Trade wars have led to both World Wars

While trade war threats ramp up between Donald Trump and China there’s a timely warning that major trade wars have contributed to escalations into both World Wars.

CNBC: Trump says he’s ‘ready’ to put tariffs on all $505 billion of Chinese goods imported to the US

  • President Donald Trump has indicated he is willing to put tariffs on all $505 billion of Chinese goods the U.S. imports.
  • The rhetoric ramps up the U.S.-China trade war another step, though each country has issued just $34 billion in tariffs so far.

President Donald Trump has indicated that he is willing to slap tariffs on every Chinese good imported to the U.S. should the need arise.

“I’m ready to go to 500,” the president told CNBC’s Joe Kernen in a “Squawk Box” interview aired Friday.

“I’m not doing this for politics, I’m doing this to do the right thing for our country,” Trump said. “We have been ripped off by China for a long time.”

Trump said the U.S. is “being taken advantage of” on a number of fronts, including trade and monetary policy. Yet he said he has not pushed the tariffs out of any ill will toward China.

“I don’t want them to be scared. I want them to do well,” he said. “I really like President Xi a lot, but it was very unfair.”

From The Diplomat: Trump’s Trade War on China Is About More Than Trade

Against this backdrop, the trade war can be viewed as a paradigm shift of Washington’s China policy. Along with other recent developments in U.S. policy, such as the Taiwan Travel Act passed in February and the passage of U.S. Navy warships through the Taiwan Strait, the trade war is, in effect, part of a much larger strategy of hedging.

Once we realize that the trade war is not merely about trade, we can then appreciate the very real potential for large-scale conflict between the United States and China.

Dene Mackenzie at ODT looks at some history: Trade wars catalysts for world war, the past teaches

History often repeats itself if we do not learn from it. The two full-blown trade wars some 80 and 100 years ago helped to ignite the two world wars.

Trade wars can also cause currency wars.

The end of  World War 1 sparked the first worldwide currency war, starting in Weimar Germany in 1921, followed by France in 1925. In the end, all the major economies scrambled to devalue their currencies — sterling, the franc and the US dollar — throughout the 1930s.

In 1930, US president Herbert Hoover signed into law the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act, which intensified the currency war and deepened the Great Depression. The protectionist law raised tariffs on more than 20,000 imported products and triggered retaliation by many of the United States’ trading partners.

Trade wars stoke nationalism and hatred among people and finally trigger wars, as evidenced by the breakout of World War 2.

The Japanese invaded Manchuria in 1931, and the whole of China in 1937; the Germans invaded Poland in 1939, then the rest of Europe; and the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbour in 1941.

A quote often attributed to the 19th-century French economist, Frederic Bastiat, goes: “When goods do not cross frontiers, armies will”.

The geopolitical situation has changed a lot over the last two centuries – but as WW1 and WW2 showed, military might and technology has increased substantially. The risks are much higher when nuclear armed countries are involved.

Especially now when the erratic and loose-mouthed Trump is on one side of the tensions.

We don’t want to hear “I meant yesterday that I definitely wouldn’t be launching missiles immediately, not would“.

The trade war with the US could not have come at a worse time  for China, which had just begun focusing “in earnest” on fixing problems in its economy, JP Morgan analysts said on Wednesday.

…those indirect effects could lead to large collateral damage, they said.

There’s a lot of gamesmanship going on, and there are also major risks to local economies and the world economy.

Bluster and threats are often eventually moderated by discussions and negotiations leading to reasonable solutions. But not always.

There’s also always risks of things escalating into military war.

Post-Helsinki fallout continues

Donald trump continues to cop a lot of flak from across the political spectrum after his astonishing assertions at the press conference in Helsinki with Vladimir Putin, and his would/wouldn’t waffling all over the place since.

Wall Street Journal: The Trump First Doctrine

Putin respects strength but Trump showed weakness.

I think that most people respect strength, as long as it is not misused.

Strong language – often ridiculously strong in Trump’;s case, especially when praising himself, does not automatically convey strength.

Donald Trump left for Europe a week ago with his reputation enhanced by a strong Supreme Court nomination. He returned Monday with that reputation diminished after a tumultuous week of indulging what amounts to the Trump First Doctrine.

Mr. Trump marched through Europe with more swagger than strategy. His diplomacy is personal, rooted in instinct and impulse, and he treats other leaders above all on how much they praise Donald J. Trump. He says what pops into his head to shock but then disavows it if there’s a backlash….

It’s still debatable whether this is incompetent uncertainty, or deliberate chaos.

Howard Kurtz at Fox News – Slamming the script: Why the press is dismissing the president’s do-over

At a minimum, President Trump deserves credit for saying what he should have said to Vladimir Putin, that he accepts the findings of U.S. intelligence agencies that Russia interfered with the 2016 election. He may have been pressured into saying it–not just by the media furor but by Mike Pence, John Kelly, Mike Pompeo and John Bolton, according to reports—but he said it nonetheless.

What drew particular skepticism was Trump’s explanation that he misspoke one word, that he meant to say “wouldn’t” and not “would,” as in “I don’t see any reason why it would” be Russia.

