Trump condemns “white supremacists” and “neo-Nazis”

It has taken a while but US president Donald Trump has condemned extreme groups after the violence, protests, and death and injuries in Charlottesville over the weekend. He referred to ‘racist violence’.

Fox News: Trump condemns ‘white supremacists,’ vows ‘justice will be delivered’ in Charlottesville attack

After facing bipartisan criticism for his initial statement over the weekend, Trump was direct in his condemnation Monday.

The president on Saturday had condemned violence and hatred on “many sides,” but faced swift criticism as video emerged from the scene in Charlottesville showing a car ramming into a crowd of counter-protesters. One person died in that attack; two state police also died in a chopper crash.

Republican lawmakers joined Democrats in saying Trump should call out white supremacists directly.

The president, after meeting with Attorney General Jeff Sessions and FBI Director Christopher Wray in Washington, said his Justice Department has opened a civil rights probe into the deadly car attack on Saturday.

“We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence. It has no place in America”.

“Racism is evil, and those who cause violence in its name are criminals and thugs, including the KKK, neo-Nazis, white supremacists and other hate groups that are repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans.”

That is clear.

Trump may disappoint a few supporters with these remarks, but he may be less likely to lose more.

His remarks Monday could ease some of that outcry, at least from his own party. Trump said Monday that anyone who acted criminally will be held “fully accountable.”

“No matter the color of our skin, we all live under the same laws, we all salute the same great flag, and we are all made by the same almighty God,” Trump said.

A shame about the god reference – there’s a wide range of religious and non-religious views in the US.

He lengthy statement unequivocal on equality race, and the abhorrence of violence and division. As he needed to be.

Charlottesville erupts

Tensions brewing for some time in the US have erupted in Charlottesville.

CNN:  Virginia governor to white nationalists: ‘Go home … shame on you’

One person was killed and 19 were hurt when a speeding car slammed into a throng of counterprotesters in Charlottesville, where a “Unite the Right” rally of white nationalist and other right-wing groups had been scheduled take place, the city tweeted on its verified account.

A 32-year-old woman was killed while walking across the street, Charlottesville Police Chief Al Thomas said. Police were still in the process of notifying her family.

Two Virginia State Patrol troopers were killed in a helicopter crash while “assisting public safety resources with the ongoing situation in Charlottesville,” the agency said in a news release. The pilot, Lt. H. Jay Cullen, 48, and Trooper Berke M.M. Bates, who would have turned 41 on Sunday, died in the crash.

Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe had a pointed message for the right-wing groups that flocked to Charlottesville on Saturday: “Go home. … You are not wanted in this great commonwealth. Shame on you.”

In addition to the one death and 19 injuries in the car-ramming incident, the city said there were at least 15 other injuries associated with the scheduled rally.

Federal authorities said a civil rights investigation into the deadly crash was opened hours after it happened.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions said U.S. Attorney Rick Mountcastle is leading the investigation and has the full support of the Deparment of Justice.

“The violence and deaths in Charlottesville strike at the heart of American law and justice. When such actions arise from racial bigotry and hatred, they betray our core values and cannot be tolerated,” Sessions said in a statement. “Justice will prevail.”

“The FBI will collect all available facts and evidence, and as this is an ongoing investigation we are not able to comment further at this time,” said a statement from the Richmond, Virginia FBI field office.

“I am heartbroken that a life has been lost here. I urge all people of good will — go home,” Mayor Mike Signer wrote on Twitter.

Virginia’s governor had earlier declared an emergency, and police worked to disperse hundreds of protesters in the college town after clashes broke out ahead of the rally’s scheduled noon ET start.

Fistfights and screaming matches erupted Saturday, barely 12 hours after a scuffle Friday night at the nearby University of Virginia between torch-bearing demonstrators and counterprotesters.

It was just a matter of time before things got ugly in the US.

USA v North Korea – increasingly bizarre

The slanging  match between Donald Trump and Kim Yong Un continues to and unprecedented level of bizarreness. Both have backed themselves into tough guy corners that will be difficult to get out of without losing face, or significant numbers of lives.

Fox News:  Trump says US is ‘locked and loaded’ amid North Korea threat

President Trump took to Twitter early Friday issuing yet another stark warning to North Korea that the United States’ military was “locked and loaded,” and urged the rogue regime’s dictator to “find another path.”

