witness an Inauguration, Period’

In his first official White House briefing, Sean Spicer blasted journalists for “deliberately false reporting,” and made categorical claims about crowd-size at odds with the available evidence.

High irony.

In his first appearance in the White House briefing room since President Trump’s inauguration, Press Secretary Sean Spicer delivered an indignant statement Saturday night condemning the media’s coverage of the inauguration crowd size, and accusing the press of “deliberately false reporting.”

Standing next to a video screen that showed the crowd from President Trump’s vantage point, Spicer insisted that media outlets had “intentionally framed” their photographs to minimize its size. After attacking journalists for sharing unofficial crowd-size estimates—“no one had numbers,” he said—he proceeded to offer a categorical claim of his own. “This was the largest audience ever to witness an inauguration, period, both in person and around the globe,” he said, visibly outraged. “These attempts to lessen the enthusiasm of the inauguration are shameful and wrong.”

But it was Spicer who was wrong.

Steve Doig, a professor of journalism at Arizona State University, has provided estimates of crowds at past inaugurals, and is well-versed in the challenges they present.

Based on the photographs available in the media showing the part of the crowd that was on the mall, he said, “the claim that this is the largest ever is ludicrous on its face.”

Spicer produced numbers that have been refuted.

The only numbers Spicer cited were ridership numbers from WMATA, the D.C. public-transit system. “We know that 420,000 people used D.C. Metro public transit yesterday, which compares to 317,000 that used it for President Obama’s last inaugural,” he said.

But the figures Spicer offered were not consistent with those provided by WMATA officials, who told the Washington Post that 570,557 riders used the Metro system between its 4 a.m. opening and its midnight closure on Friday. That number falls short of both President Obama’s 2009 and 2013 inaugurations, which saw 1.1 million trips and 782,000 trips respectively.

And it was not just fewer in attendance.

Preliminary Nielsen figures also show that Trump’s inauguration received fewer average TV viewers in the United States than Obama’s first inauguration. The Los Angeles Times reported that 30.6 million viewers tuned in for Friday’s ceremonies, 19 percent below the 37.8 million viewers who watched in 2009.

Why does this matter?

It shows that Trump has carried an obsession with ratings (he recently tweeted that the new ‘Apprentice’ didn’t rate as well as when he ran it) into his presidency.

It shows that claims of ‘false news’ directed at media are not always correct, and in fact his press secretary appears to have presented false information and false claims.

And it shows that despite having a big and game changing agenda ego may be more important to Trump than communicating what he is going to do.

There also seems to be a deliberate strategy to divert public and media attention, perhaps in this case from the huge women’s march protests.

The media certainly need to up their game substantially, but as part of that they need to still hold the new president to account. If they are pressured into reporting more thoughtfully and accurately that will be a good thing.

And if Trump and Spicer divert and try to spin fake news they should be held to account on that.

I’ve just watched a number of video clips from Fox News, and there are very mixed reactions to Trump’s CIA speech and to Spicer’s attack. Some support Trump and criticise his critics, but others are very critical of Trump’s first weekend as PR president, including Fox’s political editor Chris Stirewalt.

Trump at the CIA

Donald Trump has spoken at the CIA, stirring up a lot of controversy, again. In particular he has launched another attack on media, as has his press secretary Sean Spicer.

They have blamed the media for misrepresenting his relationship with the CIA and the intelligence community.

And Spicer has also blasted the media for misreporting the size of the crowd at the inauguration – so  such for focussing on the important things.

Donald Trump speaks to about 400 employees at the CIA’s Headquarters in McLean, VA. He says he knows that most of them voted for him. Trump has been at odds with the intelligence comment over its findings that Russia tried to tamper with the US election.

How the hell does he know who voted for him from the CIA?

I haven’t had a chance to listen through it yet.

Fox News: Trump moves to ease intel community tensions with CIA visit

President Trump visited the CIA on Saturday in a conciliatory bid to end a feud with the intelligence community — a dispute he suggested was overblown by the media — while making clear one of his top priorities will be to destroy the “evil” Islamic State terror network.

“We have to get rid of ISIS. We have no choice. Radical Islamic terrorism, it has to be eradicated,” said Trump, on his first full day in the White House and his first official agency stop of his presidency. “This is evil. … We’re going to end it.”

The CIA, FBI and other agencies in the so-called U.S. intelligence community recently issued a report that stated Putin and Russia meddled in the race, though it found no evidence of vote tampering.

However, Trump last week suggested outgoing CIA Director John Brennan may have leaked an unofficial dossier on him containing embarrassing and highly suspect allegations, and compared the situation to living in “Nazi Germany.”