CNN’s Erin Burnett said Trump was making a “dog ate my homework” alibi, adding: “How stupid does Trump think we Americans are? The president’s excuse for his embarrassing press conference, where he sided with Vladimir Putin over his own intelligence chiefs, does not add up.”

Slate called Trump’s Tuesday walkback “only a little less disgraceful” than Helsinki, under the headline: “Nothing Trump Says Can Be Trusted.”

In a more sophisticated vein, The Washington Post offered these observations:

“The way he delivered his statement of retreat was classic Trump, a dual message — a ritual statement of confidence in U.S. intelligence officials for those who insist that the president respect the nation’s systems and mores, but also winks and nods to those who like Trump expressly because he’s eager to smash china and topple tradition …

“The signals had been sent, a quick wave of a white flag for those who insist on such things, and a zesty little aside, a wink and a nod, to those who needed assurance that their renegade president would never cave to the swamp dwellers, never back away from his commitment to blow up the old, failed ways of Washington.”

So is all this the indelible stain that the sustained media outrage would suggest? The New York Times deserves credit for posing the question:

“The question was whether he had reached a genuine turning point or simply endured another one of those episodes that seems decisive but ultimately fades into the next one.”

Trump has got away with an extraordinary amount since he became a candidate, and since he became president.

Time will tell whether this would’wouldn’t debacle will become just another clusterfuck in a chaotic reign, or if it becomes a tipping point.

Cosying up to Putin and to Russia while slamming the US intelligence community and only sort of back tracking may not go down as well as his ongoing bickering against the likes of Obama and Hillary Clinton.

Whether this will increase the attrition in a White House that churns disillusioned and frustrated staff may be one of the more difficult things to deal with – but as more people get pissed off and leave Trump he may become more unfettered and feckless.

Some things have been achieved and successes should continue, but an air of incompetence won’t blow over while Trump continues stoking a chaotic cacophony.

“People at the higher ends of intelligence loved my press conference performance in Helsinki”

A typically bizarre claim about his Helsinki press conference and more claims in conflict with US Intelligence are features of the aftermath of the Donald Trump statements and ‘clarifications’ about Russian interference in US elections.

By Rainer Hachfeld / Neues Deutschland, Germany

Most of the immediate reaction was shock and derision. Even close support Newt Gingrich was critical, saying the comments were the “most serious mistake of his presidency”.

Trump’s attempt at clarification just muddied things more, as did subsequent statements.

What Trump actually said at the Helsinki press conference (transcript posted by the White House):

With that being said, all I can do is ask the question.  My people came to me — Dan Coats came to me and some others — they said they think it’s Russia.  I have President Putin; he just said it’s not Russia.

I will say this: I don’t see any reason why it would be, but I really do want to see the server.  But I have — I have confidence in both parties.

A day later back in the US Trump said (transcript):

So I’ll begin by stating that I have full faith and support for America’s great intelligence agencies. Always have. And I have felt very strongly that, while Russia’s actions had no impact at all on the outcome of the election, let me be totally clear in saying that — and I’ve said this many times — I accept our intelligence community’s conclusion that Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election took place. Could be other people also; there’s a lot of people out there.

So he says he accepts his intelligence community’s conclusion of Russia’s meddling, but then immediately muddies that.

There was no collusion at all. And people have seen that, and they’ve seen that strongly. The House has already come out very strongly on that. A lot of people have come out strongly on that.

On that perhaps the man doth protest too much.

I thought that I made myself very clear by having just reviewed the transcript. Now, I have to say, I came back, and I said, “What is going on? What’s the big deal?” So I got a transcript. I reviewed it. I actually went out and reviewed a clip of an answer that I gave, and I realized that there is need for some clarification.

It should have been obvious — I thought it would be obvious — but I would like to clarify, just in case it wasn’t.

It was not obvious to just about everyone, even his strongest supporters, that he meant the opposite to what he said.

In a key sentence in my remarks, I said the word “would” instead of “wouldn’t.” The sentence should have been: I don’t see any reason why I wouldn’t — or why it wouldn’t be Russia. So just to repeat it, I said the word “would” instead of “wouldn’t.”

And the sentence should have been — and I thought it would be maybe a little bit unclear on the transcript or unclear on the actual video — the sentence should have been: I don’t see any reason why it wouldn’t be Russia. Sort of a double negative.

So you can put that in, and I think that probably clarifies things pretty good by itself.

So he now claims black was white. This switch from “would” to “wouldn’t” doesn’t fit with what he said in Helsinki. This is what he claims he meant to say:

‘With that being said, all I can do is ask the question.  My people came to me — Dan Coats came to me and some others — they said they think it’s Russia.  I have President Putin; he just said it’s not Russia.

‘I will say this: I don’t see any reason why it would be, but I really do want to see the server.  But I have — I have confidence in both parties.’

Would/wouldn’t could become an often repeated confusion marking Trump’s presidency, similar to Winston Peters’ No sign (or was it a yes sign?).

And Trumps contradictions haven’t ended there. Reuters: Trump says Russia is no longer targeting U.S.

