A rocket quip in his pocket
The UN stage has seen leaders trying to play insult comic before. For example, in 2006, when Venezuela’s leftist strongman Hugo Chávez, speaking after U.S. President George W. Bush, called him “the devil” and said “it smells of sulfur still.”
Donald Trump’s team won’t want him to trash-talk at the General Assembly when he speaks Tuesday. Then again, the president likes to be unpredictable.
On Sunday, Trump indulged a favorite pastime — assigning nicknames to foes — and took the routine on the geopolitical road. In a tweet aimed at North Korea’s Kim Jong Un, Trump derided him as “Rocket Man.”
Asked about the tweet, National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster said, “That’s a new one.” McMaster then pointed to the gravity of the business ahead.
“Rockets . . . we ought to probably not laugh too much about because they do represent a great threat to all — to everyone,” McMaster said on “Fox News Sunday.”
The standoff over North Korea’s nuclear program is the most urgent issue facing world leaders gathering for UN meeting.
Trump administration officials on the Sunday talk shows reiterated the United States’ readiness to exercise military options if North Korea keeps up its provocative behavior.
“If the United States has to defend itself or defend its allies in any way, North Korea will be destroyed,” UN Ambassador Nikki Haley said. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said, “If our diplomatic efforts fail, though, our military option will be the only one left.”
See Newsday’s story by Emily Ngo and David M. Schwartz.
The UN meeting also will be Trump’s biggest-ever forum — with leaders and other officials of more than 190 nations in attendance — to proclaim his vision of America’s place in the world. Zachary Dowdy wrote a preview for Newsday.
Despite all the talk, the United States so far has made little if any effort to cut Pyongyang off from a rare and crucial rocket fuel believed to have originated in China or Russia, the Times reports.
Par for the course
“Rocket Man” wasn’t only Trump’s only projectile-themed shot at humor on Trump Twitter Sunday morning.
Trump retweeted a doctored video that showed him taking a golf swing, followed by an animated golf ball plunking Hillary Clinton in the back and knocking her off her feet. As has happened before, the Trump retweet came from an account holder whose other posts featured anti-Semitic remarks.
Trump has shared other images fantasizing about violence befalling adversaries, such as CNN.
See Ngo’s story for Newsday.
The take-away: Grumbleland
For some GOP hard-liners on Capitol Hill, it was a revolting development to see Trump’s dalliance with Democrats on the debt ceiling while their own party’s leadership was kept on the sidelines.
But they’re not revolting against their congressional leaders — at least not yet, writes Newsday’s Dan Janison.
The dynamics could get interesting, however, if primary challenges pushed by Steve Bannon and Island billionaire Robert Mercer make inroads against establishment-tied Republicans.
Mueller stays busy
Facebook has turned over materials about Russian ad buys during the 2016 presidential campaign to special counsel Robert Mueller’s team.
The records are more detailed than those provided to congressional committees, which are also investigating whether there was collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign, according to The Wall Street Journal (pay site).
Meanwhile, Politico reports Mueller has hired a prosecutor with expertise in money-laundering cases. Also, the Times reports infighting among the president's lawyers over a White House defense strategy.
Fog over Paris
There were mixed signals from administration officials Sunday following a report Trump was reconsidering his decision to pull out from the Paris climate change accord.
He’s not, said McMaster, but the president hasn’t closed the door on seeking an agreement more favorable to the United States down the road.
Tillerson criticized the Paris accord as being “out of balance,” but said the administration is seeking “other ways” to work with other countries on tackling climate change “under the right conditions.”
What else is happening
- Trump tweeted that he will campaign personally in Alabama next weekend for Sen. Luther Strange, who faces a Republican primary runoff challenge. The rival candidate, former judge Roy Moore, is backed by Bannon.
- Another Trump retweet Sunday linked to a month-old estimate by a stock market analyst that Trump’s online presence is worth $2 billion to Twitter.
- Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke urged shrinking the boundaries of national monuments in at least four western states, which could allow commercial development, The Washington Post reports.
- Trump’s hotels and golf clubs are attracting new customers who want something from him or his government, but losing business from nonpolitical groups that just wanted to rent a room, a Washington Post analysis finds.
- New York will face street closures aplenty because of Trump and the UN General Assembly. Here’s a guide from amNewYork.
- Longtime Trump personal attorney Michael Cohen told CNN he expects to appear Tuesday before the Senate intelligence committee for its Russia probe. A source told CNN that the panel’s staff would be conducting the questioning.
- The California legislature sent Gov. Jerry Brown a bill that would require presidential candidates to make tax returns public to appear on the state’s primary ballot, which would apply to Trump in 2020. It’s unclear whether Brown will sign — he didn’t release returns in his last two campaigns.
- ISIS controls one last province in Syria --and the United States, Russia and the Assad government are maneuvering to "strengthen their hands ahead of post-war negotiations," the WSJ (pay site) reports.