“Military solutions are now fully in place, locked and loaded, should North Korea act unwisely. Hopefully Kim Jong Un will find another path!” the president tweeted Friday morning.

I wonder if this will result in the first war to be declared by Twitter, or the first military attack (the Korean War of the 1950s is technically not over) to be announced by Twitter. The first nuclear attack by twit?

Earlier this week, Trump reacted to reports that North Korea had produced a compact nuclear warhead and warned the country they “will be met with fire and fury” if they carry out an attack. Hours later, state media in North Korea reported that its leaders were seriously considering a plan to fire missiles at Guam.

“Let’s see what he does with Guam. He does something in Guam, it will be an event the likes of which nobody has seen before –what will happen in North Korea,” Trump said Thursday, at his property in Bedminster, N.J., in response to Kim Jong Un’s threats to attack the U.S. territory. “It’s not a dare, it’s a statement.”

Trump added: “He has disrespected our country greatly. He has said things that are horrific. And with me, he’s not getting away with it. It’s a whole new ball game.”

An unprecedented exchange – but far to serious to be called a game.

I’m sure South Korea and Japan are a tad uneasy.

Fox News: North Korea threat: Pentagon says ready to ‘fight tonight,’ as Trump shows bomber pics

Pentagon officials told Fox News on Friday that the U.S. military stands ready to “fight tonight” on the Korean Peninsula, as President Trump said the U.S. is “locked and loaded” and retweeted images from U.S. Pacific Command showing B-1B Lancer bombers on Guam.

At the same time, a North Korean state news agency statement warned that “even a single shell dropped on the Korean Peninsula might lead to the outbreak of … thermonuclear war.”

“We consider the U.S. no more than a lump which we can beat to a jelly any time,” the Korean Central News Agency said, quoting Institute of International Studies researcher Kang Kum Chol.

After his ‘locked and loaded’ tweet Trump retweeted this:

In contrast from Defense Secretary Jim Mattis: War with North Korea would be ‘catastrophic’

Mattis said Thursday that war with North Korea would be “catastrophic,” casting a dire tone after President Trump unleashed a string of warnings to the rogue nation.

“The American effort is diplomatically led, it has diplomatic traction, it is gaining diplomatic results and I want to stay right there right now,” Mattis said while speaking with reporters in Mountain View, California.

“The tragedy of war is well-enough known it doesn’t need another characterization beyond the fact that it would be catastrophic,” Mattis continued.

Mattis has to try and deal with madmen on both sides of the slanging match.

I’m glad I’m in a different hemisphere.

Meanwhile, Australia’s prime minister said his country would come to the aid of the United States if North Korea attacks Guam.

Oh bugger, our neighbours across the ditch attracting attention.

US-North Korea heat rises

The war of words between the USA and North Korea continues unabated.

Egomaniac idiots.

US versus North Korea

 

The rhetoric between the US and North Korea has ramped up to an alarming level. Donald trump has threatened ‘fire and fury’, and this has dismayed the more diplomatic in his administration.

 

There will be many people around the world hoping he doesn’t use that power.

Fox:  Trump says US nuclear arsenal is ‘stronger, more powerful than ever before’ amid North Korea threat

Trump’s tweets come after his boldly chilling response to reports that North Korea has produced a compact nuclear warhead capable of topping missiles that could reach half of the United States.

Trump also said that North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un “has been very threatening beyond a normal state” and said the regime “best not make any more threats to the United States.”

The report that Pyongyang has missile-ready nukes, first appearing in the Washington Post, has been confirmed by Fox News. The assessment of North Korea’s nuclear capabilities was prepared in July by the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA).

“The [intelligence community} assesses North Korea has produced nuclear weapons for ballistic missile delivery, to include delivery by ICBM-class missiles,” an excerpt from the DIA analysis read.

North Korea has threatened that the United States would pay dearly “thousands of times” for new sanctions passed over the weekend by the United Nations Security Council to cripple the nation’s economy, but U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. told Fox News that America has the upper hand.

Fox:  Secretary Mattis warns North Korea not to invite ‘destruction of its people’

Secretary of Defense James “Mad Dog” Mattis echoed his boss’s fiery warning Wednesday to the dictator of North Korea with harsh rhetoric of his own. And this time, the words came from a battle-tested, four-star U.S. Marine Corps general.

“President Trump was informed of the growing threat last December and on taking office his first orders to me emphasized the readiness of our ballistic missile defense and nuclear deterrent forces,” Mattis continued.