John Brennan has denied such accusations and said Trump lacks “a full understanding” of Russian capabilities and the actions the country is taking in the world.

“Nobody feels stronger about the intelligence community than Donald Trump,” the president said Saturday to loud applause. “I love you. I respect you. There’s nobody whom I respect more. We are going to start winning again.”

Trump suggested the news media, which he has repeatedly argued are dishonest and have treated him unfairly, overplayed his concerns about intelligence officials. He also accused the media of mischaracterizing the size of his inauguration crowds.

Business Insider: Ex-CIA director John Brennan: ‘Trump should be ashamed of himself’ over CIA remarks

Former CIA Director John Brennan said President Donald Trump “should be ashamed” for using a speech at the agency’s headquarters to boast about himself, his former deputy chief of staff said Saturday.

“Former CIA Director Brennan is deeply saddened and angered at Donald Trump’s despicable display of self-aggrandizement in front of CIA’s Memorial Wall of Agency heroes,” Nick Shapiro said in a statement.

Trump had spoken to CIA employees earlier Saturday while standing in front of a wall honouring operatives who were killed in the line of duty. He pledged his support for the agency, “1,000%,” but also raged about the “dishonest media” and complained of coverage that showed underwhelming crowds during his inauguration on Friday.

“We had a massive field of people … Packed. I get up this morning, I turn on one of the networks, and they show an empty field,” Trump told the employees, although photos from the event show much sparser crowds than those that had attended former President Barack Obama’s inaugurations in 2009 and 2013.

“As you know, I have a running war with the media. They are among the most dishonest human beings on earth,” he continued.

Fox News: Spicer accuses media of ‘false reporting’ in fiery briefing

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer angrily accused the media Saturday of “false reporting” on the inauguration as part of what he called a “shameful” attempt to minimize enthusiasm for President Trump, beginning his tenure as the administration’s top spokesman on a combative note.

Spicer summoned the press to the briefing room at the end of Trump’s first full day in office to specifically condemn two pieces of reporting – a reporter’s erroneous claim, since retracted, that an MLK bust was removed from the Oval Office; and photos appearing to show light crowds at Friday’s inauguration.

Spicer called the former claim, made on Twitter, “irresponsible and reckless.”

He went on to say inauguration photos were framed to minimize their “enormous” support on the National Mall, while suggesting the reason crowds looked smaller was because floor covering used to protect the grass highlighted where people weren’t standing – and fences kept supporters from quickly accessing the scene.

Spicer also pushed back on what he called inaccurate crowd estimates, stressing, “No one had numbers,” since the National Park Service, which oversees the National Mall where spectators stand, no longer makes public an official crowd count.

Yet Spicer went on to put out their own estimate based on the capacity of certain spaces stretching from the Capitol to the Washington Monument and declared: “This was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration, period, both in person and around the globe.”

I’m sure that will be fact checked.

Trump made similar comments a couple hours earlier during a visit to the CIA headquarters, where he said reporting low-end crowd numbers was the media’s latest attempt to mistreat him, much like he suggested they did in exaggerating a rift between him and the U.S. intelligence community over Russia meddling in the 2016 presidential election.

I think this is getting into dangerous territory, trying to discredit the media and effectively cut them out from any reporting of what he does, or at least to encourage his supporters to attack or ignore the media.

And control his own messages via alternate means.

More from McMullin:

Nothing says can be taken at face value. He consistently misrepresents and obscures truth on all topics he addresses.

Trump’s speech at CIA today was full of self-promotion and lies, ironically while he attacked the media for being “dishonest.

His attacks on the media are an attack on American democracy and we must not tolerate them.

His attacks are not routine disputes over bias, fairness or facts. They are intended to destroy the media’s ability to hold him accountable.

It hasn’t taken Trump and his administration to show how dangerous they could be.  I think this is seriously concerning.

Moving on from Trump’s speech

There have been many interpretations of one of the most picked over speeches in history, President Trump’s inauguration speech.

Some see it as a unifying speech for all American people (that is, the United States of American people, not the other North Americans, the Central Americans or the South Americans).

Others think that it targets white Americans and alienates others.

While the speech will have been very carefully crafted and checked before going to air it is impossible to prevent negative interpretations. While many people only see good in President Trump, many others only see evil.

Trump has spoken publicly a lot over the past two years, through the Republican primaries, through the presidential campaign, and since then leading up to his inauguration.

He has talked and talked and talked the talk.