President Donald Trump said on Wednesday he does not believe Russia is still targeting the United States, contradicting U.S. intelligence assessments that Moscow was continuing its attempts to meddle in American elections.

Trump on Tuesday tried to walk back comments that he believed Russian President Vladimir Putin over American intelligence chiefs on Russian interference in the 2016 election, saying that he had misspoken a day earlier after a summit meeting with Putin in Helsinki.

Asked by reporters on Wednesday if Russia was still targeting the United States, Trump shook his head and said, “No.”

U.S. intelligence officials have said Russian election interference efforts are continuing and now target the upcoming congressional elections in November.

NY Times: Russia Is No Longer Targeting the U.S., Trump Says, Contradicting His Own Intelligence Director

Mr. Trump’s comments were the latest in a dizzying collection of conflicting statements from Mr. Trump since he emerged from a private meeting with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia on Monday in Helsinki, Finland. And they directly contradict assertions from Dan Coats, the director of national intelligence, who has repeatedly said that Russia continues to try to interfere with American democracy.

Who of those people at the higher ends of intelligence wouldn’t have loved his press conference performance in Helsinki and afterwards?

I think you’d have to be an idiot to take anything he says seriously, especially single statements, given how much his stories change.

Image result for cartoon trump derangement

 

Who would know who is the most deranged in the US? Or is that wouldn’t?

Trump back flips over Russian election meddling

As is becoming common with Donald Trump, he has changed his claims substantially over Russian meddling in the US election.

Did he blunder, listen to advice and is now trying to repair the damage?

Does he simply say things to suit an audience – praising Putin in Helsinki but singing a different song in the US? He did similar in his UK visit, slamming them before the visit and then claiming things were wonderful to their faces.

Or is this another example of a deliberate shock and retreat strategy?

@ReutersPolitics:

UPDATE: Trump says Russia actions had no impact on outcome of elections, accepts U.S. intelligence community’s conclusion that Russia meddling took place.

Trump has always been obsessed with his claims he won the election on his own merits, but that clashes with the claims of Russian interference.

Trump says he meant to say in Helsinki that he saw no reason why it would not be Russia that interfered in elections.

Whoops, he said the opposite to what he meant. Again. Is this believable?

Trump says his administration will move aggressively to repel any efforts to interfere in 2018 election.

So that the Republicans can win on their own merits?

US democracy is a basket case.

Is Trump an extreme symptom, or is he a masterful opportunist?

Whatever it is, US credibility is suffering, and is at risk of democratic failure one way or another.

See “What we are living with is pre-fascism”

UPDATE: Trump has just said that when he came back to the US facing flak for his Putin/Russian meddling comments, he reviewed the transcript of what he said and now claims he meant the opposite to what he said.

But he is all over the place. He admits saying the opposite to what he now says he meant, but also blames it on the media.

 

“What we are living with is pre-fascism”

New Zealand is largely unscathed, so far, but here is a plausible claim that the US at least is at threat of an unfolding progression towards fascism.

To grasp what is going on in the world right now, we need to reflect on two things. One is that we are in a phase of trial runs. The other is that what is being trialled is fascism – a word that should be used carefully but not shirked when it is so clearly on the horizon. Forget “post-fascist” – what we are living with is pre-fascism.

It is easy to dismiss Donald Trump as an ignoramus, not least because he is. But he has an acute understanding of one thing: test marketing. He created himself in the gossip pages of the New York tabloids, where celebrity is manufactured by planting outrageous stories that you can later confirm or deny depending on how they go down. And he recreated himself in reality TV where the storylines can be adjusted according to the ratings. Put something out there, pull it back, adjust, go again.

Fascism doesn’t arise suddenly in an existing democracy. It is not easy to get people to give up their ideas of freedom and civility. You have to do trial runs that, if they are done well, serve two purposes. They get people used to something they may initially recoil from; and they allow you to refine and calibrate. This is what is happening now and we would be fools not to see it.

Trump’s rise has certainly not been solely on his own merits. He has defied predictions, he has defied common sense. To many he is a blundering buffoon, but he has secured a strong, sizeable minority support base who defend him regardless of what he does.

One of the basic tools of fascism is the rigging of elections – we’ve seen that trialled in the election of Trump, in the Brexit referendum and (less successfully) in the French presidential elections.

All major elections are ‘rigged’, in that they are dominated by PR machines that are becoming increasingly sophisticated. Even New Zealand elections have become battles of media coverage and promotion of shallow imagery.

Another is the generation of tribal identities, the division of society into mutually exclusive polarities.

I don’t know if this is happening more than in the past, or is just more apparent with the advent of social media.

It is a lot easier to portray discord and division, and to accentuate it, than it is to promote tolerance and sensibility.

Fascism does not need a majority – it typically comes to power with about 40 per cent support and then uses control and intimidation to consolidate that power. So it doesn’t matter if most people hate you, as long as your 40 per cent is fanatically committed. That’s been tested out too. And fascism of course needs a propaganda machine so effective that it creates for its followers a universe of “alternative facts” impervious to unwanted realities. Again, the testing for this is very far advanced.

