Trump's beclowning glory
As a candidate and even after becoming president, Donald Trump had a signature line for attacking pre-existing policies that have defined America's relations with other nations, from trade to immigration: "The world is laughing at us," he would claim.
Now we know what that sounds like. It happened Tuesday, less than a minute into Trump's speech to the UN General Assembly. Trump addressed the world leaders and diplomats as if they were the fervent fans at his rallies.
"In less than two years, my administration has accomplished more than almost any administration in the history of our country,” Trump said. When chuckles and laughter bubbled up from the audience, Trump was momentarily taken aback and looked up from his prepared remarks. “Didn’t expect that reaction, but that’s OK,” he said. (See video clip.)
It got quiet as Trump went on, though there were head shakes, stony faces and blank stares. The General Assembly proved to be a tough crowd as the president denounced the "ideology of globalism" and the multinational organizations it has spawned. He was unapologetic about withdrawing the United States from the International Criminal Court and the UN Human Rights Council.
Barely an hour before he spoke, in fact, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres declared to the assembly that global cooperation is the world’s best hope and “multilateralism is under fire precisely when we need it most.”
But Trump pronounced himself pleased with how his speech went over. He even contended the laughing at his bragging was what he was going for. "Well, that was meant to get some laughter, but it was great," he said.
For more, see Emily Ngo's story for Newsday.
Enemies list gets rewrite
Trump's speech assailed Iran, saying its leaders “sow chaos, death and destruction.” Defending the U.S. withdrawal from the Obama-era nuclear deal and revival of sanctions, Trump said, “The United States has launched a campaign of economic pressure to deny the regime the funds it needs to advance its bloody agenda.”
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, who spoke later, accused Trump of " economic terrorism," reports Newsday's Zachary R. Dowdy.
Trump also heaped scorn on Venezuela, where "socialism has bankrupted the oil-rich nation and driven its people into abject poverty," and demanded a "restoration of democracy." After his speech, he said one way to accomplish that would be for Venezuela's leader, Nicolas Maduro, to be toppled by a military coup. He declined to answer questions on whether a U.S. military intervention was possible.
But unlike his speech a year ago, Trump had nothing but praise for North Korea's Kim Jong Un as they pursue a nuclear deal. "I would like to thank Chairman Kim for his courage and for the steps he has taken, though much work remains to be done," Trump said.
Trump charged Democrats are running a “con game” to derail Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh and disparaged the story of his second sexual-misconduct accuser, Deborah Ramirez, as "totally unsubstantiated."
In a tweet relaying comments by conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh, Trump sent a warning to any Republicans who waver: “You can kiss the MIDTERMS goodbye if you don’t get highly qualified Kavanaugh approved.”
His remarks seemed at odds with White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders’ earlier statement that the administration is open to allowing Ramirez to testify at the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing Thursday. The original accuser, Christine Ford Blasey, is set to testify, but a lawyer for Ramirez said he was getting stonewalled by the Republican-led panel in his effort to arrange an FBI interview of her.
The committee set a vote for 9:30 a.m. Friday and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said, "I'm confident he will be confirmed in the very near future.” But two crucial Republican women remained uncommitted. Sen. Susan Collins said she'd like to hear Ramirez under oath and Sen. Lisa Murkowski remarked that an FBI investigation “would sure clear up all the questions, wouldn’t it?” For more, see Tom Brune's story for Newsday.
Janison: Is the truth out there?
A search for the truth, or what feels true to the beholder, and how much it matters, goes to the heart of the three biggest political stories this week, writes Newsday's Dan Janison.
Whether Brett Kavanaugh gets confirmed to the Supreme Court may rest on acceptance or doubt of the allegations he was a sexual predator in his high school and college days. Rod Rosenstein will face a one-man jury — Trump — who will decide whether the deputy attorney general was talking conspiratorially or just sarcastically about the notion of secretly recording the president and exploring a 25th Amendment end to the 45th presidency.
At the UN, Trump sought to sell the notion that Iran was still pursuing "nuclear aspirations." But nations that are still on board with the nuclear deal and some experts in the U.S. say that's not true — Tehran has lived up to its terms.
That new car smell
A new, sleeker version of the armored presidential limousine known as "The Beast" is ferrying Trump around midtown Manhattan while he attends the annual UN General Assembly session, The Associated Press reports.
The U.S. Secret Service says the 2018 Cadillac — modified to provide "state-of-the-art technology and performance to its protective mission" — was added to the fleet of presidential limos last week. It weighs 20,000 pounds and is one of a dozen ordered in a contract initially estimated at $15.8 million.
Rosenstein's final days, or months
The current, cautious inside betting is that Rosenstein will survive his meeting with Trump Thursday over revelations he spoke with a still-to-be-determined seriousness about recording Trump and exploring the use of the 25th Amendment after the firing of FBI Director James Comey, according to The Washington Post.
The paper's sources inside and outside the Justice Department said it seemed increasingly likely that Rosenstein would stay in the job until after November’s elections and then depart, probably along with Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Two White House officials also said that Trump is unlikely to fire Rosenstein until after the midterms.
What else is happening:
- Trump will hold a news conference Wednesday at 5 p.m. after winding up his UN meetings.
- Not long after leaving the podium, Trump retweeted boffo reviews of his UN speech from an evangelical leader, who called it "the strongest speech to the United Nations of any president in history" and a right-wing radio host, who rated it "spectacular."
- Trump showed up late for the speech and missed his scheduled time slot. Ecuador's president, who was supposed to speak after Trump, went before him.
- Trump told the UN he wants to cut off foreign aid to countries deemed not friendly enough. But the idea has met stiff resistance from officials at the Pentagon, State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development, who said it would be counterproductive and give free-spending China more influence, The Washington Post reports.
- Trump is privately concerned that Kavanaugh came across too weak in his interview with Fox News Monday, The New York Times reports.
- Kavanaugh's most unexpected comment in that interview was that he was a virgin until "many years" after entering college. A former Yale classmate tweeted: "he claimed otherwise in a conversation with me during our freshman year."
- A hotel in Panama wrested from Trump Organization control earlier this year after that country's president refused to intervene has reopened as a Marriott.