Now it’s time for him to walk the walk. Trump is president, that’s a done deal. Now the real dealing begins. He acknowledged this in his speech:

The time for empty talk is over. Now arrives the hour of action.

We won’t know how he will be as President until we see what he actually does. It may take years to get a good idea whether his radical ideas and unconventional approach works or faisl.

There will be some some successes and some failures. The US and the world waits, with some hoping the pluses outweigh the minuses, and others in dread.

If Trump is true to his word his biggest battle won’t be with immigrants or ISIS or China or Russia, it will be Washington.

How Washington reacts will have a major influence on Trump’s presidency. Washington is probably the biggest bureaucracy in the world.

Saying ‘drain the swamp’ is easy, and it was a successful campaign slogan.

Draining the excesses and inefficiencies, while maintaining and rebuilding a functioning capital, will be a massive task.

Trump has promised to give power to the people.

What truly matters is not which party controls our government, but whether our government is controlled by the people. January 20th 2017, will be remembered as the day the people became the rulers of this nation again.

The people have never been the rulers of the nation, they just get to vote occasionally.

The people, or at least some of the people, voted for Trump’s biggest promise – to give them power, for Washington to listen to them and work for them.

This is Trump’s biggest challenge.

The people didn’t come

In his inauguration speech Donald trump said “You came by the tens of millions to become part of a historic movement the likes of which the world has never seen before.”

It’s not clear exactly what he was referring to there. But it appears to not be about the crowd at his inauguration.

From Vox: Photos: the crowd at Donald Trump’s inauguration vs. Barack Obama’s

Taken at about 11:30 AM ET in 2009 at Barack Obama’s inauguration:

gettyimages_84374977

Taken at about 11:04 AM ET in 2017 at Donald Trump’s inauguration:

screen_shot_2017_01_20_at_11-04-49_am

Federal and local agencies have estimated that anywhere from 700,000 to 900,000 people will be in Washington, DC, today for Trump’s inauguration. That’s roughly half the number of people who attended Obama’s inauguration in 2009. It’s also less than the turnout for Obama’s 2013 inauguration, which drew 1 million people.

Trump has a lot to do if he wants to be a popular president.

Trump transition troubles

It was always going to be a big challenge for Donald Trump and his transition team. It is a huge job setting up a presidency, with thousands of staff appointments required, over 700 of which have to go through a political hearing process.

I don’t know when they seriously thought they could win the presidency, but they were relatively very under-prepared.

On top of this even within the Republican Party there are a lot of people who were far from supportive of Trump and won’t want to be involved.

And there are others who are being cast aside by the Trump team. For example Chris Christie was a prominent Trump supporter and campaign and transition assistant until he was dumped. Trump’s son-in-law Jarod Kushner, who is thought to have a lot of influence, says that has nothing to do with this:

In 2005, Mr. Christie, then the United States attorney for New Jersey, sent Mr. Kushner’s father, Charles, to federal prison for tax evasion, witness tampering and illegal campaign donations.

Some of Trump’s appointments have been well received. General James Mattis had to be given an exemption to be able to become Secretary of Defence but this was supported from both sides of Congress.

The New Yorker: CAN MAD DOG MATTIS SAVE AMERICA FROM TRUMP?

Thursday saw another significant break with history when, for the first time in almost seventy years, the Senate voted to allow a recently retired military officer—James Mattis, a former four-star general—to serve in the civilian post of Secretary of Defense.

When Donald Trump picked Mattis, a sixty-six-year-old ex-Marine who goes by the nickname Mad Dog, to run the Pentagon, some observers predicted that his nomination could run into opposition from the Senate Armed Services Committee, which oversees the Pentagon and the rules governing it—including one that precludes ex-officers from serving as Secretary of Defense until they have been out of uniform for seven years.

But the Committee’s vote to grant a waiver to Mattis, who retired from the service in 2013, was bipartisan and overwhelming: 24–3.

The confirmation hearing that McCain held on Thursday demonstrated that many members of the committee, particularly the Democratic ones, are hoping that Mattis will act as a bulwark against Trump, the authoritarian tendencies he represents, and some of his scarier counsels, particularly Michael Flynn, a former three-star general slated to be Trump’s national-security adviser.

On Flynn – Politico: Is Trump ready for a national security crisis?

The NSC staffing process is being controlled closely by Trump’s national security adviser-designate, retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, who, unlike his past several predecessors, has no NSC experience. Flynn’s deputy, K.T. McFarland, served as a typist and a research assistant at the NSC in the Nixon and Ford White Houses before working as a speechwriter and public affairs official in the Reagan Pentagon.