There’s certainly signs of this in the US in particular, but also in the UK, which is in a political mess that keeps deteriorating.

How much can be attributed to single conspiracy, and how much is just different bunches of blundering political organisations, is difficult to judge.

But when you’ve done all this, there is a crucial next step, usually the trickiest of all. You have to undermine moral boundaries, inure people to the acceptance of acts of extreme cruelty. Like hounds, people have to be blooded. They have to be given the taste for savagery. Fascism does this by building up the sense of threat from a despised out-group. This allows the members of that group to be dehumanised. Once that has been achieved, you can gradually up the ante, working through the stages from breaking windows to extermination.

The ostracising of large groups of people is certainly a common tactic of Trump – Muslims, Mexicans, immigrants, North Koreans, Chinese, Canadians, Europeans, Germans, Britons have all been attacked by Trump to different degrees.

Some of these groups are under sustained attack, some attacks are followed by reversals and contradictions.

Is this just Trump’s erratic behaviour, or is it a carefully staged strategy? It could feasibly be both.

It is this next step that is being test-marketed now. It is being done in Italy by the far-right leader and minister for the interior Matteo Salvini. How would it go down if we turn away boatloads of refugees? Let’s do a screening of the rough-cut of registering all the Roma and see what buttons the audience will press. And it has been trialled by Trump: let’s see how my fans feel about crying babies in cages.

Possibly. But is this different politicians in different countries trying similar approaches because it seems to be successful, or is it a coordinated conspiracy?

Some of it is opportunist copy cat campaigning. It is likely that is all we have had here in New Zealand.

But there are some known common denominators. Like Cambridge Analytica, which played what some think was a significant role in the surprise Brexit result, and the shock rise of trump in the US.

There are other factors playing parts as well. It’s hard to see Hillary Clinton’s poor campaign as a deliberate aid to Trump. And it’s hard to see Theresa May’s misjudgement in calling a snap election, and her poor leadership since, as part of a grand plan. These two have helped head their countries into political chaos, but that is likely to be inadvertent assistance.

Back to the fascist conspiracy.

To see, as most commentary has done, the deliberate traumatisation of migrant children as a “mistake” by Trump is culpable naivety. It is a trial run – and the trial has been a huge success. Trump’s claim last week that immigrants “infest” the US is a test-marketing of whether his fans are ready for the next step-up in language, which is of course “vermin”. And the generation of images of toddlers being dragged from their parents is a test of whether those words can be turned into sounds and pictures. It was always an experiment – it ended (but only in part) because the results were in.

This is plausible.

But even if these a examples of deliberate pre-fascism trials, I can’t help thinking that “cock-up, not conspiracy” is never far from politics anywhere.

Again, perhaps there is some of both. Smart campaigners and manipulators will learn from mistakes as well as from deliberate trials.

This is greatly encouraging for the pre-fascist agenda. The blooding process has begun within the democratic world. The muscles that the propaganda machines need for defending the indefensible are being toned up. Millions and millions of Europeans and Americans are learning to think the unthinkable. So what if those black people drown in the sea? So what if those brown toddlers are scarred for life? They have already, in their minds, crossed the boundaries of morality.

They are, like Macbeth, “yet but young in deed”. But the tests will be refined, the results analysed, the methods perfected, the messages sharpened. And then the deeds can follow.

There are some plausible claims in all of this. There is no doubt that there has been increasingly sophisticated use of and manipulation with social media. Both media and increasingly social media play a large part in politics, in elections and in PR.

How else can you explain Trump’s shocking siding with long time arch enemy Russia, and at the expense of trashing his countries own intelligence agencies? Diminishing the credibility of the FBI and other intelligence agencies seems to be an ongoing tactic of Trump’s.

Is Trump a blundering fool, or is he a fascist tool?

Perhaps he is both, unless the buffonery is a part of the plan.

Is fascism a deliberate end goal? Or is it just where powerful people and powerful conspiracies end up – riding roughshod over democracy and decency may just happen t tend towards a state of fascism.

Source – Fintan O’Toole: Trial runs for fascism are in full flow

See another trump trial?: Trump back flips over Russian election meddling

Trump backs Putin over US intelligence on Russian interference in US elections

There has been widespread shock and condemnation after Donald Trump accepted Vladimir Putin’s word that Russia did not intefer in the US election in 2016. This is contrary to the views of the entire US intelligence community and most US politicians.

Fox News: Trump blasts Mueller probe, Putin denies meddling as leaders tout summit as ‘success’

President Trump and Vladimir Putin tackled allegations of election meddling in unprecedented terms following their one-on-one summit Monday, with Trump opening the door to an unusual offer of cooperation in the special counsel probe and the Russian president suggesting he indeed favored the billionaire businessman in 2016.

But Putin, emphatically and repeatedly, denied meddling in the U.S. election, saying there’s “no evidence.” And Trump, while saying they spent a “great deal of time” discussing the allegations, blasted the ongoing probe as a “disaster for our country.”