“While our State Department is making every effort to resolve this global threat through diplomatic means, it must be noted that the combined allied militaries now possess the most precise, rehearsed and robust defensive and offensive capabilities on Earth.  The DPRK regime’s actions will continue to be grossly overmatched by ours and would lose any arms race or conflict it initiates.”

 

The state of US politics

US politics appears to be overwhelmed by deep seated problems. That voters ended up with a choice between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump revealed a lack of strong leadership. Both the Republican and the Democrat parties are floundering and potentially foundering, but there are no viable alternatives.

The party problems are in part a result of an entrenched two party system that has kept fresh talent and fresh ideas out of contention.

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Trump and GOP struggling

With a GOP majority in both the House and the Senate it was expected that President Donald Trump should be able to achieve a lot, but after 6 months in power both the White House and the Republicans are struggling for traction.

Politico: Senate Republicans still at impasse after late-night health care meeting

GOP senators engaged in talks late Wednesday night to try to revive their bill to repeal and replace Obamacare after Trump told senators they shouldn’t leave town without action.

NY Times: Citing Recusal, Trump Says He Wouldn’t Have Hired Sessions

President Trump said on Wednesday that he never would have appointed Attorney General Jeff Sessions had he known Mr. Sessions would recuse himself from overseeing the Russia investigation that has dogged his presidency, calling the decision “very unfair to the president.”

In a remarkable public break with one of his earliest political supporters, Mr. Trump complained that Mr. Sessions’s decision ultimately led to the appointment of a special counsel that should not have happened. “Sessions should have never recused himself, and if he was going to recuse himself, he should have told me before he took the job and I would have picked somebody else,” Mr. Trump said.

That is sure to raise a few eyebrows, if they haven’t disappeared over the back of heads already.

Bloomberg: Trump’s Honeymoon With China Comes to an End

  • Economic talks end with no joint statement from two countries
  • Ross says trade imbalance not driven by market forces

Three months ago, President Donald Trump had warm words for his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping after the two leaders bonded at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida. Within weeks, the Trump administration was touting early wins in talks with China, including more access for U.S. beef and financial services as well as help in trying to rein in North Korea.

Now, the two sides can barely agree how to describe their disagreements.

High-level economic talks in Washington broke up Wednesday with the two superpowers unable to produce a joint statement. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross scolded China over its trade imbalance with the U.S. in his opening remarks, and then both sides canceled a planned closing news conference.

It is not just the pressure on Trump to achieve results that’s growing, the pressure is also growing on him and his family.

Bloomberg: Mueller Expands Probe to Trump Business Transactions

  • Special counsel examines dealings of Kushner, Manafort, Trump
  • Trump lawyer says this goes beyond Mueller’s mandate

The U.S. special counsel investigating possible ties between the Donald Trump campaign and Russia in last year’s election is examining a broad range of transactions involving Trump’s businesses as well as those of his associates, according to a person familiar with the probe.

FBI investigators and others are looking at Russian purchases of apartments in Trump buildings, Trump’s involvement in a controversial SoHo development in New York with Russian associates, the 2013 Miss Universe pageant in Moscow and Trump’s sale of a Florida mansion to a Russian oligarch in 2008, the person said.

The investigation also has absorbed a money-laundering probe begun by federal prosecutors in New York into Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort.

Reuters: Trump’s son, close associates to appear before Senate

The U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee said on Wednesday that it had called Trump’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., and Manafort to testify on July 26 at a hearing.

The president’s son released emails earlier this month that showed him eagerly agreeing to meet last year with a woman he was told was a Russian government lawyer who might have damaging information about Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.

The meeting was also attended by Manafort and Kushner, who is now a senior adviser at the White House.

Kushner is scheduled to be interviewed by the Senate Intelligence Committee on Monday, July 24, behind closed doors.

Trump, who came into office in January, has been dogged by allegations that his campaign officials were connected to Russia, which U.S. intelligence agencies have accused of interfering in last year’s election. Trump has denied any collusion.

The current list of news links at Real Clear Politics paint a fairly grim picture, as does their rolling average of disapproval for Trump, dipping again recently to 39.7% approve, 55.5% disapprove.

And it’s not just Trump’s White House  that’s struggling.

RCP: GOP Divide Threatens 2018 Budget — and Tax Overhaul

The House Budget Committee passed its fiscal blueprint for next year Wednesday evening with unanimous GOP support, but intra-party divisions threaten to derail the measure in the full House, jeopardizing plans to pass an overhaul of the tax code, a key legislative priority of President Trump and congressional Republicans.

