He didn’t start the fire
“Major portions of the world are in conflict and some, in fact, are going to hell,” said President Donald Trump, and a wrong move by North Korea will buy it an express ticket to that destination.
Those were among the take-aways from the president’s first address to the UN General Assembly Tuesday.
Many world leaders were in the hall. North Korea’s Kim Jong Un was not. But Trump had a message for him — stating his “fire and fury” warning to Pyongyang over its nuclear program even more starkly.
If the United States “is forced to defend itself or its allies, we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea,” Trump said. “ ‘Rocket Man’ is on a suicide mission for himself and for his regime.”
It’s up to the world community, he said, “to work together to isolate the Kim regime until it ceases its hostile behavior.”
See Emily Ngo’s story for Newsday.
Spanning the world
Trump defended his “America First” policy, saying “we are renewing this founding principle of sovereignty,” and said other countries would do well to emulate it.
“We are calling for a great reawakening of nations, for the revival of their spirits, their pride, their people and their patriotism.”
But the turn from internationalism doesn’t mean isolationism, as Trump portrayed it. He called out Iran and Cuba as “destabilizing” regimes and warned of “further action” to counter Venezuela’s march toward “authoritarian rule.”
The take-away: Blast from past
Trump’s speech reflected present-day lines of conflict, but there were echoes of the ideological divisions of the Cold War, writes Newsday’s Dan Janison.
Blaming Venezuela’s socialist policies for its economic collapse and unrest, Trump said, “Wherever socialism or communism has been adopted, it has delivered anguish, devastation and failure.”
But Trump also said, “We do not seek to impose our way of life on anyone.”
On the "Late Show With Stephen Colbert," former secretary of state and 2016 presidential loser Hillary Clinton called the Trump speech "dark, dangerous" and talked about Vladimir Putin "manspreading."
Trump’s legal aid society
While current and former aides caught up in the Russia investigation are struggling with lawyers’ fees, Trump has got it covered. But not from his personal fortune — he’s using campaign funds, Reuters reported.
Trump is dipping into his 2020 re-election fund and Republican National Committee accounts, meaning donors are indirectly footing his bills. The RNC’s payments totaled $231,250, CNN said.
It’s all legal, but election law experts said he would be first president in the modern campaign finance era to use such funds to cover the costs of responding to a criminal probe.
Now tell everybody
Senate Intelligence Committee investigators called off a closed-door interview with longtime Trump lawyer Michael Cohen, upset that he released a statement after the panel asked him not to comment publicly.
So now Cohen will be subpoenaed to testify in public. Cohen’s statement reiterated his denials of any role in Russian election meddling.
Looking for a win
The latest Trump-backed Republican effort to get an Obamacare repeal and replacement through the Senate suffered a setback when a bipartisan group of governors came out against the proposal. The outcome remains in doubt.
Trump tweeted early Wednesday: "I hope Republican Senators will vote for Graham-Cassidy and fulfill their promise to Repeal & Replace ObamaCare. Money direct to States!"
On another front, White House and GOP leaders are considering major changes to upcoming tax legislation, including scaling back plans for large-scale tax cuts for the wealthy and keeping the top rate for individuals at 39.6 percent, The Washington Post reported.
What else is happening
- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu devoted a good part of his 20-minute General Assembly speech to praising and echoing Trump, including his hard line on Iran, reports Newsday’s Zachary R. Dowdy.
- New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman, a frequent investigator of Trump and associates, was invited to a Trump reception Tuesday on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly, Politico reports. He declined.
- Trump gave a toast at a UN luncheon and raised to his lips what looked like a glass of red wine — notable only because Trump is a committed teetotaler. Unclear: Whether Trump drank even a drop before handing the glass to an aide, and whether it was really wine. (Video here.)
- Three House Democrats and New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito were arrested in front of Trump Tower as they protested Trump’s rollback of DACA, Newsday’s Laura Figueroa reports.
- Trump administration officials quashed a Department of Health and Human Services study that found refugees brought in more government revenue than they cost, The New York Times reported.
- Trump, slow to express sympathy with Mexico after its hurricane and earthquake woes of past weeks, reacted quickly after a major new quake rocked its capital Tuesday. “God bless the people of Mexico City. We are with you and will be there for you,” he tweeted.
- The Trump administration is working to make it easier for American gun makers to sell small arms, including assault rifles and ammunition, to foreign buyers, Reuters reports. Critics worry it will also make it easier for gangs and terrorists to get them.
- Scientist Michael Dourson, who's facing Senate confirmation as head of the federal government's federal regulatory program, has been fighting while in the private sector against certain restrictions on potentially toxic compounds.