The two leaders spoke at a freewheeling joint press conference following a pair of meetings — one private — in Helsinki, Finland. Trump and Putin both touted the summit as a success, vowing to improve ties on a range of issues.

“I would rather take a political risk in pursuit of peace than to risk peace in pursuit of politics,” Trump declared.

NY Post: Trump refuses to accuse Putin of election meddling

President Donald Trump on Monday refused to accuse Vladimir Putin and Russia of interfering in the US election after their one-on-one sitdown in Finland.

Asked directly if he believed Putin or his own intelligence community, which concluded that the Russians were behind the hacking and other interference, the president did not directly answer.

“I have great confidence in my intelligence people, but I will tell you that President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today,” he said as Putin stood several feet away.

Trump then said he saw no reason why Russia would interfere in America’s elections.

Putin, meanwhile, admitted he had been rooting for Trump to beat Hillary Clinton.

“Yes, I did, yes I did, because he talked about bringing US-Russia relations back to normal,” Putin said.

Trump also praised the Russian strongman for offering to help special counsel Robert Mueller’s team investigate the well-documented Russian meddling. “And what he did is an incredible offer. He offered to have the people working on the case come and work with their investigators. I think that’s an incredible offer,” he said.

Trump then launched a stunning series of political attacks on Democrats and Clinton while standing on foreign soil — and suggested that he believed Putin’s denials.

“So let me just say that we have two thoughts. You have groups that are wondering why the FBI never took the server, why haven’t they taken the server. Why was the FBI told to leave the office of the Democratic National Committee. I’ve been wondering that. I’ve been asking that for months and months and I’ve been tweeting it out and calling it out on social media. Where is the server? I want to know where is the server and what is the server saying?” the commander-in-chief said.

“What happened to Hillary Clinton’s emails, 33,000 emails gone, just gone. I think in Russia, they wouldn’t be gone so easily. I think it’s a disgrace that we can’t get Hillary Clinton’s 33,000 emails.”

He also said the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election was poisoning relations between the US and Russia.

“It’s kept us separated. There was no collusion at all. Everybody knows it. People are being brought out to the fore. Virtually, none of it related to the campaign,” he said.

Trump then defended his campaign and hailed his surprise victory.

“They will have to try really hard to find something that did relate to the campaign. That was a clean campaign. I beat Hillary Clinton easily and, frankly, we beat her and I’m not even saying from the standpoint, we won that race,” he continued.

Fox News – Media slams Trump following Putin summit: ‘One of the most disgraceful performances by an American president’

The media came down hard on President Trump following Monday’s joint press conference in Helsinki with Russian President Vladimir Putin, with pundits and anchors on both sides of the political aisle bashing the American leader’s performance.

Trump was primarily criticized for the way he handled questions about allegations of Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S., claims that have been paired with allegations Russia and the Trump campaign colluded to win the election. Trump said he raised the issue of election meddling during their one-on-one meeting prior to the press conference, but ripped Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe during the news conference, declaring there was “no collusion.”

Trump also passed on a chance to side with the American intelligence community, which claims Moscow meddled in the election.

Associated Press reporter Jonathan Lemire and Reuters White House correspondent Jeff Mason were both praised by journalists for asking tough questions, but Trump’s answers drew scorn.

“Trump, finally asked whom he believes on Russia interference, gives a vague and rambling non-answer, with renewed complaints about Hillary’s server. Says he trusts US intel but made clear he takes Putin’s denials seriously. Lame response, to say the least,” Fox News’ Brit Hume tweeted.

NBC News’ online headline said Trump’s performance “advances conspiracy theories,” pointing to him bringing up 33,000 Hillary Clinton emails that the president said are missing.

CNN’s Anderson Cooper called it “perhaps one of the most disgraceful performances by an American president” immediately after the press conference. Cooper’s name immediately began trending on Twitter after making the comment, which resulted in a variety of media members agreeing with the CNN star.

Former CIA John Brennan:

Reuters – U.S. Rep. Schiff: Trump comments give Putin OK on 2018 interference

The top Democrat on the U.S. House of Representatives intelligence panel said President Donald Trump’s comments in Helsinki on Monday essentially gave Russian President Vladimir Putin permission to interfere in November’s midterm election.

“President Trump just attacked our intelligence agencies and law enforcement for doing their jobs while standing next to a dictator who intervened in our election to help elect Trump. Putin will take this as a green light to interfere in 2018, and it is. Cowardly and shameful.”

It’s hard to find support or praise of Trump’s post-summit performance, but Rush Limbaugh manages to go against the flow: Comedy Gold As American Journalists Beclown Themselves

Hey, folks, parts of this joint press conference here between Trump and Putin were comedy gold. Parts of this press conference were some of the funniest stuff that’s been on American television since Trump was elected. I mean, I have been laughing myself silly. I don’t laugh out loud much watching television anymore. It’s a sad reality, but watching TV does not make any laugh anymore. But I have been laughing out loud — uncontrollably at times — watching this joint presser. What makes it is that the United States media regularly beclowns itself, makes fools of themselves because they really have it in their heads…

I don’t know what to make of it. I don’t know if they really do believe that Trump and Putin colluded to steal the election, if they’ve been reporting that for so long that they actually now believe it. Because even with Mueller, there isn’t any evidence of it. Which reminds me, Mueller’s indictment… Wait ’til you hear what the Drive-Bys are trying to do with this indictment! It is craziest thing! It is laughable, because our media has become a collective joke.

