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Tricky Trump topics: Putin, Paris and the Philippines

Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a meeting at

Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a meeting at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum on Thursday, June 1, 2017. Credit: EPA / Dmitri Lovetsky / Pool

The ‘art’ of the hack

Russian President Vladimir Putin used creative imagery in saying “patriotic” citizens, but not his government, might engage in online hacking.

“Hackers ... are like artists. If they are in a good mood, they get up in the morning and begin painting their pictures,” he told news editors in St. Petersburg.

“Hackers are the same. They wake up in the morning, they read about some developments in international affairs, and if they have a patriotic mindset, then they try to make their own contribution the way they consider right into the fight against those who have bad things to say about Russia.”

Putin described President Donald Trump, who’s besieged by Russia-related inquiries, as “straightforward’ and “frank,” and praised his “fresh set of eyes.”

Plot against America?

As he ditched American participation in the Paris accord, Trump made it sound like a conspiracy against U.S. sovereignty by “global activists,” lobbyists and other nations.

His announcement Thursday was notably consistent in tone with his January inaugural speech, in which he painted as pointedly bleak the status quo before he took office.

Trump faulted the Paris climate accord signed in 2015 by his predecessor Barack Obama as signaling a “massive redistribution of United States wealth to other countries.”

Newsday’s Emily Ngo reports.

Climate control

“Even in the absence of American leadership,” said Obama in response, “I’m confident that our states, cities and businesses will step up and do even more to lead the way, and help protect for future generations the one planet we’ve got.”

Long before Thursday, Trump’s factual claims on the price tag and dangers of the Paris deal were sharply challenged on multiple fronts. But withdrawal clearly was Trump’s legal choice, and in the end, reports of internal debate proved irrelevant to the outcome.

Mourning Manila

Trump began his Paris-withdrawal address by saying the White House was monitoring what he called a “terrorist attack” in Manila, adding: “It is really very sad as to what’s going on in the world with terror.”

But at that time no casualties were reported — and Philippine police said a gunman had fired shots inside a casino and then burned himself to death. The case was reported as a robbery attempt, and the Trump-friendly government indicated it wasn’t terrorism.

Hours later, however, 36 bodies were discovered and a claim of credit from ISIS reported. Had the president been briefed on information nobody else was releasing? Circumstances of the violence remained unclear to the public early Friday.

Exceptional ethics

Drain the swamp, went the slogan. No clout for lobbyists, went the pledge.

Now the White House has given ethics waivers to 17 employees of Trump and Vice President Mike Pence — four of them former lobbyists, it was revealed.

Included: A blanket waiver to all executive office employees allowing them to interact with news organizations. The last administration handed out waivers to a total of 17 people over all eight years.

One recent waiver might have violated ethics rules.

This year in Tel Aviv

Trump postponed, as expected, his campaign vow to move the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Like previous American presidents, he decided the shift would be seen as a provocation to Palestinians and hinder peace efforts.

“The question is not if that move happens, but only when,” the White House said in a statement.

What else is happening

  • Relations with Cuba could be rolled back to the old days under policy changes Trump and aides are considering, which would reverse another Obama initiative.
  • If Russians are returning to their mansion compound in Upper Brookville under a Trump order, the local mayor has yet to be notified — but summer passes have been sought by the Russians.
  • At least one ex-DNC aide is hitting back at Hillary Clinton for blaming the committee’s operation in part for her loss.
  • Trump’s luxury golf course at Ferry Point in the Bronx shows sagging revenue, according to documents released by a park group.
  • One big question about ex-FBI chief James Comey’s Senate testimony on Wednesday is whether the Trump administration will try to block it by invoking executive privilege.
  • Two Democratic senators disclosed Thursday they’d asked Comey to look into whether Attorney General Jeff Sessions committed perjury in his confirmation testimony.
  • General Motors is slashing factory jobs again, with the automaker eliminating one of two shifts at its Warren, Michigan, plant, which makes transmissions.

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