The abrupt withdrawal of a top Trump National Security Council appointee and the dozens of high-level personnel holes across key foreign policy and defense agencies have national security experts posing a dark question: Will Donald Trump be ready to manage a national security crisis from Day One?

There are concerns and problems with other nominees.

Betty DeVos is a very controversial nominee for Education. She is a strong supporter of charter schools, her family funds anti-LGBTQ organisations,  and like a number of nominees she has potential conflicts of interest.

What Betsy DeVos Did (and Didn’t) Reveal About Her Education Priorities

Throughout the three-hour-plus exchange between DeVos and members of the Senate’s Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions, DeVos—who has never taught public school, never attended public school, and never held elected office—sidestepped questions about everything from how she will ensure that groups she has backed financially in the past will not feel pressure to behave a certain way to whether guns belong in schools.

Washington Post: Trump Cabinet nominees meet growing ethical questions

Three of Donald Trump’s Cabinet picks came under growing fire Wednesday on ethical issues, potentially jeopardizing their nominations.

The most serious concerns surround personal investments by Trump’s health and human services nominee, Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.), in health-care firms that benefited from legislation that he was pushing at the time.

Additionally, Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-S.C.), Trump’s choice to head the Office of Management and Budget, has acknowledged during his confirmation process that he failed to pay more than $15,000 in state and federal employment taxes for a household employee.

And Commerce Department nominee Wilbur Ross revealed that one of the “dozen or so” housekeepers he has hired since 2009 was undocumented, which he said he discovered only recently. The employee was fired as a result, he added.

All of those are the kinds of problems that have torpedoed nominees in the past. But it is far from certain — or even likely — that any of Trump’s nominees will buckle under the political pressure.

And from The Hill: Mnuchin calls failure to disclose $100M in assets an ‘oversight’

President-elect Donald Trump’s pick to lead the Treasury Department says his initial failure to disclose $100 million in assets was an “unintentional” oversight.

Steven Mnuchin on Thursday told the Senate Finance Committee that revised documents he filed with the committee a day earlier showed the additional assets, and blamed the complexity of nominee paperwork for those assets missing initially.

Mnuchin also defended his position as a director of Dune Capital International, an entity based in the Cayman Islands, a notorious tax haven.

He argued that setting up an entity on the island, where there were no employees or clients, was done at the behest of clients seeking to minimize taxes and not to lower his own tax bill.

“I did not use a Cayman Island entity in any way to avoid taxes for myself. I paid U.S. taxes on all that income, so there was no benefit to me in the Cayman entity,” he said. “They were merely an accommodation to pension funds and nonprofit institutions.”

With the number of controversial nominees and questionable links it will be difficult to check them all out thoroughly.

Some of these issues are probably relatively minor, but the chances of there being a few majors amongst them is high.

There seems to be a high likelihood that some messes-in-waiting will slip through the vetting processes.

This one is a bit of a worry.

NY Times: ‘Learning Curve’ as Rick Perry Pursues a Job He Initially Misunderstood

When President-elect Donald J. Trump offered Rick Perry the job of energy secretary five weeks ago, Mr. Perry gladly accepted, believing he was taking on a role as a global ambassador for the American oil and gas industry that he had long championed in his home state.

In the days after, Mr. Perry, the former Texas governor, discovered that he would be no such thing — that in fact, if confirmed by the Senate, he would become the steward of a vast national security complex he knew almost nothing about, caring for the most fearsome weapons on the planet, the United States’ nuclear arsenal.

Two-thirds of the agency’s annual $30 billion budget is devoted to maintaining, refurbishing and keeping safe the nation’s nuclear stockpile; thwarting nuclear proliferation; cleaning up and rebuilding an aging constellation of nuclear production facilities; and overseeing national laboratories that are considered the crown jewels of government science.

As a casino owner Trump is very familiar with gambling.

It’s a bit different though when he is gambling with the well-being of the US and the world.

Mr Tangerine Man

Different versions of Mr Tangerine Man (not from my first ever gig when I played it).

From the maestro:

A popularised version:

And a modern remodelling:

 

Trump, Putin, prostitutes and polls

I’m not sure that Putin accusing others of being “worse than prostitutes” in a defence of Donald Trump is a great idea.

NZ Herald: Vladimir Putin: People who spread fake allegations about Donald Trump are ‘worse than prostitutes’

Russian President Vladimir Putin has accused the outgoing US administration of trying to undermine President-elect Donald Trump by spreading fake allegations.

