Trump withdraws U.S. from Paris climate accord


President Trump withdrew the United States from the Paris climate agreement. He said that the deal to address global warming is unfair to the United States.  He did say that he would be open to renegotiating the climate accord or initiating a new one.

In his announcement, President Trump said, “I was elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris.”  The Vatican called the withdrawal “a slap in the face.”  There are only two other countries in the world that did not sign the Paris accord:  Syria, pre-occupied with its civil war, and Nicaragua, which said that the agreement didn’t go far enough. [Read more…]

Trump son-in-law tried to set up secret communications with Russia?


President Trump’s son-in-law and top advisor Jared Kushner (Ivanka’s husband) talked to the Russian ambassador about setting up a secret communications channel linking the transition team with Moscow.  The technology would be through the Russian embassy.

U.S. intelligence intercepted dispatches from Ambassador Sergey Kislyak telling his superiors about the talks.  So reports the Washington Post.

Could Jared be the mole in the White House?  He wouldn’t be the leaker, since he wouldn’t have leaked this or other information about the Russian investigations.  And this could not have been just his doing.  Michael Flynn, since fired as the president’s national security advisor for his Russian associations, was also at the meeting.  And the channel was to be for the “transition team.”

I grew up up during the Cold War, with all of its worries about Russia infiltrating our government and trying to take us over.  I’ve also read too many spy novels.  But this is all exceedingly troubling. [Read more…]

Trump back from his world tour


President Trump is back from his first official international trip.  Most observers from all sides say that he did well in the religion part of his journey, visiting Saudi Arabia, Israel, and the Pope.  In Europe, for the NATO meeting and the G7 summit, he didn’t make himself any friends, but he made himself clear.

He berated the NATO members that do not pay their treaty-mandated fair share to the military partnership.  This irked the representatives of those countries, but surely he has a point there.  (Wouldn’t Democrats also agree that the USA shouldn’t fit the entire bill for protecting European nations?)

But he didn’t commit the United States to Article V of the NATO treaty, which provides that an attack on any member nation will be considered to be an attack on them all.  That commitment is a matter of international law, and the State Department says that of course the United States would abide by it, coming to the defense of any NATO member who is attacked.  But Trump has earlier questioned that provision–at least in the case of nations that are behind in their payments–and Europe hoped that he would state his commitment to that key article.

Nor did President Trump agree to be a part of the Paris climate accord.

German prime minister Angela Merkel says that the European countries can’t necessarily depend on other nations and in many areas may have to go it alone. That’s being taken as a criticism of Trump, but I suspect Trump would agree with her.

Meanwhile, media attention concentrated on trivial but supposedly telling gestures:  Trump pushing aside the president of Montenegro so he could be in the front row of the official photograph of world leaders.  Trump and new French president Macron turning a photo-op handshake into a macho hand-squeezing contest (which Macron admitted).  Trump’s comment that Germany is “bad” in trade, referring to our trade imbalance with that country, being translated to say Germany is “evil.”  In short, European leaders don’t like Trump, but they know he is someone to contend with. [Read more…]

Now someone in the administration is leaking British secrets


President Trump has been bedeviled by someone in his administration leaking damaging information about him and his staff.  Now someone in his administration is leaking British secrets!  About the Manchester terror attack, no less.

British law enforcement agencies shared photographs of evidence in the terror attack–a bloody backpack, an electronic device, and a piece of shrapnel.  Within hours, the photographs appeared in the New York Times!

The Brits were so angry that they suspended information sharing with the United States because it is no longer secure.  Prime Minister Theresa May went so far as to say that the “special relationship” between the two countries was in jeopardy.

U.S. officials gave assurances and the information sharing was restored.  And President Trump, already on a crusade to stamp out leaks, vowed to find and punish the culprit.

But now the problem of the White House leaking like a sieve is impacting another country and endangering an anti-terrorist investigation!

[Read more…]

Trump’s world-religion tour


Donald Trump is on his first international trip as president, and he has an ambitious agenda.  He is visiting the homelands of three world religions that have often been in contention with each other:  Islam, Israel, and Rome.

This weekend he was in Saudi Arabia, where he gave a rather impressive speech about Islam (see our post about it) and signed deals for weapons and other investments worth as much as $350 billion.  (Prompting questions about whether we should be so tight with such an authoritarian regime.)

Today he is in Israel.  On Wednesday he will meet with the Pope.

Then the theme will shift to global military and economic issues. Thursday he’ll be in Brussels to meet with NATO.  Friday he’ll be in Sicily for the G7 summit of leaders of the world’s biggest economies.

His purpose in the religion tour, according to the White House, is to “broadcast a message of unity” to Jews, Christians and Muslims.

Here is a useful day-by-day breakdown of the trip, giving the context, goals, and what could go wrong.

Do you think President Trump can pull off all of this diplomacy?

[Read more…]

Officials deny claim that Trump revealed secrets to Russia

Sergei Lavrov

Sergei Lavrov, Russian Foreign Minister

In yet another controversy, The Washington Post reported that President Trump revealed top secret information to the Russians during his talks last week with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.  According to the report, the information had to do with threats from ISIS and exposed a crucial source.

But now Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and National Security Advisor H. R. McMaster, who was present at the meeting, are forcefully denying the report.

So how do we know which is fake news?  The Washington Post story had to have come from someone inside the White House leaking it to the press.  So some of the president’s people are undermining him and some are defending him.

If this incident is true, it shows the president’s carelessness and diplomatic inexperience, as well as being another example of his ungoverned tongue.  It should not be construed, as some of his enemies probably will spin it, as revealing information to his Russian masters who put him into office.  Even the worst construction of the alleged conversation doesn’t support that.

[Read more…]