Worn label, new usage
Reacting to the latest suicide-bombing horror, in Manchester England, President Donald Trump called those behind it "evil losers."
He said such "wicked ideology must be obliterated. And I mean completely obliterated." How that might happen remains unclear. Missing was the usual message that the United States and the West need to "get smart" against Islamic extremism.
Previously Trump used the "loser" label to apply to his celebrity critics who vexed him such as Cher, Karl Rove, Mark Cuban and Rosie O'Donnell.
"I extend my deepest condolences to those so terribly injured in this terrorist attack and to the many killed and the families, so many families, of the victims. We stand in absolute solidarity with the people of the United Kingdom," Trump added.
Trump had just met with Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestinian Authority, and told an Israeli audience that Palestinians were "ready to reach for peace" and blasted Iran.
Nobody asked him, but ...
As Trump posed with Benjamin Netanyahu, there was a shouted question: Is the Israeli prime minister concerned about sharing intelligence with the United States?
The context, as both men knew, was Trump’s pass-along of highly classified counterterror information to Russian diplomats visiting the Oval Office May 10. A key condition of the U.S.-Israeli arrangement is that the intel is not to be shared with other countries.
“The intelligence cooperation is terrific,” Netanyahu said.
Then Trump decided to jump in.
“Just so you understand, I never mentioned the word or the name Israel,” Trump said. “Never mentioned it during that conversation. They’re all saying I did, so you have another story wrong. Never mentioned the word Israel.”
Right. No one ever reported that he did. The story was that Trump, without warning to his national security aides, passed along classified information so specific that the Russians could have easily figured it came from an Israeli intelligence asset behind ISIS lines, risking its exposure.
Now Trump -- by saying without being asked that he never said Israel -- seems to have further confirmed it. (Video clip here.)
A wish for peace
Trump said he wants to make progress on what he has called the “ultimate deal” -- a Middle East peace between Israel and the Palestinians.
Trump has not yet offered a diplomatic initiative to restart negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians and to break the broader political impasse.
Still, Trump raised the prospect of a peace deal during each of his three public appearances with Netanyahu. The Israeli leader sought continually to steer the conversation toward Iran.
Trump sought help vs. Comey
Trump in March asked two top intelligence community officials -- Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats and National Security Agency Director Michael S. Rogers — to publicly refute that there was any evidence of collusion between Trump’s campaign and Russia, The Washington Post reports.
They refused, deeming as inappropriate the requests, which were made after FBI Director James Comey confirmed to Congress that potential collusion was part of the investigation. Coats and Rogers considered the requests an attempt to tarnish the FBI’s credibility, the Post said.
“The problem wasn’t so much asking them to issue statements, it was asking them to issue false statements about an ongoing investigation,” a former senior intelligence official told the Post.
Fifth Amendment time for Flynn
Fired Trump National Security Adviser Michael Flynn invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination in rebuffing a Senate committee subpoena Monday in the investigation into Russia’s election meddling.
A top House Democrat released new evidence he said appeared to show Flynn lied on a security clearance background check about payments from and contacts with Russia.
The take-away: Carry-on barrage
If Trump’s biggest liabilities all came from before he took office, they would be easier to overcome, writes Newsday’s Dan Janison.
But he’s given fresh grist to investigators with actions since he became president, most notably by firing Comey and admitting the Russia probe was the reason.
Missing the signs
Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross marveled on CNBC after Trump’s Saudi Arabia visit that “there was not a single hint of a protester anywhere there during the whole time we were there. Not one guy with a bad placard.”
That could be because street protests there are illegal, punishable by prison and even death.
When the interviewer Monday noted Saudi’s lack of freedoms, Ross said, “In theory, that could be true,” but went on that “the mood was a genuinely good mood” and Saudi security guards gave him a parting gift of “giant bushels of dates.”
What else is happening
- The White House is set Tuesday to submit to Congress a detailed spending proposal with deep cuts to Medicaid and other social services, and hikes in defense funding as part of what Trump’s budget director called a “taxpayer-first budget,” Newsday’s Emily Ngo reports.
- White House officials are seeking to stop the federal government’s top ethics officer from getting details about waivers granted to lobbyists and other appointees working in the administration, The New York Times reported.
- The Trump administration said it will extend through January a humanitarian program that has admitted more than 58,000 Haitians to the United States after a devastating 2010 earthquake, Newsday’s Victor Manuel Ramos reports, but further extensions are doubtful.
- Trump has narrowed down a list of finalists for outside lawyers to help him navigate the Russia investigations, The Washington Post reported.
- A large sinkhole has formed in front of Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida, The Washington Post reports.
- A viral video clip from Trump’s arrival in Israel: As Trump reaches for Melania Trump’s hand as they walk on the airport tarmac, she appears to bat his hand away. (Video here.)