It’s a familiar position for the party: Hard-line conservatives in the House Freedom Caucus are frustrated that the conference isn’t pushing further to curb spending; moderates are wary that they’re pushing too far; and those supportive of the budget are concerned that detractors are letting the perfect be the enemy of the good.

Signs of a lack of strong or credible leadership, and also a lack of unity.

UAE orchestrated hacking of Qatari government sites

U.S. intelligence officials have alleged that the UAE at least orchestrated hacking of Qatari Government websites to post false quotes that were then used to justify major sanctions against Qatar.

Washington Post: UAE orchestrated hacking of Qatari government sites, sparking regional upheaval, according to U.S. intelligence officials

The United Arab Emirates orchestrated the hacking of Qatari government news and social media sites in order to post incendiary false quotes attributed to Qatar’s emir, Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad al-Thani, in late May that sparked the ongoing upheaval between Qatar and its neighbors, according to U.S. intelligence officials.

Officials became aware last week that newly analyzed information gathered by U.S. intelligence agencies confirmed that on May 23, senior members of the UAE government discussed the plan and its implementation. The officials said it remains unclear whether the UAE carried out the hacks itself or contracted to have them done. The false reports said that the emir, among other things, had called Iran an “Islamic power” and praised Hamas.

The hacks and posting took place on May 24, shortly after President Trump completed a lengthy counterterrorism meeting with Persian Gulf leaders in neighboring Saudi Arabia and declared them unified.

Citing the emir’s reported comments, the Saudis, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt immediately banned all Qatari media. They then broke relations with Qatar and declared a trade and diplomatic boycott, sending the region into a political and diplomatic tailspin that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has warned could undermine U.S. counterterrorism efforts against the Islamic State.

In a statement released in Washington by its ambassador, Yousef al-Otaiba, the UAE said the Post article was “false.”

“The UAE had no role whatsoever in the alleged hacking described in the article,” the statement said. “What is true is Qatar’s behavior. Funding, supporting, and enabling extremists from the Taliban to Hamas and Qadafi. Inciting violence, encouraging radicalization, and undermining the stability of its neighbors.”

The US were in a difficult position. They have their main Middle East military base in Qatar.

The conflict has also exposed sharp differences between Trump — who has clearly taken the Saudi and UAE side in a series of tweets and statements — and Tillerson, who has urged compromise and spent most of last week in shuttle diplomacy among the regional capitals that has been unsuccessful so far.

“We don’t expect any near-term resolution,” Tillerson aide R.C. Hammond said Saturday.

The claim of UAE orchestrated hacking probably won’t help achieve a resolution.

US update

Some bits from the US.

Trying to divert blame to Obama for Trump Jnr’s meeting:

Fox: Trump slams media for coverage of mysterious Russian lawyer, lays blame on Lynch

President Trump lashed out at the media and the Obama administration Thursday over the criticism his team is facing for his eldest son’s 2016 meeting with a Russian lawyer thought to have damaging information on Hillary Clinton.

But support is limited, even from conservatives.

Fox: Conservative carping: Why many on the right aren’t defending Don Jr.

During the long campaign, some of Donald Trump’s toughest critics in the media were conservatives.

Now, with the media furor over Don Jr. and his emails, they have ramped up their criticism once again. And that has deprived the White House of much of a cheering squad as the Russia story heats up once again.

It’s not that these conservative critics have a megaphone that approaches that of the White House. But it muddies the case that the “liberal media” are out to get Trump.

There are exceptions, of course. Sean Hannity, who interviewed Don Jr. Tuesday—the president’s son said that in retrospect he probably would have done things differently—told him during the sitdown: “Liberals in the destroy Trump media once again have worked themselves into frenzy. They’re frothing at the mouth.”

Rush Limbaugh took on the “Drive-By Media,” saying: “I actually think I’m watching people lose their minds…This is the story that’s gonna get Trump thrown out of office. This is the story that’s gonna cause an uprising among the American people. Except they have done that practically every day for the last year, and certainly for the last six months.”

But others on the right said that Trump Jr.’s meeting with the Russian lawyer he was told had oppo research on Hillary Clinton—as documented in the emails he released—was troubling.

