Captive nations of the G-7
The accomplishments of the G-7 summit were slim, as has become the norm when Donald Trump gathers with world leaders. But he didn't let his time in the global spotlight go to waste when it came to one goal: promoting the Trump business.
The president's windup news conference took a detour into an extended commercial for his Doral golf resort near Miami, which somehow is beating out all 11 of its competitors as a prospective venue for the G-7 in 2020 when it's the United States' turn to be host. Administration officials "went places all over the country, and they came back and said, ‘This is where we’d like to be,’ ” said Trump.
Government ethics watchdogs said a G-7 at Trump's property would take his conflicts of interest to a whole new level. It's disturbing enough when foreign government guests choose, for whatever reasons, to stay at his Washington hotel. "This is him making it perfectly mandatory that they stay at his resort," said Larry Noble, a former general counsel at the Federal Election Commission.
But Trump was undeterred and unabashed. “With Doral, we have a series of magnificent buildings, we call them bungalows, they each hold from 50 to 70 very luxurious rooms with magnificent views. we have incredible conference rooms, incredible restaurants, it's like such a natural,” he said.
He also touted its ample parking, proximity to the airport, and "the ballrooms are among the biggest in Florida and the best." And that's not all. "Each country can have their own villa or their own bungalow, and they have a lot of units in them," Trump said.
As grand as that sounds, the Doral has been struggling. Figures Trump's company gave Miami-Dade County last year reported room rates, banquets, golf and overall revenue were all down since 2015. While the date for next year's G-7 isn't set, it's typically held sometime between late May and August, which is Florida's slow, hot and sticky season.
Trump insisted, without explanation, that “from my standpoint, I'm not going to make any money.” He also said, contrary to his history, “I don’t care about making money.” He even went on to complain, without evidence, that he's been making himself poorer while making America great. “In a combination of loss and opportunity, I think it will lose me anywhere from $3 [billion to] $5 billion to be president,” Trump said. Before the news conference ended, Trump also name-dropped plugs for his golf resorts in Scotland and Ireland.
In the back seat on Iran
French President Emmanuel Macron said he let Trump know about his government's surprise meetings with Iran's foreign minister during the G-7. After that, the stories diverge.
"He asked me for approval," said Trump.
"I did it on my own," said Macron, pointing out that France is still a party to the nuclear agreement that Trump walked away from.
In any event, Macron has taken the lead. Trump indicated he's willing to stand back and see what happens as Macron tries to lay groundwork for a revised deal with Iran, which would include arranging a meeting between Trump and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.
“If the circumstances were correct or right, I would certainly agree to that. But in the meantime, they have to be good players. You understand what that means,” Trump said of the Iranians. If not, Trump warned, Iran it will be met with “very violent force.”
Surreal art of the deal
Last week, Trump called Chinese President Xi Jinping an "enemy." On Monday, Trump said Xi is a "great leader" and a "brilliant man."
On Friday, he "hereby ordered" American businesses to get ready to quit China. On Monday, he was optimistic enough to advise those companies that once he got a trade deal, they should “stay there and do a great job.”
The communications on China from Trump and his administration on the trade war and tariffs have grown only more erratic and sometimes contradictory, spooking markets and businesses in the United States and around the world. But Trump said Monday he sees no problem amid the tension, turmoil and confusion.
“Sorry — it’s the way I negotiate,” he said at the news conference, adding, “It has done very well for me over the years, and it is going very well for the country.”
Janison: The nonstarting lineup
There's no shortage of plans and proposals that keep floating from Trump's mouth and tweets. They just tend to vaporize once reaching the cold air of reality, writes Newsday's Dan Janison.
Lately there have been retreads, like a constitutionally dubious call to end birthright citizenship, and hot-and-cold shifts on background checks for gun buyers. The new lead balloons included buying Greenland from Denmark and the get-out-of-China tweet to American companies.
The list goes on and on and on. For more, read Janison's column.
Friend of the earth
Trump was the only world leader at the G-7 who skipped its meeting on climate change. At his news conference, Trump declared "I am environmentalist." He's just one who's in love with fossil fuels.
“I feel that the United States has tremendous wealth. The wealth is under its feet. I've made that wealth come alive,” he said. Trump went on to say, "I'm not going to lose it on dreams and windmills, which, frankly, aren't working too well."
Pining for Putin
The most contentious discussion behind closed doors at the G-7 was Trump's push to bring Russia back into the group of nations from which it was expelled after annexing Crimea from Ukraine, The Washington Post reported.
At a dinner meeting Saturday night, most of the leaders said it mattered whether participating nations were democracies. Trump said it did not.
On Monday, Trump said he still intended to invite Vladimir Putin to the 2020 summit, which he can do as host, though he was uncertain Putin would accept after the years of being shunned. He said the Russian is a "proud person."
Trump went on to blame Barack Obama for Russia's takeover of Crimea. “President Obama was pure and simply outsmarted,” Trump said, and was determined to oust Russia from the G-7 because it was “very embarrassing to him.”
What else is happening:
- Talking up North Korea's dictator during the news conference, the president said first lady Melania Trump "has gotten to know Kim Jong Un and I think she would agree with me." She looked at him quizzically from the audience. Later, press secretary Stephanie Grisham admitted they never met but maintained that from what Trump has told his wife, "the President feels like she’s gotten to know him too.”
- The Trump administration has eliminated a protection that lets immigrants remain in the country and avoid deportation while they or their relatives receive lifesaving medical treatments, The Associated Press reported.
- Federal prosecutors in Washington are deciding whether to indict former FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe, a frequent Trump target, on charges of lying to the FBI, The New York Times reported. McCabe, who denies wrongdoing, was hired last week as a CNN contributor.
- The House Judiciary Committee on Monday issued a subpoena to former White House staff secretary Rob Porter, who was present with Trump at several events that are being examined for possible obstruction of justice. The White House is likely to seek to block his testimony.
- Unlike Bernie Sanders, who warred with the Democratic Party establishment in 2016, Elizabeth Warren is wooing them, and it seems to be working, reports The Atlantic. “These are people who should not like her,” said an attendee at a DNC meeting last weekend. "And they love her.” She is promising to be a team player, The New York Times wrote.
- Politico looked at the surprising alliance and friendship between Bernie Sanders and Bronx-raised star rapper Cardi B, who is 51 years his junior. A video of their conversation in a Detroit nail salon drew 22 million views on their social media accounts. “She’s a no-B.S. person,” said a campaign official. "And Bernie Sanders loves no-B.S. people.”