Putin described a dossier on Trump as part of efforts by President Barack Obama’s administration to “undermine the legitimacy of the president-elect” despite his “convincing” victory.

Here Putin has made allegations that are not substantiated.

Putin and Trump seem to be increasingly speaking the same sort of language.

Asked about the bombshell dossier which details Trump’s alleged sexual activities at a Moscow hotel, Putin dismissed it as “fake” and charged that people who ordered it are “worse than prostitutes.”

Republican opponents of Trump ordered the dossier, and it was later taken over by Democrats.

Putin also claimed that some now want to “stage a Maidan in Washington,” in reference to the alleged US role in organising protests in the main square of the Ukrainian capital, which chased the nation’s Russia-friendly president from power in 2014.

More unsubstantiated claims (as far as I’m aware).

Meanwhile another poll shows that Trump will start his presidency with awful approval ratings.

Trump will take office this week with an approval rating of 40 per cent, sharply lower than any incoming US president in recent history, a new poll shows.

The CNN/ORC poll showed Trump lagging more than 20 points behind the ratings of his three most recent predecessors and 44 points below that of President Barack Obama as he prepared to enter the Oval Office in 2009, CNN said.

In comparison, Obama had an 84 per cent approval rating ahead of his inauguration, Bill Clinton scored 67 per cent approval in late December 1992 and 61 per cent approved of George W. Bush’s transition in poll figures from January 2001, CNN said.

Trump brushes this off.

More unsubstantiated claims. Trump claimed the election itself was rigged until it turned around after James Comey’s intervention, which of course he didn’t claim was rigging.

There may be some great plan to revolutionise international relations with unprecedented co-operation between the Us and Russia – Russia has asked the US to attend at Syrian peace talks. And it may work, to an extent at least.

Can Trump pull a rabbit out of a ushanka?

Trump: NATO ‘obsolete’, Europe: ‘astonished’

Donald Trump has again contradicted himself and his appointed defence secretary, and ‘astonished’ European leaders, with comments reported by Reuters – Trump says NATO is obsolete but still ‘very important to me’

U.S. President-elect Donald Trump said NATO was obsolete because it had not defended against terror attacks, but that the military alliance was still very important to him, The Times of London reported.

“I took such heat, when I said NATO was obsolete,” Trump told the newspaper in an interview. “It’s obsolete because it wasn’t taking care of terror. I took a lot of heat for two days. And then they started saying Trump is right.”

I don’t know who the ‘they’ is that Trump refers to is, but a number of people disagree with him.

Including his appointment as Defence Secretary, General James Mattis: Mattis Breaks With Trump on Russia, NATO

Gen. James Mattis broke sharply with President-elect Donald Trump on Russia and NATO during his confirmation hearing Thursday to be the next defense secretary.

“I think right now, the most important thing is that we recognize the reality of what we deal with in Mr. Putin and we recognize that he is trying to break the North Atlantic alliance and we take the integrated steps — diplomatic, economic, military and the alliance steps, working with our allies — to defend ourselves where we must,” Mattis said.

And Al Jazeera reports on reactions from European leaders on trump’s latest comments in EU nations react to Donald Trump’s remarks

European Union member nations have reacted with surprise and defiance to comments by US President-elect Donald Trump, who has said in an interview that he believes NATO is “obsolete” and that more member states will leave the 28-nation EU.

Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Germany’s foreign minister…

…said Trump’s view on NATO and criticism that allied members were not paying their fair share has “caused astonishment”.

French counterpart Jean-Marc Ayrault…

…said the best response to such an interview was simple – Europeans uniting.

Chancellor Angela Merkel…

…said Trump’s positions have been “long known” but added: “I think we Europeans have our fate in our own hands.

“I’m personally going to wait until the American president takes office, and then we will naturally work with him on all levels”.

That may be quite a challenge, especially if Trump’s stance on NATO and on Russia continues to differ from his Defence Secretary and other staff.

Trump has avoided saying who he trusts more — US ally German Chancellor Angela Merkel or Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“Well, I start off trusting both — but let’s see how long that lasts,” the incoming president said in an interview with The Sunday Times.

“It may not last long at all.”

It’s not clear which of the two Trump is pessimistic about trust lasting with. Whether Merkel or Putin can trust Trump is another matter.

It’s difficult to know whether Trump’s contradictory statements are deliberate stirring, or if he is ignorant of how out of step he is with the US as well as Europe.

I can imagine that Russia will be loving what Trump is doing, stirring up and unsettling their main adversaries.

Whether Trump is doing it deliberately for Russia’s benefit is another big question.