World affairs, family affairs

There is a sound, clear, strategic motive for President Donald Trump to make nice with China on trade issues: North Korea.

Call it coincidence -- nothing more -- that Ivanka Trump’s company on April 6 won provisional approval for three new trademarks to sell her brand of fashion accessories and spa services in China. That night, she sat next to Chinese President Xi Jinping for dinner at Mar-a-Lago, The Associated Press reports.

Consistent with U.S. interests, too, as Trump sees them, was his congratulatory call to Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan after a referendum to expand his powers. With Syria and Iraq as neighbors, Turkey’s cooperation is vital in the fight against ISIS.

Write it off to happenstance that Ivanka tweeted on April 20, 2012: “Thank you Prime Minister Erdogan for joining us yesterday to celebrate the launch of #TrumpTowers Istanbul!” Trump licensed his brand to the project for millions.

To be sure, business interests and policy at times diverge. Last year, Erdogan called for removal of Trump’s name from the buildings to protest his campaign’s “Islamophobia.”

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On Monday, Erdogan was likely pleased by Trump’s call, considering the cooler reaction from other Western leaders, fearing a tilt toward authoritarianism. The Istanbul towers still carry Trump’s name.

The take-away: Easy to misread

Trump’s congratulations to Erdogan came after a more cautious and nuanced statement from the State Department that alluded to questions about the fairness of the vote in Turkey.

It’s not the first time there have been mixed signals from the administration. Perhaps that’s by design, writes Newsday’s Dan Janison.

MS-13 in Trump crosshairs

Attorney General Jeff Sessions spotlighted last week’s quadruple homicide in Central Islip as he vowed a federal crackdown on the MS-13 street gang, Newsday’s Emily Ngo reports. Sessions warned them: “We will find you.”

Trump, in a tweet, blamed “the weak illegal immigration policies” of the Obama administration for allowing MS-13 “to form in cities across U.S.” and added: “We are removing them fast!”

Sessions did not announce specific steps, but criticized so-called sanctuary cities whose officials may not heed all federal immigration orders. Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford) said of Suffolk residents: “It should be encouraging for them to realize that Washington is aware of what’s happening.”

Under past presidents, federal agents and prosecutors pursued the mostly Central American gang, which began in Los Angeles -- resulting in a number of convictions and deportations as reflected in this 2005 coverage. Whether Sessions can or will have a further impact remains to be seen.

Justice delayed 

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One month after soliciting the resignations of holdover Obama administration U.S. attorneys, Sessions has no replacements in place, the Washington Post points out. "We really need to work hard at that," Sessions said of the vacancies.

Anchors a-way off

Misdirection is a tried and true form of deception to keep an adversary off balance. It’s not clear whether that was a deliberate ploy or a communications foul-up when the Trump administration announced last week that the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson was sailing toward the Korean Peninsula.

Turns out the Vinson and the four other warships in its strike force were sailing in the opposite direction, to take part in joint exercises with the Australian Navy in the Indian Ocean, 3,500 miles away. The latest reports are that it is due in the Sea of Japan at end of April.

Pence nudging Japan on trade

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With North Korea tensions as a backdrop, Vice President Mike Pence talked with Japanese leaders about trade differences on a visit to Tokyo.

Trump withdrew the United States from the Trans-Pacific Partnership pact immediately after taking office and is seeking a bilateral deal that would reduce the U.S. trade deficit with Japan. But Japan is talking about reviving the TPP without the United States.

A hire power

While Trump visited a Wisconsin factory Tuesday to tout his “buy American, hire American” executive order, CNN reported that Trump family businesses legally hired 1,371 foreign visa workers since 2001.

In addition, Trump-branded real estate has raised at least $50 million in foreign investor money through a program that gives foreign investors access to green cards, the reports said.

They could be royals

Trump signaled last week that adviser Steve Bannon was on thin ice for feuding with son-in-law Jared Kushner’s White House faction.

It’s not known whether Trump has seen a new Vanity Fair piece in which a “person close to Bannon” says Kushner and Ivanka Trump “want to be prince and princess,” while others do the day-to-day work of governing.

What else is happening

  • Iowa GOP Sen. Joni Ernst lined up with critics of Trump’s frequent trips to Mar-a-Lago, telling a town hall audience it’s “bothering” her and other Senate Republicans. “I do wish he would spend more time in Washington,” she said.
  • Trump sent out three more tweets Tuesday urging suburban Atlanta voters to defeat Democrat Jon Ossoff in a special House election. Ossoff got 48.6 percent in the GOP-dominated district, which means a runoff against second-place Republican candidate Karen Handel, who got 19 percent.
  • Despite Ossoff's strong showing, the president later gloated, apparently without irony: "Despite major outside money, FAKE media support and eleven Republican candidates, BIG "R" win with runoff in Georgia. Glad to be of help!"
  • With New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, a Democrat, and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, a Republican, urging him on, Trump said Canada has been “very unfair” to dairy farmers in the two states, and promised to find a solution to a trade dispute. It’s about Canada’s imposition of an import tax on a product used to make cheese.
  • The International Monetary Fund warns that Trump's proposed tax cuts and deregulation moves could create the kind of risk-taking that preceded the 2008 financial crisis, Reuters reports.
  • In the first such documented case, federal agents ignored Trump’s pledge not to deport immigrants in the country without documentation who arrived as children and sent a young man from California back to his native Mexico, USA Today reports.
  • As a private citizen, Trump railed against President Barack Obama’s decision to bring patients with Ebola to the United States for treatment in 2014. But Trump’s administration is conducting drills to prepare for similar evacuations during disease outbreaks if ever necessary, The Associated Press reports.
  • While at the Republican National Committee last year, Sean Spicer said the party’s top digital strategist had no ties to a company that collected online donations. Turns out Gerrit Lansing did, and made almost $1 million, Politico reports. Spicer said he based his statement on what Lansing had wrongly told him.