What’s in a word?
Even as President Donald Trump made a point of doubling down, the exact language of his warning on North Korea shifted a bit on Thursday.
On Tuesday he declared: “North Korea best not make any more threats to the United States. They will be met with fire and fury ...”
Trump’s language was a wee bit different Thursday after Kim Jong Un made more threats against Guam: “I will tell you this, if North Korea does anything in terms of even thinking about attack of anybody that we love or we represent ... things will happen to them like they never thought possible.”
Whether the verbal differences will matter remains to be seen.
Defense Secretary James Mattis said Pyongyang “should cease any consideration of actions that would lead to the end of its regime and the destruction of its people” (emphasis added).
Actions are different from threats.
The president’s own aides said during the campaign he should be taken “seriously, not literally.” Trump fans say unpredictability gives him an edge.
The latest round of verbal fire commenced with a Washington Post report that North Korea had miniaturized, missile-ready nuclear warheads. It was based on anonymous sources, but Trump didn’t condemn it as “fake news.”
Trump Thursday also praised China’s support for the U.S.-led UN increase of sanctions against its rogue neighbor.
Special counsel Robert Mueller is bearing down on former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, whose house was raided by the FBI two weeks ago to secure documents related to the stepped-up Russia investigation, Bloomberg News says.
Subpoenas have gone out to global banks for account information and transaction records. The probers also reached out to current and former Manafort business associates, including his son-in-law and a Ukrainian oligarch, it was reported.
“I was very, very surprised to see it,” Trump said of the Manafort raid, speaking from his New Jersey golf club. “I thought it was a very, very strong signal, or whatever.”
Signaling worry at the White House, Trump’s lawyer John Dowd complained about a “gross abuse of the judicial process” by Mueller’s office in the raid. He questioned the validity of the warrant that led up to it, Fox News reported.
Manafort is said to have tipped off the feds about Donald Trump Jr.’s meeting with a well-connected Russian lawyer.
Donald to Vlad: We’re glad!
Famous for a gentle public approach to Vladimir Putin that he has with no other U.S. rival, Trump ironically thanked the Russian president for expelling more than 700 U.S. diplomats in protest of U.S. sanctions.
“I’m very thankful that he let go of a large number of people, because now we have a smaller payroll,” Trump said, according to a press pool report. “There’s no real reason for them to go back.”
The president on Thursday also he said he doesn’t think Iran is living up to the spirit of its 2015 nuclear deal. Last month the State Department certified that the nation was in compliance.
Donald to Mitch: Scratch that itch!
Trump kept up his criticism of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) for failing to carry out changes in the health insurance system.
He talked about the recent repeal effort failing by a vote. “For a thing like that to happen is a disgrace, and frankly it shouldn’t have happened, that I can tell you,” Trump said. If McConnell fails to get this, infrastructure and tax proposals passed, “you can ask the question” if the leader should step down, he said.
15 more Mooch minutes
Long Islander Anthony Scaramucci is soaking up celebrity — despite becoming a national punch line after cursing out White House aides behind their backs and losing his job as communications director after 10 days.
Two TV appearances are planned next week, with George Stephanopoulos and Stephen Colbert, Newsday’s Emily Ngo reports.
The wealthy Manhasset resident also carped about having had his phone remarks to a reporter recorded without his knowledge — although he was touted as a “seasoned media pro” and New York law says the practice is legal.
What else is happening
- The opioid crisis will be declared a national emergency, as suggested recently by an advisory panel, Trump said.
- Vice President Mike Pence is seeking to raise interest in his upcoming trip to South and Central America.
- A hypothetical poll via The Washington Post controversially claimed 52 percent of GOP voters could support delaying the 2020 election if doing so would stop voter fraud.
- Seventy percent of Americans believe Russia probers should be able to look into Trump’s personal finances, a CNN poll found.
- Only 51 percent of likely voters disapprove of the job Trump is doing, according to figures released by a GOP pollster. But Gallup shows a 57 percent disapproval rating.
- An inflatable chicken near the White House meant to caricature Trump caused a Twitter sensation.