Tweeting with the enemy
Donald Trump has a new reason besides the "beautiful letters" he receives from Kim Jong Un to shrug off North Korea's recent missile tests. The president is just tickled over attacks by the totalitarian regime's state-controlled news agency against Joe Biden.
"North Korea fired off some small weapons, which disturbed some of my people, and others, but not me," Trump tweeted while on a visit to Japan. "I have confidence that Chairman Kim will keep his promise to me, & also smiled when he called Swampman Joe Biden a low IQ individual, & worse."
The North Korean statement came last week after Biden, a prospective Democratic nominee in 2020, accused Trump of cozying up to “dictators and tyrants” like Kim and Vladimir Putin.
Could Trump really think that Kim playing attack dog on Biden means the U.S. can relax about North Korea's latest flexing of military muscle? The rest of the tweet speaks for itself: "Perhaps that’s sending me a signal?"
On NBC's "Meet the Press," host Chuck Todd posed this question to Trump press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders: “Can you explain why Americans should not be concerned that the president of the United States is essentially siding with a murderous, authoritarian dictator over a former vice president of the United States?”
Her answer: “The president’s not ‘siding’ with that, but I think they agree in their assessment of former Vice President Joe Biden."
Trump's tweet was also a slap at his national security adviser, John Bolton, who was one of his people "disturbed" by the missile firings. Bolton told reporters at a briefing before Trump arrived in Tokyo that the tests violated United Nations Security Council resolutions.
Too close for comfort
Count Trump's host, Japan, among those also disturbed by North Korea's moves. In the past, some North Korean missiles have crossed through Japan's airspace. Short-range missiles that pose no threat to the U.S. are a worry for Tokyo.
The new launches “are a breach of UN Security Council resolutions and extremely regrettable,” Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said last week.
Nevertheless, the Japanese are making every effort to show Trump a good time. Abe and Trump played a round of golf and dined on cheeseburgers. They also watched a sumo wrestling tournament where Trump got to present the champion with a special "President’s Cup" trophy. The U.S. and Japan have been negotiating for a trade deal, but Trump tweeted "much will wait until after their July elections."
They said what?
Trump tweeted that "numerous Japanese officials told me that the Democrats would rather see the United States fail than see me or the Republican Party succeed — Death Wish!"
It would seem unusual if not improbable for Japanese officials to offer raw partisan remarks about domestic U.S. politics to please Trump.
Then again, when Abe nominated Trump for the Nobel Peace Prize last year, it was at the Trump administration's request, according to Japan's Asahi newspaper. Abe wouldn't comment, but Trump boasted the Japanese leader had given him “the most beautiful copy of a letter" that he sent to the Nobel committee.
Janison: Outsiders inside his head
As on other issues, Trump seems to be listening more to cronies, associates and fans from outside his administration than seeking the advice of officials within it on such questions as considering pardons for accused war criminals, writes Newsday's Dan Janison.
The advocates who have been pressing Trump on the case of Navy SEAL chief Edward "Eddie" Gallagher include his lawyer — who also represents the Trump Organization — and Bernard Kerik, the ex-con former NYPD commissioner who goes on TV as a pro-Trump pundit. A "Fox & Friends" co-host, Pete Hegseth, has also lobbied him. Trump's suggestion that some of those charged "get really treated very unfairly” showed little regard for the military brass who make difficult decisions to prosecute.
The Washington Post reported Trump has been urging the head of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to bypass the usual rules designed to keep government contracting fair and award a border wall contract to a North Dakota construction firm whose top executive is a GOP donor and frequent guest on his media ally Fox News.
De Blasio: I'm likable enough
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio defended his likability amid low poll numbers in the 2020 Democratic race.
Asked on CNN's "State of the Union" if he had a “likability problem,” de Blasio pointed to his two terms running City Hall. “I’ve built those very broad coalitions and folks had to have liked me to have made me mayor of New York City twice,” de Blasio said.
De Blasio also laid claim to insights into Trump that will help take him on. The mayor said he has "watched him for decades. I understand his game plan, I understand his tricks and his strategies, and I do get under his skin.” For more, see Scott Eidler's story for Newsday.
Scoring Trump vs. Pelosi
Who got the better of the down-and-dirty fight between Trump and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi last week?
The Washington Post reports that to the president’s allies, Pelosi has been weakened by needs to mollify her impeachment-eager Democratic caucus. They think she's given the president a fresh argument that he was a victim of overzealous Democrats. Pelosi’s allies said she showed up Trump and reinforced an image of a chief executive behaving so badly and childishly that he is unfit for office — a message aimed at 2020 voters.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), while a strong supporter of Trump's stand against Democrats' investigations, said his refusal to talk to Democrats on unrelated matters such as infrastructure is taking it too far.
"I disagree with the idea that you can’t work with them while they’re doing things like this,” Graham said on “Fox News Sunday." Addressing Trump directly, Graham said, “You can’t control, Mr. President, what the Democrats do, but you can control what you do, and you need to lead this country to better bridges and roads and lower prescription drug prices.”
What else is happening:
- Former Trump aide Hope Hicks remains mum on whether she will comply with a House Judiciary Committee subpoena, and the White House hasn't said whether they will try to block her, The New York Times reports. She was witness to some of the president’s angriest moments and most pointed directives about the Russia investigation.
- With Attorney General William Barr doing Trump's bidding to investigate the investigators, Newsday's Tom Brune takes an in-depth look at what is known about the origins of the probe.
- Fewer than one-third of the 23 Democrats vying for the nomination are calling on the House to start the impeachment process, The Associated Press reports. The most vocal are Elizabeth Warren, Beto O’Rourke and Julian Castro.
- Rep. Will Hurd (R-Texas), a former CIA officer and sometime Trump critic, said intelligence on Iran as a rising threat is "credible" and U.S. military countermoves in the region are justified. "I don't think anybody wants to go to war with Iran, but we need to be prepared to protect our troops that are already there," he said on CBS' "Face the Nation."
- Trump tweeted that the federal judge who temporarily blocked construction of the southern border wall is “another activist Obama appointed judge” who ruled "in favor of crime, drugs and human trafficking." He said his administration will seek an "expedited appeal."