That sounds like a manic sort of defence of Trump, resorting to the old ‘attack the media’ approach with a few conspiracy theories thrown in.

BBC: Trump sides with Russia against FBI at Helsinki summit

US President Donald Trump has defended Russia over claims of interference in the 2016 presidential election.

After face-to-face talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Mr Trump contradicted US intelligence agencies and said there had been no reason for Russia to meddle in the vote.

Mr Putin reiterated that Russia had never interfered in US affairs.

The two men held nearly two hours of closed-door talks in the Finnish capital Helsinki on Monday.

At a news conference after the summit, President Trump was asked if he believed his own intelligence agencies or the Russian president when it came to the allegations of meddling in the elections.

“President Putin says it’s not Russia. I don’t see any reason why it would be,” he replied.

US intelligence agencies concluded in 2016 that Russia was behind an effort to tip the scale of the US election against Hillary Clinton, with a state-authorised campaign of cyber attacks and fake news stories planted on social media.

In a strongly-worded statement, US House Speaker Paul Ryan said Mr Trump “must appreciate that Russia is not our ally”.

“There is no moral equivalence between the United States and Russia, which remains hostile to our most basic values and ideals,” he said, adding that there was “no question” Moscow had interfered in the 2016 election.

“The United States must be focused on holding Russia accountable and putting an end to its vile attacks on democracy.”

Senior Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said Mr Trump had sent the Kremlin a message of US “weakness”.

He tweeted: “Missed opportunity by President Trump to firmly hold Russia accountable for 2016 meddling and deliver a strong warning regarding future elections.”

Fellow Republican Senator Jeff Flake – a staunch critic of President Trump – called his words “shameful”.

Trump succeeded in dominating the headlines, but he has been dominated by Putin and savaged by most in the USA. Including the Director of National Intelligence.

12 Russian Intel officials indicted for allegedly hacking Clinton campaign

The US Justice department has indicted 12 Russian intelligence officials for alleged hacking of the Hillary Clinton presidential campaign in 2016.

Fox News:  12 Russian Intel officials indicted for allegedly hacking Clinton campaign, DNC emails

The Justice Department announced charges Friday against 12 Russian intelligence officers for allegedly hacking the Democratic National Committee, the Democratic Congressional Committee and Hillary Clinton’s campaign during the 2016 presidential election.

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein held a news conference earlier in the day to discuss the charges, which stem from special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into potential coordination between Russia and the Trump campaign to influence the 2016 presidential election.

Aspen Daily News: White House sees vindication in indictment

The White House is stressing that the new indictment against 12 Russian military intelligence officers contains no allegations of knowing involvement by anyone on the Trump campaign or that the hacking the Russians are accused of conducting affected the outcome of the 2016 presidential election.

Spokeswoman Lindsay Walters adds in her statement that “this is consistent with what we have been saying all along.”

It is nothing like vindication, it just means that Trump or his campaign are not implicated in this indictment. In fact it trashes a Trump conspiracy theory – see below.

Rosenstein said the investigation is continuing.

There could be more to come. And that may or may not drag the Trump campaign into the legal actions.

The Kremlin is reaffirming its denial of meddling in the U.S. election.

President Vladimir Putin’s foreign affairs adviser Yuri Ushakov reaffirmed that “the Russian state has never interfered and has no intention of interfering in U.S. elections.”

Ushakov spoke Friday, just hours before the U.S. Justice Department announced charges against 12 Russian military intelligence officers accused of hacking into Democratic accounts during the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

He said the Kremlin believes there are “no objective reasons” for the current tensions, and that Moscow and Washington must join efforts to tackle global challenges such as international terrorism.

Putin and President Donald Trump are meeting Monday in Helsinki.

This latest legal move could add tension to that meeting (on top of Trump blasting Germany for dealing with Russia.

NY Times: Rod Rosenstein and Robert Mueller officially rebuke a major Trump conspiracy theory

Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein on Friday announced the indictments of 12 Russian intelligence officials on charges stemming from the hacking of Democrats during the 2016 election.

And with that, yet another President Trump conspiracy theory is thoroughly rebuked by the Russia investigation.

Trump has regularly cast doubt upon the idea that the Democratic National Committee was hacked by the Russians — and that it was hacked at all. At one point he even reportedly dispatched a conspiracy theorist to meet with then-CIA Director Mike Pompeo. (Pompeo is now secretary of state.)

“This is all information that has been out there for many years. Much of it is false and/or entirely inaccurate,” Trump said in a statement after the DNC hack was revealed in the summer of 2016. “We believe it was the DNC that did the ‘hacking’ as a way to distract from the many issues facing their deeply flawed candidate and failed party leader. Too bad the DNC doesn’t hack Hillary Clinton’s 33,000 missing emails.”

