The world’s a tough sell
President Donald Trump’s frustrations are rarely more than a tweet below the surface, and given his impatience, they don’t stay there for long.
So it goes after his appeal for help in countering the North Korean nuclear threat during meetings with Chinese President Xi Jinping at Mar-a-Lago last week doesn’t seem to have produced the desired results.
“I explained to the President of China that a trade deal with the U.S. will be far better for them if they solve the North Korean problem!” Trump said on Twitter Tuesday.
Then he followed up: “North Korea is looking for trouble. If China decides to help, that would be great. If not, we will solve the problem without them! U.S.A.”
So in the span of four minutes, the president sounded both pugnacious and betrayed a hint of desperation.
Demanding big improvements in trade terms with China was central to Trump’s campaign last year, but now he has gone public to signal a willingness to settle for less. Such are the grave risks from a military conflict with North Korea.
It fits a larger pattern on foreign policy — a perception that Trump is winging it. He has called “unpredictability” a virtue, but as The Washington Post explains, anxious allies see it more as incoherence.
Ivanka turned him around?
Eric Trump says his sister Ivanka played a big role in their father’s decision to launch a missile strike against Syria last week because she was “heartbroken and outraged” over the chemical-weapon attack that killed dozens of 30 children.
“Ivanka is a mother of three kids and she has influence,” Eric Trump said in an interview with Britain’s Daily Telegraph. “I’m sure she said: ‘Listen, this is horrible stuff.’ My father will act in times like that.” Press Secretary Sean Spicer said later at Tuesday’s briefing that there’s “no question that Ivanka and others weighed in.”
For years, Trump repeatedly spoke out against military action in Syria, but he told Fox Business Network Tuesday: “What I did should have been done with the Obama administration long before I did it.” He also said, “We are not going into Syria.”
Spicer flunks Holocaust history
Few Americans would disagree that Syrian President Bashar Assad personifies evil. Somehow, Spicer took it too far, with an Assad-is-worse-than-Hitler ramble that suggested forgetfulness or ignorance about the Holocaust.
Spicer began by saying “someone as despicable as Hitler ...didn’t even sink to ... using chemical weapons.” As Twitter lit up with reminders of the gas chambers in which millions of Jews and others were killed, Spicer was asked what he meant.
“He was not using the gas on his own people,” Of course, Hitler’s victims included his own people — German Jews.
Spicer went on: Assad dropped poison gas in the “middle of towns” — not a “Holocaust center.” (He meant concentration camps.)
Spicer later sent out clarification attempts, but the damage was done. “On Passover, no less...” said a denunciation from the Anne Frank Center for Mutual Respect.
Finally, Spicer apologized on CNN for “an inappropriate and insensitive reference to the Holocaust.” See Newsday’s story by Emily Ngo.
It’s chilly in Moscow
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson arrived in Moscow for meeting with Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, bringing a demand that Moscow back away from the Syrian government.
But the Russians are sticking with Assad and their professed skepticism that Syria’s regime launched the gas attack. Before Tillerson’s arrival, President Vladimir Putin claimed provocateurs are planning to plant chemical substances in suburban Damascus and blame it on Syrian authorities.
Eric Trump, in his Telegraph interview, said one benefit of the U.S. missile attack was “to validate the fact that there is no Russia tie” — referring to allegations of potential Russian collusion with Donald Trump’s campaign.
Meanwhile, The Washington Post reported that as part of its investigation, the FBI obtained a secret court order last summer to monitor the communications of Carter Page, a Trump adviser.
Making Mar-a-Lago pay
The costs of protecting Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida when he visits have Palm Beach County Commissioners considering a special tax be levied against the property if the federal government won’t provide reimbursement.
The county spends more than $60,000 a day when the president visits, mostly for law enforcement overtime, or almost $2 million since January, the Orlando Sentinel reports.
Because Mar-a-Lago is incorporated as a club, it pays lower property taxes than hotels.
What else is happening:
- In the same CNN interview in which he apologized for his Assad-Hitler comparison, Spicer tripped over his tongue again in discussing Syria policy, saying he did not want to distract from Trump’s efforts to “destabilize the region.” (Video clip here.)
- Republicans and Democrats who reviewed the same classified reports cited last month by House Intelligence Committee Devin Nunes to suggest snooping on Trump’s transition team found no evidence the Obama administration did anything unusual or illegal, CNN reports.
- Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said “it’s going to make tax reform much harder” if Trump keeps refusing to release his tax returns because people will want to know if proposed changes would benefit Trump.
- When in Italy, U.S. presidents commonly make a side trip to the Vatican to see the pope. But Trump has not asked for a meeting with Pope Francis around the time of the May 26-27 summit of Group of Seven nations in Sicily, Reuters reported.
- A regular on Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show,” Hasan Minhaj will perform at the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner this month. Trump and his staff say they aren’t coming.
- The White House and the president’s political allies are moving to expand Trump loyalists’ control of state Republican parties, Politico reports.
- Donald Trump Jr. told The Associated Press he won’t run for governor of New York in 2018 but said he’s open to the possibility of running in the future.
- The White House annual Easter Egg Roll is set for Monday amid uncertainties over how smoothly it will go because of staffing gaps and behind-schedule planning of many details, The New York Times reported.