Talks maybe, sweet talk no
What’s consistent about Donald Trump is his unpredictability. On that boast, he delivers.
As anticipation built for the president’s speech Tuesday to South Korea’s parliament, Trump was no longer ridiculing talks with North Korea as a waste of time. Nor was he mocking Kim Jong Un as “Little Rocket Man.” It’s time, Trump suggested, to negotiate.
“It makes sense for North Korea to come to the table and make a deal that is good for the people of North Korea and for the world,” Trump said at a news conference with South Korean President Moon Jae-in. “I do see certain movement.”
But while Trump’s speech didn’t go full “fire and fury,” he did lay down markers, along with a takedown of the Pyongyang regime’s brutality toward its own people.
“The world cannot tolerate the menace of a rogue regime that threatens it with nuclear devastation,” Trump said.
“The regime has interpreted America’s past restraint as a weakness. This would be a fatal miscalculation,” he said.
He warned Kim: “The weapons you are acquiring are not making you safer — they are putting you in grave danger.”
Keep selling that brand
Trump took a detour in his speech to name-drop his Bedminster, New Jersey, golf course, pointing out that South Korean golfers took most of the top spots in a recent women’s tournament.
DMZ run scrubbed
A surprise Trump visit to the DMZ separating North and South Korea was aborted because of fog and poor visibility, the White House said.
Marine One flew most of the way from Seoul to the DMZ before turning back.
Janison: Gimme shelter
Robert Mercer, the pro-Trump megadonor who lives on the North Shore, likes to park assets in tax havens offshore, including a charitable foundation established as a war chest for right-wing causes.
That was among the revelations in the Paradise Papers, leaked legal files that reveal the offshore activities of the rich and powerful, writes Newsday’s Dan Janison.
Mercer was listed as a director on eight subsidiaries of his Renaissance Technologies hedge fund, all in Bermuda. Some of the Bermuda companies were used as an investment vehicle for the Mercer family’s foundation, sheltering profits from taxation, according to The Guardian.
The foundation financed a book of accusations against Hillary Clinton.
Trump: Gun vetting backfires
Donald Trump on Tuesday lauded the civilian who shot and helped end the rampage by the gunman who killed 26 in a small Texas church, saying “hundreds more” would be dead if the hero didn’t have a gun.
Trump’s comment came when asked if he would consider “extreme vetting” for gun buyers. See Emily Ngo’s story for Newsday.
Wilbur Ross a fake billionaire?
A year ago, Forbes listed Ross’ net worth at $2.9 billion. The new report says Ross had just under $700 million in assets.
The Trump Cabinet member protested that the magazine wasn’t taking into account some trusts created for his family, which add “more than $2 billion.” But Forbes concluded the trusts are fiction and that Ross “lied to us” as part of a pattern of deception since 2004.
As seen on TV
At Trump’s urging, CIA Director Mike Pompeo met last month with Bill Binney, a former National Security Agency codebreaker, who argues that the hacking of Democrats last year was an inside job, not Russian election interference.
Binney said he believed Trump was aware of him through frequent appearances on Fox News as well as Breitbart News articles.
A CIA spokeswoman said Pompeo stands by the January 2017 intelligence community conclusion: The Russians did it.
The Pompeo-Binney meeting was first reported by The Intercept news site.
Turning a page
Carter Page, a former Trump campaign foreign policy adviser, changed his story under questioning by the House intelligence committee about contacts with Russian officials. After persistent denials, Page said he had a conversation with a Russian deputy prime minister after a July 2016 speech in Moscow.
Page still insists his trip was personal and not campaign-related. But the committee produced an email during the interview in which Page wrote to campaign officials to see if they were OK with his planned remarks.
Page also named the connection who introduced him to Trump campaign officials: New York State GOP Chairman Ed Cox, the son-in-law of the 37th president, Richard Nixon.
What else is happening
- Officials have set up procedures for Trump to securely tweet from China, The Associated Press reports. Twitter is banned for domestic users in China, but foreigners have access using data roaming services that connect to their home cellular networks. For Trump, it’s more complicated.
- Trump has more fans than foes on Chinese social media, Reuters reports. “Chinese people are impressed that he is extremely rich, he loves things splendid and magnificent, and he loves to show off,” said Yin Hao, who translates American news and comedy clips for nearly 1 million followers.
- Sobering numbers for Democrats reveling in Trump’s low approval numbers: Favorable views of the Democratic Party have dropped to 37%, their lowest mark in more than a quarter-century of polling, according to a new poll.
- State Department employees are suspicious about Secretary Rex Tillerson’s assignment of several hundred employees to clear a backlog of public records requests, Politico reports. They think he’s looking to rush the release of thousands of Hillary Clinton emails.
- Trump used former private bodyguard Keith Schiller for other missions besides delivering a letter to tell FBI Director James Comey he was fired. The president also sent him to a local McDonald’s when the White House kitchen couldn’t cook a burger to his liking, Politico reported.