TrumpWatch, Day 82: After Twitter Taunt, Trump Talks With China’s Xi About North Korea

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Trump: “North Korea is looking for trouble. If China decides to help, that would be great”


Developments on Day 82 of the Trump Administration:

Trump Talks With China’s Xi About North Korea

After taunting Beijing on Twitter, Donald Trump speaks with China’s President Xi Jinping about North Korea.

The Chinese Foreign Minister said the two men also discussed the Syrian crisis.

On Tuesday morning, Trump renewed his prodding of the Chinese in a pair of tweets:

After North Korea’s latest missile test last week, the US has despatched an aircraft carrier strike group to the region. Pyongyang responded that it will counter “reckless acts of aggression” and justified its missile launches as “self-defensive and pre-emptive strike capabilities with the nuclear force at the core”.

The statement promised, “We will make the US fully accountable for the catastrophic consequences that may be brought about by its high-handed and outrageous acts.”

After Xi visited Trump at the US President’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida last week, two Chinese statements did not refer to North Korea by name, although US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said China understood how dangerous North Korea’s nuclear program had become and had agreed that action must be taken to stop it.

The Mar-a-Lago meeting was overshadowed by the US missile strikes inside Syria, responding to the Assad regime’s killing of more than 100 people with a chemical attack in the northwest of the country.

See Syria Daily, April 12: Will Russia Separate Itself from Assad?

According to the Chinese Foreign Ministry, Xi told Trump in their phone call, “Any use of chemical weapons is unacceptable. We should adhere to the direction of resolving the issue through political means. Maintaining unity within the UN Security Council is very important to resolve the Syria issue and I hope the UNSC will speak with one voice.”

TOP PHOTO: Donald Trump and Chinese leader Xi Jinping in Florida last week


Spicer’s “Hitler Didn’t Use Chemical Weapons” Gaffe on Syria

White House press secretary Sean Spicer, trying to explain the US approach to Syria and President Bashar al-Assad, says Adolf Hitler “didn’t even sink to using chemical weapons” during World War II.

The remark brought sharp criticism over its apparent ignorance of the Holocaust, in which Nazi Germany killed millions of people in gas chambers, including Jews, Slavs, homosexuals, and the physically and mentally disabled.

The furor overshadowed the efforts of the US and other countries to move Russia away from Assad, with US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson visiting Moscow for high-level meetings.

See Syria Daily: Will Russia Separate Itself from Assad?

Spicer compounded his error as he tried to apologize, saying that the distinction between Hitler and Assad was that the Germany leader “didn’t gas his own people the way Assad did” and referring to concentration camps as “the Holocaust center”:

He finally framed his admission:

I was obviously trying to make a point about the heinous acts that Assad had made against his own people last week, using chemical weapons and gas. Frankly, I mistakenly made an inappropriate and insensitive reference to the Holocaust, for which there is no comparison. And for that I apologize. It was a mistake to do that.

Spicer said he was “aware” that gas chambers were used during the Holocaust and that he should have “stayed focused” on Assad, whose regime has carried out a series of chemical attacks on civilian areas, including last week’s missile strike that killed more than 100 people and wounded almost 600 in northwest Syria.

Amid the apology, the press secretary stumbled again, referring to Donald Trump’s efforts to “destabilize” the Middle East.


Sessions to Prosecutors: Bring More Cases Against Immigrants

Attorney General Jeff Sessions directs federal prosecutors to make immigration cases a higher priority, including serious felony charges against those who cross the border illegally.

In a three-page memo, Sessions directed each US attorney to appoint a border security coordinator to oversee immigration prosecutions and to make offenses — such as crossing the border illegally or harboring those who do — “higher priorities”. He asked for an evaluation of whether undocumented immigrants can be charged with aggravated identity theft, which carries a mandatory two-year prison sentence.

Sessions said law enforcement will no longer catch and release undocumented immigrants taken into custody at the border.

Some legal specialists questioned the Attorney General’s proposed use of resources. Jenny Durkan, who served as US attorney for the Western District of Washington from 2009 to 2014, said:

Which prosecutors and agents does he want to divert from the growing threats like terrorism, cyber-crime, the opioid and heroin trade, organized crime and cartel activity? The “surge” philosophy always requires taking agents, money and prosecutors from other priorities. In fact, the cost of satisfying Washington will reduce the ability of every U.S. attorney to address the greatest threats in their communities.


Trump-Russia: FBI Obtained Top-Secret Warrant to Monitor Carter Page

The FBI obtained a secret court order to monitor the communications of Donald Trump’s foreign policy advisor Carter Page over contacts with Russian officials, “law enforcement and other U.S. officials” say.

The FBI and the Justice Department first sought warrants over Russian interference in the US Presidential election, including hacking and influence operations, last summer. The top-secret FISA court finally agreed, after revisions of the initial request, in October.

Other Trump associates who have been cited as possible targets over Russian connections include campaign manager Paul Manafort, Trump’s personal lawyer Michael Cohen, and advisor Roger Stone.

In March 2016, Trump listed Page as one of five advisors on foreign policy. However, after initial questions over Page’s activities, the Trump campaign distanced itself from him, saying he had never met the candidate.

Page is among Trump associates named in a 17-memorandum dossier on contacts with the Russians, compiled by a former officer of Britain’s MI6 and given to US intelligence agencies and the FBI. He is said to have had high-level talks with Russian officials in July 2016, including discussion of obtaining a 19% holding in the Russian energy giant Rosneft.

Rosneft sold a 19.5% stake in December 2016 to unknown buyers.

“This confirms all of my suspicions about unjustified, politically motivated government surveillance,” Page said on Tuesday. “I have nothing to hide.”

He compared surveillance of him to the eavesdropping that the FBI and Justice Department conducted against civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr.

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