In “Don Jr.’s Disgraceful Meeting,” National Review says: “No campaign professional would have accepted such a dodgy meeting the way Trump Jr. did, and no person with a strong sense of propriety — Russia is a hostile power run by a deeply corrupt regime — would have wanted to.”

The Weekly Standard, writing about U.S. sanctions against Moscow, says that “the Trump team has lost all credibility on the question of Russia. Second-guessing by the media and politicians of both parties will be the inevitable accompaniment to every White House announcement about Vladimir Putin or Russia.”

Fox’s Charles Krauthammer said this about the president’s son, in light of the fact that his meeting with Veselnitskaya apparently went nowhere: “It’s a hell of a defense to say your collusion might be incompetent…

“If you get a call to go to a certain place in the middle of the night to pick up stolen goods and it turns out the stolen goods don’t show up but the cops show up,” he noted. “I think you’re going to have a very weak story saying, ‘Well, I got swindled here.’”

Ex spooks:  Clapper: Trump Jr. Emails “Only One Anecdote in a Much Larger Story”

Donald Trump Jr. eagerly accepted help connected with what he was explicitly told was the Russian government’s effort to boost his father’s campaign, a move that former top Intelligence Community officials said comes straight out of the Russian playbook on tradecraft and raises alarming new questions about Russian interference in the 2016 election.

“I’ll leave it to the special counsel to determine whether the legal threshold of collusion was breached, but from this layman’s point of view, it certainly appears that way to me,” former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said.

Former Acting Director of the CIA John McLaughlin said that based on what has been reported about the emails Trump Jr. released on Tuesday, “it looks to me like an elaborate operation carried out through intermediaries to probe the receptivity of the Trump campaign to assistance from the Russian government during the campaign.”

“It is not unusual for it to be carried out through such a long chain of intermediaries, because the tradecraft objective here is to separate the original ambition as far as possible from the ultimate result so it becomes very hard to trace back, as it is in this case, exactly what happened and who did what,” he said.

This email exchange is “huge,” former CIA Acting Director Michael Morell said, given it “shows that a senior member of the Trump team” knew in early summer of 2016 that “the Russians were working on behalf of Trump.”

“Any person with integrity would have picked up the phone and called the FBI, and they would not have attended the meeting,” Morell said. “The fact that Donald Jr. did not call the FBI — and the fact that he went ahead with the meeting with such enthusiasm — shows a willingness to collude with a foreign government, even though there was probably no actual collusion during the meeting itself, if it played out as described.”

But someone claims to be clean.

US-UK trade deal “very very quickly”

Donald Trump said that a very very big trade deal with the UK will be done very very quickly, but others are very very dubious.

“There is no country that could possibly be closer than our countries. We have been working on a trade deal which will be a very, very big deal – a very powerful deal, great for both countries – and I think we will have that done very, very quickly.”

“Prime Minister May and I have developed a very special relationship and I think trade will be a very big factor between our two countries.”

That sounds very very Trump but Theresa May was less certain.

May said she would not be sceptical about the Trump offer but remained “optimistic”.

Others were more sceptical. Thomas Bernes, who has dealt with the US in a major trade negotiation and is now a fellow at the Centre for International Governance Innovation:

“I was involved in the Canada-US trade agreement and it was extremely complicated. No one will be interested in a trade deal until you know where the UK is vis-a-vis the European Union and until that point is reached you can have plenty of goodwill but it is nothing more than that.”

“I think it is political puffery. There will be no fast US-UK trade agreement.”

The Guardian Trump expects trade deal with UK to be completed ‘very, very quickly’:

Trump’s comments are unlikely to signal any confirmed trade deal being announced soon. The US president has consistently pledged to put American interests before those of any ally countries and a UK-US deal remains a long way from being agreed.

A senior Downing street official said no date was being announced for a visit by Trump, but added: “The invitation has been extended and will be set out in due course.” They suggested there were no plans for an imminent visit.

The official described a “very good atmosphere” in a 50-minute meeting, in which a “significant proportion” was dedicated to the trading relationship.

“They agreed to prioritise work so a deal will be ready as soon as possible after Britain leaves the EU. They pledged to examine areas now where the two countries can deepen their trade relations. The president made clear he believed the UK would thrive outside the EU,” he said.

The conversation did not go into any specific detail of what a trade agreement might look like, he added, but “was talking in broad terms about the determination to get a good deal for both countries”.

Maybe Trump will just very very quickly build a trade deal and insist that the UK pay for it.