Gull in a China flop?
What could Chuck Schumer, Stephen Bannon, Marco Rubio and hard-liners inside the White House possibly agree on? This: The Trump administration has been artless in its dealing so far with China on trade.
Some sore points: The decision last weekend to put tariffs on hold amid few concessions from Beijing on key demands; Trump’s eagerness to cut a deal sparing Chinese telecom giant ZTE from sanctions, and worry that Trump is going soft because he needs President Xi Jinping’s help on North Korea.
“Sadly #China is out-negotiating the administration & winning the trade talks right now,” tweeted Sen. Rubio (R-Fla.) “They have avoided tariffs & got a #ZTE deal without giving up anything meaningful in return.”
Senate Minority Leader Schumer (D-N.Y.) tweeted that easing up on ZTE is “putting our nat’l security at risk.” An added zinger: “Frankly, this is exactly the type of deal you’d have called ‘weak’ or ‘the worst deal ever’ before you were @POTUS.”
Bannon told Bloomberg News that Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin “has given it away.” Mnuchin and West Wing trade hawk Peter Navarro reportedly screamed and cursed at each other in Beijing earlier this month.
Keep that Nobel on ice
Trump said Tuesday he’s not sure that his planned June 12 nuclear summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is going to happen. Speaking to reporters as he met with South Korean President Moon Jae-in, the president covered just about all the possibilities:
“It may not work out for June 12.”
“There’s a good chance that we’ll have the meeting.”
“If it doesn’t happen, maybe it will happen later.”
“We’ll see what happens.”
“In the end it will work out, I can’t tell you exactly how or why, but it always does.”
“If it doesn’t, that’s OK too. Whatever it is, it is.”
To phrase a coin
The summit may not happen, but an official commemorative coin has already been minted to mark the occasion, or non-occasion.
The White House Communications Agency, a military unit that provides communications support to U.S. presidents, created and issued a commemorative coin featuring Trump’s and Kim’s likenesses. It refers to the North Korean as “Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un,” his official title in his country.
Press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the president and his staff had nothing to do with it.
Janison: He has MS-13’s number
John Kelly’s influence as White House chief of staff has been on the wane, but if there’s one subject on which he and Trump see eye to eye, it’s MS-13. As a four-star general, Kelly got to know about the gang while he was in charge of the U.S. Southern Command from 2012 to 2016.
“They are utterly without laws, conscience or respect for human life,” Kelly said of these groups.
Trump is set to attend a forum in Bethpage Wednesday on the gang, whose members he calls “animals.” See Dan Janison’s column for Newsday.
They work for flips
A taxi-industry business partner of Michael Cohen, Trump’s longtime personal lawyer and fixer, has agreed to cooperate with prosecutors as a potential witness to avoid jail time, The New York Times reported.
The plea deal on tax fraud and grand larceny charges by Evgeny A. Freidman — a Russian immigrant who is known as the Taxi King — calls on him to assist in state or federal investigations. That could be used as leverage to pressure Cohen to cooperate in the Russia investigation, the report said.
Also on the Trump-crony-scandal front, his indicted ex-campaign manager Paul Manafort is preparing to ask a federal judge to suppress evidence seized by Mueller's office on Fourth Amendment grounds.
Trump’s fake-out play
CBS “60 Minutes” reporter Lesley Stahl said at a journalism awards event Monday that she asked Trump after his election, and before he sat for an on-camera interview, why he constantly attacked the news media.
“He said: ‘You know why I do it? I do it to discredit you all and demean you all so that when you write negative stories about me, no one will believe you.’ ”
Trump warned anti-abortion activists that the "incredible" and "historic" gains they've made in his administration would disappear if Republicans lose in the mid-term elections. But he seemed unable to get away from making it about himself by straying from the text.
The vote in November, he said, is "every bit as important as your vote in 2016," but quickly added, "Although I'm not sure I really believe that ... I don't know who the hell wrote that line." Many took it as a joke, but isn't that for the citizens to judge?
What else is happening
- Two House intelligence committee Republicans will meet at the White House Thursday with FBI and intelligence officials about their document requests on a confidential source in the Russia investigation, now known to be Stefan Halper, a professor who served in past GOP administrations.
- The Washington Post has a profile of Halper, who has long-standing connections to the intelligence world and got his first White House job under President Richard Nixon.
- Trump has rebuffed staff efforts to strengthen security around his iPhone use, Politico reports. Urged to swap them out monthly, he replied it was “too inconvenient” — an explanation that resembles Hillary Clinton’s defense of unsecure email practices.
- Education Secretary Betsy DeVos — tasked by Trump after the Parkland, Florida, shootings with leading a commission on protecting schools from violence — told lawmakers its report won’t be ready until the end of the year, reports Newsday’s Tom Brune.
- EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt temporarily banned news organizations from a summit on toxic chemicals in drinking water before his decision was reversed. Activists accuse him of being a secretive shill for the industry.
- The Boston Globe reports that Trump staffers who draft tweets for him intentionally mimic his disregard for grammar rules. They see virtue in typos, too, as a sign to Trump’s base that he has the common touch.
- The Trump administration is moving to reverse Obama-era hunting rules for public lands in Alaska barring the use of spotlights to shoot mother black bears and cubs hibernating in their dens. Also to be OK again: baiting brown bears with bacon and doughnuts.
- A sinkhole has opened on the White House North Lawn and appears to be growing.
- Gasoline prices, which have been a factor in past national election campaigns, are soaring in Trump's second year.
- Israel is the first country to use American-made F-35 fighter jets in its bombardment of Iranian targets inside Syria.