So Trump’s claims of ‘no collusion’ have to be viewed with scepticism, given his growing record of making false claims.

PBS: Read Mueller’s full indictment against 12 Russian officers for election interference

 

 

Trump protests in London – exclusive coverage

Missy has provided coverage of protests against Donald Trump in London.

There were two protests today in London against Trump, both came past my work. I thought the first was big, but the second was massive in comparison.

Video – this starts looking up Haymarket swinging around to Trafalgar Square

Taken about 5 mins later is looking towards Trafalgar Square swinging back around to look up Haymarket.

This was a much bigger protest, we watched it for almost 2 hours from our building and it was still going when I left work.

It was estimated there were about 700,000 – 750,000 people in attendance. That is huge, many of my colleagues were saying it is the biggest protest they had seen in years (for some not since the Iraq War).

I am not sure how many of you are familiar with London, but essentially all of Trafalgar Square, Charing Cross Road on the other side and the Church steps appeared to be full, also it looked like people were crowding in down Northumberland Ave on the other side of Trafalgar Square as well – and Haymarket was also fill of people. To me it looked like more people than what has been there at New Year’s!

One thing that often gets overlooked in these protests is the tremendous pressure they put on the police services.

The police forces in the UK have over the years faced tremendous cuts, they are already stretched with the increase in violent crime and then these protests come along which require a huge police presence.

I am not saying that people should not protest, indeed in a modern democracy it is their right and whether we agree or not with their protests we should always support their democratic right to do so, but also these same people should keep in mind the pressure that is put on police resources when they do organise these large scale protests.

Today’s protests were well behaved, and good natured, indeed there was almost a carnival atmosphere and the police were being open and friendly, in fact the police officer who was directing the protestors was very good natured, in each and every megaphone announcement he began with ‘good afternoon lovely to see you…’ and he finished with ‘…have a lovely day’. I don’t think there is anywhere else in the world the police would be that polite at a protest – especially when the officer in question would be working two weeks without a day off because of the protest.

Earlier in the day I was talking to the officer who was on the megaphone, he was saying today was meant to be his day off, he had just come off seven days straight (three on night shift) and was about to go on eight days straight. He also stated he had been brought in from another borough (along with a number of his colleagues) leaving his borough less protected. Despite all this, and his obvious frustration, he still managed to keep good humour and be polite and friendly, including at one point saying hello (via the megaphone) and waving to me and my colleagues on the balcony at our work. I am in awe of these men and women who do these kind of jobs (whether they be police, fire, ambulance, defence etc) that work under such incredible pressure but still manage to put forward such a positive face to the public when most of us would probably be ready to lose our cool.

Also:

  • BBC: Trump’s UK visit and protests
    On the second day of his visit to the UK, President Trump has met Prime Minister Theresa May at Chequers and the Queen at Windsor Castle. A number of protests against his visit also took place. Here are the day’s events in pictures.
  • BBC: Aerial view of London protest
    Thousands of protesters are marching through central London in protest of Donald Trump’s visit.

And: Donald Trump: US-UK trade deal ‘absolutely possible’

A US-UK trade deal “will absolutely be possible”, Donald Trump has said, after he told The Sun Theresa May’s Brexit plan could kill an agreement.

Speaking after talks at Chequers, Mr Trump said the US-UK relationship is “the highest level of special”, while Mrs May said they had discussed plans for an “ambitious” trade agreement.

As usual Trump is all over the place on trade and on his wild swings from criticism to optimism and praise.

 

 

Trump assures NATO “I’m a very stable genius”

Donald Trump’s visit to a NATO summit in Brussels has been controversial, but he has assured them “I’m a very stable genius”. He didn’t claim he was modest.

Sky News – President Donald Trump at NATO summit: ‘I’m a very stable genius’

He also claimed success at NATO – Trump claims NATO victory after ‘go it alone’ ultimatum

Donald Trump claimed a personal victory at a NATO summit on Thursday after telling European allies to increase spending or lose Washington’s support, an ultimatum that forced leaders to huddle in a crisis session with the U.S. president.

He has a habit of claiming instant success.

Trump emerged declaring his continued commitment to a Western alliance built on U.S. military might that has stood up to Moscow since World War Two.

People present said he had earlier warned he would “go it alone” if allies, notably Germany, did not make vast increases in their defense budgets for next year.

“I let them know that I was extremely unhappy,” he said, but added that the talks ended on the best of terms: “It all came together at the end. It was a little tough for a little while.”

However other leaders seem to have seen things a bit differently.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who called the summit “very intense”, and other leaders including French President Emmanuel Macron, played down the extent to which they had pledged to accelerate spending plans as fast as Trump wanted.

And:

If victory is dominating the headlines then Trump has had a victory at the Brussels summit.

Otherwise his degree of success is quite debatable, and it will be some time before any significant change happens as a result of his threats.

 

Trump versus NATO

The NATA summit in Brussels has started with Donald Trump on the offensive.

RealClearPolitics:  In Testy Exchange, Trump Hits Germany for Being ‘Captive’ to Russia

In a combative start to his NATO visit, President Donald Trump asserted Wednesday that a pipeline project has made Germany “totally controlled” by and “captive to Russia” and blasted allies’ defense spending, opening what was expected to be a fraught summit with a list of grievances involving American allies.

Trump, in a testy exchange with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, took issue with the U.S. protecting Germany as it strikes deals with Russia.

“I have to say, I think it’s very sad when Germany makes a massive oil and gas deal with Russia where we’re supposed to be guarding against Russia,” Trump said at breakfast with Stoltenberg. “We’re supposed to protect you against Russia but they’re paying billions of dollars to Russia and I think that’s very inappropriate.”

The president appeared to be referring to the Nord Stream 2 pipeline that would bring gas from Russia to Germany’s northeastern Baltic coast, bypassing Eastern European nations like Poland and Ukraine and doubling the amount of gas Russia can send directly to Germany. The vast undersea pipeline is opposed by the U.S. and some other EU members, who warn it could give Moscow greater leverage over Western Europe.

Trump said “Germany, as far as I’m concerned, is captive to Russia” and urged NATO to look into the issue.

Will Trump install a gas pipeline from the US to Germany to keep them captive to him?

Stoltenberg pushed back, stressing that NATO members have been able to work together despite their differences. “I think that two world wars and the Cold War taught us that we are stronger together than apart,” he told the president, trying to calm tensions.

Guardian: Angela Merkel hits back at Donald Trump at Nato summit

Angela Merkel has pushed back against Donald Trump’s extraordinary tirade against Germany on the first day of the Nato summit in Brussels, denying her country was “totally controlled” by Russia and saying it made its own independent decisions and policies.

In less blunt language than the US president’s, the German chancellor made the point that she needed no lessons in dealing with authoritarian regimes, recalling she had been brought up in East Germany when it had been part of the Soviet Union’s sphere of influence.

Arriving at Nato headquarters only hours after Trump singled out Germany for criticism, Merkel said: “I have experienced myself how a part of Germany was controlled by the Soviet Union. I am very happy that today we are united in freedom, the Federal Republic of Germany. Because of that we can say that we can make our independent policies and make independent decisions. That is very good, especially for people in eastern Germany.”

She also hit back at Trump’s criticism that Germany contributed too little to European defence. “Germany does a lot for Nato,” she said.

“Germany is the second largest provider of troops, the largest part of our military capacity is offered to Nato and until today we have a strong engagement towards Afghanistan. In that we also defend the interests of the United States.”

Merkel has much more experience dealing with other countries than Trump, something that is essential in a part of the world where there are a lot of countries in close proximity.

Europe comprises 50 countries, has a population of about 740 million,and has an area of 10,180,000 km2.

The United States is a single country with 50 states and has a population of about 345 million, and has an area of 9,833,520 km2.

So about the only thing similar is the land area.

Russian influence in Latvia and Estonia is far more real. The Baltic countries  have been directly controlled by Russia twice (and by Germany once). They border Russia and have many ethnic Russian citizens.

NY Times: Trump Derides NATO as ‘Obsolete.’ Baltic Nations See It Much Differently

As President Trump joins his second NATO summit meeting — having called the alliance “obsolete,” derided its members as deadbeats and suggested that American military protection is negotiable — there is deep unease on the alliance’s eastern flank. And that sense has only been heightened by Mr. Trump’s scheduled one-on-one meeting next week with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia.

The United States ambassador to Estonia, James D. Melville Jr., became so exasperated with the constant statements from Mr. Trump disparaging the alliance and the European Union that late last month he quit in disgust.

And as the Trump-Putin meeting approached, a popular Russian-language Latvian newspaper ran a picture of the two men, cheek by jowl, with the ominous headline: “What Will Trump and Putin Agree On: The End of the E.U.?”

For the nations of Latvia and Estonia, nestled between Russia and the Baltic Sea and with large ethnic Russian populations, NATO is no abstraction.

Long before the debate over the Kremlin’s interference in the American election, there was alarm in the Baltic nations over Russian attempts to influence public opinion and exploit the complicated issues of ethnic identity in a region reshaped by war and occupation. In both the annexation of Crimea and its actions in Ukraine, the Russian government has used protecting the rights of ethnic Russians as a pretext for intervention. About one-third of the populations of Latvia and Estonia are ethnic Russians.

Most of the ethnic Russians arrived after the war, when the country was under Soviet domination. They have long been educated in separate schools and formed different social bonds as the nation has struggled to integrate them into society.

But the assimilation process has been made harder by increasingly aggressive propaganda campaigns in the Russian-language news media, narratives widely believed to be directed from Moscow with the intent of heightening divisions.

The inter-relationships between European countries are complex, with long histories.

I don’t know if Trump understands any of this. His bully and bluster approach to achieving what he wants may work in some ways for the US, but it is unlikely to reduce Russian influence (or Chinese influence) – and it is at real risk of doing the opposite.

He continues to drive wedges between different countries and the US. His selfish isolationist is likely to reduce  influence over time, as the rest of the world learns to rely less on the United States – especially if the tempestuous Trump stays in charge for any length of time.